Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Union President Jesse Sharkey Spar Over Making Up Instruction Days

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After the Chicago Teachers Union voted to approve a tentative deal with Chicago Public Schools, officials on both sides are now engaged in a war of words over whether dates will be added to the end of the school year to make up for time lost during the strike.

After the union voted to tentatively approve the deal, it announced that it would not authorize employees to return to work unless Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot agreed to make up the 11 days of instruction that will have been lost during the teachers strike.

“Our delegates told us in no uncertain terms we weren’t going back to work unless there was a provision made to make up the instructional days,” CTU President Jesse Sharkey said.

During the negotiating process, Lightfoot has been adamant that any missed school days would not be made up, and she echoed those sentiments again in a press conference Wednesday night.

“I’ve been clear from day one that CPS would not make up any strike dates, and at this late hour, we are not adding any new issues,” she said. “At some point, the negotiations have to end. We have given them an historic deal by any measure.”

Sharkey said that the union feels as though it is “being punished” by Lightfoot for the strike.

“We feel like we’re just being punished because we had the audacity to defy the mayor,” he said. “We feel like she backed herself into a corner by saying she wouldn’t do it, and she hoped it would intimidate us into not standing up for what we’ve stood up for.”

Lightfoot blasted Sharkey following the CTU announcement, saying that the president did not bring up the issue of making up the instruction days during a nearly four hour meeting at City Hall on Tuesday.

“Not once in the meeting did they raise compensation for strike days,” she said. “Not once. They brought this up not in front of me, but as another negotiating point and another attempt to move the goalposts.”

Lightfoot said that Sharkey made a “dramatic gesture” during Tuesday’s meeting, saying that the issues laid out by him and CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates were all that stood between the negotiators and a new labor deal.

“In response to my concerns that the CTU has repeatedly moved the goal posts, President Sharkey made a dramatic gesture and said ‘mayor, I give you my word that these six issues are the last issues we needed to resolve in order for a contract to be ratified,’” she said.

During their press conferences Wednesday, both Sharkey and Lightfoot said that the cancellation of classes on Thursday is a direct result of the negotiating stances of the opposing side in the stand-off.

“We do not understand why the mayor can’t simply call and say ‘we’ll give you an agreement to make up the instructional time,’” Sharkey said. “If I get a call and she says that, we will be back to work. Right now, we feel like this is punitive on the mayor’s part.”

Lightfoot pinned the continuing strike on the addition of make-up days into the negotiations, saying that the union’s negotiating team is to blame.

“Make no mistake about it: the fact that our children are not back at school tomorrow is on them,” she said.

Lightfoot said that negotiators from CPS will be back at the negotiating table on Thursday in an effort to put an end to the strike. Sharkey said that teachers are being asked to meet at City Hall on Thursday morning to rally for the make-up instruction dates.

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