CPS, striking school support staff return to bargaining table, but meeting lasts just 12 minutes - Lakesia Collins for State Senate

CPS, striking school support staff return to bargaining table, but meeting lasts just 12 minutes

While all the focus has been on teachers and their fight for a new contract with Chicago Public Schools, their purple-clad friends — school support staff who are members of SEIU Local 73 — are in a similar battle.

But their negotiations are proceeding on a less-frequent schedule than the daily meetings between CTU and CPS that continued over the weekend. On Monday, for the first time since the strike began, the union representing the school district’s 7,500 custodians, bus aides, security officers and special education classroom assistants went back to the bargaining table to try to hammer out a deal with the district.

That came after Mayor Lori Lightfoot said at an event earlier in the day that SEIU was stalling negotiations and had “made it very clear they are not doing anything until CTU moves.”

“While we’d like to get a deal done with them, their union has been resolute that they will not bargain with us and move things forward until CTU does. Which I think is a mistake, but that’s their choice,” the mayor said.

SEIU 73 president Dian Palmer told reporters at a Monday evening news conference that “nothing can be farther from the truth.”

“We came here today ready to work through the open issues of poverty pay, making sure special education classroom assistants are dedicated to special needs students and … [ensuring] our students have clean schools,” Palmer said.

But, after meeting face-to-face for the first time since last Wednesday, negotiations didn’t last long.

“It was the mayor and CPS’ committee that walked out after 12 minutes with no proposals, no ideas and no solutions,” Palmer said.

CPS officials denied that and said it was the union that ended the meeting.

While no progress was made Monday, a source close to negotiations stressed that the two sides have been in contact since last week and aren’t expected to take long to reach an agreement. The source said both the city and union have a “pretty good sense of what’s left to be resolved,” and there’s a “finite list” of issues left on the table.

The school district has offered the same 16% pay bump over five years that’s on the table for the CTU. CPS has also offered to limit security guards’ duties to their regular job responsibilities and has given bus aides six additional personal days.

Bus aides are also being offered a stipend when they’re let off a bus outside city limits, and special ed classroom assistants would be moved up through the salary schedule faster than before.

Insurance costs under the district’s current proposal would remain unchanged for three years and go up a combined .75% in the final two years of a five-year deal.

The district has also offered to establish a path for bus aides — who work part-time and only during the school year — to become full-time employees by staying at school with kids after they’re dropped off in the morning.

But the union said the pay raises aren’t enough because many of the workers, who are some of the lowest-paid in the district, live at or below the poverty level. SEIU is also looking for paid holidays and wants CPS to address the problem of dirty schools — and rid itself of management contracts with private firms Aramark and Sodexo.

This is the first time SEIU 73 and the CTU have simultaneously gone on strike.

Source and full article: chicago.suntimes.com