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Chicago Teachers Union, Chicago Public Schools Back At Negotiating Table After 94% Strike Authorization Vote

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Less than 24 hours after 94% of Chicago Teachers Union members voted to authorize a strike, negotiations sat back down with the Chicago Public Schools to try to hammer out an agreement to avoid a repeat of the 2012 teachers' strike in Chicago.

Union leaders and CPS officials were meeting at CTU headquarters in the West Town neighborhood, hoping to agree to a contract both sides can support.

The union took the first step toward a possible strike earlier this month, when delegates voted unanimously to schedule a strike authorization vote. That voting started Tuesday, and on Thursday night, CTU President Jesse Sharkey announced 94% of union members voted in favor of a strike.

That doesn't mean a walkout definitely will happen, but the union said teachers could walk out as early as Oct. 7 if they don't reach an agreement on a new contract.

The union said the two sides have been negotiating since January, but haven't yet agreed on pay raises, staffing levels, and caps on class sizes.

CTU has been seeking a 15% pay raise over a three-year contract; the district has countered with a 16% pay raise over five years.

Sharkey said the contract dispute isn't just about teacher pay and benefits.

"Right now, the board's position is that they're not going to bargain over issues like staff shortages, social workers, nurses, counselors, things like that. They're making no real offers about that, and all they want to do is talk about money," he said.

The union wants smaller class sizes; and more special education teachers, social workers, and librarians.

Lightfoot has said the district already plans to hire 200 more social workers and 250 more full-time nurses. She also agrees the district needs to hire more librarians, but hasn't been willing to put those issues in the contract.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and CPS leaders released a joint statement Thursday night, stating they are committed on finalizing a new deal that respects teachers and is sustainable.

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