Chicago teachers union calls on members to refuse to report to school over COVID-19 concerns

Midwest

CHICAGO (WGN-TV) — The governing body of the Chicago Teachers Union signed off Wednesday on a call for members to refuse to return to classrooms, setting the measure up for a vote later this week as the union and school officials reach an impasse over returning to classrooms amid the pandemic.

According to the CTU, its House of Delegates approved a measure calling for all of its members who work at Chicago Public Schools — the third-largest in the country — to refuse to return to teaching in-person and continue working from home instead. The measure now goes to a vote by the full membership this weekend.

While the teachers are not proposing a strike, union leaders said such a step is not out of the question.

“Our members are resolved to continue working, teaching their students and doing so safely,” CTU President Jesse Sharkey said in a statement. “Only the mayor can force a strike, and if it comes to that, that’s her choice. We choose safety.”

The two sides have been meeting in recent days but have come to an impasse, even as kindergarten through 8th-grade teachers and staff are supposed to return Monday after Pre-K and special education returned last week.

District officials say air purifiers will be in every classroom with continual disinfecting, while it maintains an independent state-certified hygienist has signed off on reopening schools, saying conditions warrant a safe return along with temperature checks, masks and social distancing.

Mayor Lightfoot and Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson have repeatedly said kids are better served by being in school and not learning remotely.

The teachers strongly disagree and feel they have not had enough say and their opinions don’t matter. They say they should work remotely until they receive the COVID-19 vaccine. 

“CPS has failed to notify these teachers they are eligible for the vaccine, let alone schedule appointments for them,” said CTU Attorney Thad Goodchild.

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