CPS Members Reject Fact Finders Report – Set Path for Strike [Link to report]

The Fact Finder’s Report can be found by clicking here: CPS Fact Finders Report

Special education classroom assistants (SECAs), bus aides, security officers, custodians, and all workers represented by SEIU Local 73 formally rejected the recommendations in the CPS Fact Finders Report. The rejection sets a path for a strike as early as October 17, 2019 by thousands of Chicago Public School support staff if an agreement cannot be reached. While workers welcomed some positive incremental recommendations in the report, the report does not fully address the economic concerns and working conditions of hardworking members of SEIU Local 73. Most importantly, the report fails to address the well-being of special education students.

Special education assistants are severely underpaid with a current starting rate of $31,720 per year and an average salary at about $36,000 per year. HUD’s current income guidelines for the City of Chicago define very low income as $35,650 annually and low income as $57,050 per year.

“As a SECA I work hard to make sure special education students get the best experience and education they can, but current conditions are challenging. I’m constantly pulled away to do other jobs and given other responsibilities. In addition to bad working conditions, I’m earning poverty wages, which makes it hard to make ends meet.” – Tracy Brown, Special Education Classroom Assistant, Richard Yates Elementary.

Bus aides face some of the harshest and most unfair working conditions. Their workdays start at 5:30 a.m. and end after 5:30 p.m. but because of split shifts, aides are paid for just four or six hours. Most bus aides need a second or third job to support their families and many are homeless. Similarly, school custodians have fallen behind their counterparts in the city and also struggle to survive.

“We’re tired of living paycheck to paycheck while we do the essential and hard work of making sure Chicago’s students have a bright future ahead of them. We want to do our jobs well and make sure our students succeed, but when we are living paycheck to paycheck, we can barely pay our rent! We need Mayor Lightfoot to negotiate a transformative contract now.” – Norma Price, Bus Aide

Moreover, the report does not address serious non-economic issues. For example, the current bargaining agreement does not make sure that Special Education Classroom Assistants are not pulled away from assigned special needs students or ends black-out periods for using paid leave. The report also does not address  the continuing pouring of millions to private outside contractors like Sodexo and Aramark.

The Fact-Finder report was issued after a process that included three all-day intensive mediation sessions and two days of hearings. The report contains the non-binding recommendations by the neutral chair of the three-person Fact-Finding Panel. The recommendations are based on the criteria in the Illinois statute that requires fact-finding as a necessary step prior to a strike in Chicago Public Schools. The criteria is skewed toward management and was largely drafted by CPS’s lead attorney James Franczek.

The workers hope that Mayor Lightfoot and the Chicago Public Schools board come back to the negotiating table and offer a transformative contract that puts the needs of Chicago student’s future first. The Mayor has a clear choice to sign a contract that transforms the lives of students and workers at Chicago Public Schools or continues Rahm Emanuel’s policies of harming our students and communities. The current bargaining agreement and the report’s recommendations do not go far enough in ensuring a bright future for Chicago’s students, specifically special education students, and fair working conditions for the thousands of support staff that work the halls of Chicago’s schools everyday. 

SEIU Local 73 members are ready to go on strike to make sure Chicago public schools are safe and clean, special education students are getting the resources they need to succeed, and for improved working conditions.

 

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