DOWNTOWN — Mayor Lori Lightfoot is slamming Chicago Teachers Union leaders for attending rallies instead of spending all their time at negotiations.
But the teachers union quickly fired back on social media Friday, saying its team had been working to get a contract since January — yet didn’t hear from Lightfoot’s administration until July.
The union went on strike early Thursday and it hasn’t yet reached a deal with the city. Teachers have pushed for there to be more counselors and nurses in school, more support for special education students and smaller class sizes.
In the meantime, more than 300,000 students are out of school.
Teachers protested throughout the city Thursday while the city and CTU tried to iron out a deal. CTU President Jesse Sharkey and Vice President Stacy Davis Gates were present at a large rally Downtown in the afternoon before returning to negotiations.
Lightfoot took to WTTW on Thursday night, saying the union hasn’t shown urgency.
“I’m concerned that there’s not a sense of urgency to get a deal done,” Lightfoot said. “My sense of what’s happened in previous circumstances is that the teams bargained from morning to night, seven days of week, with a total sense of urgency to get something done, even though there’s disagreements. We’re not seeing that this time.”
And the Board of Education’s lawyer, Jim Franczek, sent the CTU an email calling on the union to spend at least 10 hours every day — including weekends — in negotiations until a deal is reached, according to a tweet from the union. Franczek also criticized the union for planning to have leaders present at another rally Friday.
“We cannot afford to have another three to four hour recess in negotiations while both of you are gone,” Franczek wrote. “It is vital to the success of these negotiations that one of you be present at all times.”
But the union dismissed Franczek’s note on Twitter, saying its representatives had been working to negotiate a contract for months.
“Our team has been at this for 10 months, spending more than half of those months in classrooms and at the table,” the union wrote on Twitter. Lightfoot “didn’t start her job until May, and didn’t get (somewhat) serious about schools until July.”
And during a news conference, the union’s leaders explained Sharkey would attend the Friday rally while Davis Gates continued bargaining.
The union also said it’d be “tethered to the table” as bargaining continued Friday “while the mayor and the CPS CEO are free to continue their press tour spreading falsehoods and trying to drum up support.”
“Doesn’t seem fair, but we don’t expect fairness,” the union wrote. “We fight for it.”