SEIU Local 73 joined the Chicago Teachers Union at a press conference demanding Mayor Lori Lightfoot and her negotiators come to the table with a comprehensive safety agreement that will protect students, staff, and teachers from COVID-19 during the new school year. The press conference comes just days after Mayor Lori Lightfoot admitted she was “disappointed” in the current Chicago Public Schools safety plan.
“I’m calling upon Mayor Lightfoot to do the right thing,” said Local 73 President Dian Palmer. “She said she is disappointed; turn that disappointment into action. You can sit down with us and make sure that all people involved are at the table to make sure that we’re giving our citizens, our students, our community the best that we can give them.”
The press conference was held in front of Jensen Scholastic Academy in East Garfield Park, where 10 out of 17 classrooms are currently quarantined. The West Side of Chicago has struggled with historic underinvestment and higher rates of COVID-19 infections and deaths.
“Actions speak louder than words,” said Greg Lee, Local 73 member and Security Officer at Jones College Prep. “Mayor Lightfoot, we welcome you to sit down at the table with us and come up with a plan to make our schools safe, to make our workers safe, and to keep our schools open.”
Speakers addressed new data from the Chicago Department of Public Health that shows that only one in four eligible Black students has received the vaccine. Additionally, concerns were heard about a weekly shortage of 1,000 substitute teachers and the district’s inability to properly track new COVID cases and notify students and parents about their exposure.
“We need more teachers, we need real funding into our schools on the west side, we need to make sure that our educators and our family members are being heard, and the Mayor needs to come to the table, take over and do the right thing,” said State Representative Lakesha Collins, whose district includes Jensen.
“Since you do not have a plan, Mayor Lightfoot, accept the plan that our brothers and sisters in the Labor movement have presented. We’ve already done the homework for you, all you have to do is put your name on the paper and turn it in so we can keep our families safe,” said Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson.
“A solid vaccination plan, a solid tracing plan, a solid testing plan. It’s common sense. The fact that we are here advocating for common sense is a tragedy. We have to come together to advocate and protect the lives and the well-being of our communities, our children, and our families,” said Chicago Alderman Byron Sigcho-Lopez.
“I don’t want to fight, I want us to do our work. I want the mayor of this city to come to the table and tell her team to put safety in place,” said Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Stacey Davis-Gates.