A group of parents of children enrolled in Chicago Public Schools have filed suit against the Chicago Teachers Union, asking a judge to declare teachers have called an illegal strike over COVID safety concerns and order them back into the classrooms to do their jobs.
On Jan. 7, attorneys from the Liberty Justice Center, of Chicago, filed a complaint in Cook County Circuit Court on behalf of Chicago parents, identified as Laurel Golden, Amelia Kessem, Jane Siavelis, Michelle Shvarster, Robert Bartlett, Denise Heitz and Joseph Warnke.
The lawsuit takes aim at the CTU’s so-called “remote work action,” a term the CTU has coined to describe the refusal of a majority of its members to return to work in the classrooms at Chicago’s public schools amid the current COVID surge afflicting the city of Chicago, the state of Illinois and the nation.
“Although CTU claims its teachers are willing to work remotely, teachers may not work remotely without the approval of the Chicago Board of Education,” the parents said in their complaint. “CTU members voted to refuse to teach under the conditions set forth by CPS. That is a strike by definition.”
In their complaint, the parents note CTU has remained a consistent impediment to returning children to full-time, in-person traditional classroom instruction throughout the extant of the COVID-19 pandemic. The complaint notes CTU has consistently threatened to strike as a means of leveraging various concessions and measures the union asserted was needed to ensure teachers and other school employees were kept as safe as possible from COVID infection.
The complaint criticizes CPS, which operates under the leadership of Mayor Lori Lightfoot, of consistently caving to the union’s demands, including spending much of the 2020-2021 school year operating under a remote learning model.
The complaint notes teachers had provided instruction in classrooms from the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year until the winter break.
However, in December, the CTU asserted it did not believe teachers could safely return to classrooms, as Chicago deals with rampant COVID spread, largely blamed on the arrival of the omicron variant of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
According to the complaint, in late December, 91% of CTU members voted to back a plan to return to full remote learning.
That was followed by a formal vote late in the evening on Jan. 4 to support such a plan to force CPS to go to remote learning.
In response to the vote, CPS cancelled classes on Jan. 5, and has done so each day since.
The complaint notes CTU never provided CPS with a notice of intent to strike. Further, while the law requires the union to provide 10 days notice, the union simply refused to show up for work less than 24 hours after a vote was taken to authorize the alleged strike.
The complaint asserts the actions of CTU and CPS with regard to the work stoppage have violated the law, and the teachers’ collective bargaining agreement, while leaving parents and families scrambling to provide care for their children.
“Plaintiffs, parents of CPS students, are harmed by CTU’s illegal actions because their children are being denied schooling and they have had to secure child care for their children,” the complaint said.
The lawsuit seeks damages, including compensation for lost income and for “the cost of securing child care while CTU and its members were on strike.”
The plaintiffs are represented by attorneys Jeffrey M. Schwab and James McQuaid.
As CPS and the CTU have continued to talk without resolution, the Chicago Board of Education has filed a grievance against the union, asserting the union has violated state labor law and its contract by refusing to work.
The grievance asks the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board to declare the union’s action illegal, and issue an order prohibiting CTU from engaging in future strikes without meeting the requirements of the law.
The unfair labor practices charge was filed Jan. 5.
This content was originally published here.