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Lewis: If Chicago Teachers Laid Off, "We Intend To Take To The Streets"

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A day after the Chicago Public Schools and its teachers began the final stage of contract talks, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis declined to predict whether teachers would strike, but said negotiations are not going well.

At a Martin Luther King breakfast hosted by CTU, Lewis said strikes are not decided by the teachers, they're decided by the school board, and she accused the Chicago Board of Education of refusing teachers' demands for things that cost no money.

Lewis made it clear the threat of massive layoffs is decisive.

"If any of our members are laid off, we intend to take to the streets. Remember, good working conditions are also good learning conditions for our students," she said.


CPS Chief Executive Officer Forrest Claypool has said potentially thousands of teachers could be laid off if state lawmakers do not come up with some budget and pension relief for the district

For his part, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has said there are healthy ongoing discussions with the teachers on a regular and frequent basis.

On Thursday, CPS and CTU agreed to move to the final stage of negotiations, known as "fact finding," beginning Feb. 1, if they can't reach a deal on a new contract by then.

State law requires a 105-day "fact finding" stage before teachers can strike. If that process begins Feb. 1, the soonest teachers could strike would be mid-May, and the last day of classes at CPS is scheduled for June 21.

Fact finding involves a three-person panel – one representative of CPS, one representative of CTU, and an impartial third party who hears from both sides, and makes recommendations for a new contract. If the district and the union agree to the recommendations, they can become a new contract.

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