12 Feb Remembrance and Recognition
- Remembering Karen Lewis: Former CTU president and titan of the labor movement, Karen Lewis, passed away this weekend. CTU is holding a remembrance event followed by a religious service on zoom from 5-7pm tonight for all who wish to attend.
- CTU Reaches Reopening Agreement: After almost a year of negotiations and tense moments over the past couple of weeks, CTU and CPS have reached and ratified a far-reaching agreement to reopen schools, raising the bar for COVID accommodations.
- Union Accomplishments in the COVID Era: UICUF’s negotiations are progressing, and Unfair Labor Practices filed this summer will be heard in April, but we’ve already won a lot, like PD fund extensions, tenure rollbacks, and $1 million in prep compensation.
- IFT/AFT Scholarships: Every year, our affiliates offer scholarship funds to the children of union members in good standing. IFT’s Porter and Megel scholarship applications are due March 5th. AFT Scholarship applications will open soon.
It saddens us to bid farewell this week to Karen Lewis, a former President of the Chicago Teachers Union, and an inspirational leader whose impact on labor politics in Chicago and around the country cannot be overstated. The Chicago Teachers Union is holding a virtual Shiva, an event to remember and honor her life and contributions to our shared cause. The event will begin at 5pm with a memorial service and end with a religious service at 6:30pm. All who wish to attend are welcome. Among the many tributes, this one from CTU’s Jackson Potter provides a great history and memory of Karen.
CTU Reaches Reopening Agreement
Many teachers across the country have been forced back into classrooms this season, despite surging COVID cases and questionable or non-existent mitigation measures to protect workers and students. CTU held the line, demanding that the district negotiate a safe return, not just a quick one, even threatening to strike if teachers were disciplined for continuing to work remotely. This week, those efforts prevailed, as both sides compromised to reach an agreement that goes farther than almost any other such deal in the US. The deal was approved this week by the membership of CTU, and includes:
- Phase-in reopening plans tied to vaccine distribution
- School closures if needed for safety, defined by strict health metrics
- Vaccination plans for all district employees
- Remote-work accommodations for all employees with medical risks, frameworks for accommodating those with at-risk household members or childcare needs, and unpaid leave available for any worker not in the above groups, pending vaccination
- Frequent testing to catch cases before they spread
- Strict protections against unsafe conditions, including guaranteed PPE, ventilation, and other standards. Spaces not meeting these standards will not be used, and standards will be enforced by safety committees at each school including union representatives
- Technology support for families that wish to keep their children learning remotely
- Full Reinstatement for all workers previously locked out of classrooms
Many of these agreements are groundbreaking when taken individually, and together they will provide unprecedented safety and peace-of-mind for CPS workers and families.
UICUF Accomplishments in the COVID Era
While certainly modest compared to the exceptional agreement outlined above, UICUF has managed to secure significant accommodations for faculty as well since the pandemic began. These include safety considerations, such as pressuring the administration to confirm anyone wishing for remote teaching accommodations could have them before the start of Fall Semester, holding the line on working conditions, such as enforcing faculty’s academic freedom over classroom formats and recording of lectures, and financial considerations, like the extension of professional development funds, and a $1 million outlay for prep work to move certain classes into remote learning.
These victories are not without their flaws and compromises, not the least of which is the failure of the administration to yet put anything in a written agreement, enforceable under our contract. This is the most fundamental reason impact bargaining has continued: to ensure that concessions made by the administration are not merely lip-service. For the most part, this has not been a problem, but we have kept and will continue to keep them honest in executing COVID-related agreements, especially as we look at Fall semester planning and the deep uncertainty around budgets and in-person reopening schedules.
UIC United Faculty
We issue regular updates via email, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and on our website. We encourage everyone to like and follow us on social media. If you want to contribute your story, pictures, video, or other content related to the activities of the union, email us at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com. With your support, we are making UIC an even SAFER place to work and learn!