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Teachers Union Files Unfair Labor Practices Complaint Against CPS

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Saying that there is no trust between the Chicago Teachers Union and the Chicago Board of Education, the union filed an unfair labor practices complaint with the state of Illinois Wednesday.

The complaint, filed with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board, charged that the Board of Education has engaged in bad-faith bargaining, has reached no agreements of substance in talks dating back to mid-November, refuses to commit itself to mediation prescribed by law in the event of an impasse and is intent on disrupting the 2015-16 school year.

The complaint seeks an order forcing the board into mediation.

"We are insulted by their refusal to extend the contract with a 3 percent raise," she said. "We are beyond insulted by the board's move to decrease our pay by 7 percent."


Lewis charged that the board has rejected a series of proposals designed to improve the quality of education in Chicago's public schools at no cost.

Asked if she considered the board's actions "retaliatory" for the union's refusal to back Mayor Rahm Emanuel's re-election bid, Lewis said she did. Lewis herself planned to run for mayor until she was diagnosed with cancer; she then persuaded Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia to run, and gave him her support.

Earlier in the day, Emanuel said that the Board of Education faced a $1.1 billion deficit in the coming year, much of it due to pension obligations that went unpaid for years.

"We have to be honest with the public and the taxpayers and also as we talk about the need for the state, that there are fiscal challenges that if we don't address, can undermine all the progress that our teachers, our parents, our principals and most importantly our children are doing," he said.

Interim schools CEO Jesse Ruiz refused comment on the complaint, but said in a statement, "The financial crises facing Chicago Public Schools has arrived at our classroom doors and threatens to destroy our top priority ensuring our students and teachers have the resources they need to succeed in the classroom."

Lewis insists that the crisis is manufactured and that Emanuel refuses to consider a number of alternatives suggested by the union. One is renegotiating $200 million in city debt with lenders to get more favorable rates.

The unfair labor practices complaint is one of the first steps, under state law, that must be taken before the union can call a strike, but Lewis said it is much too early to speak about the possibilities of a walkout.

Despite the charged rhetoric, Lewis said she is looking forward to meeting directly with Emanuel.

"I'm sure there are a lot of things we can talk about," she said. "That's perfectly okay and I'm actually looking forward to it."

Despite that, she said, "There's no trust, and that's what's so unfortunate here."

The teachers' contract expires June 30.

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