Chicago Teachers Union makes demands before public bargaining session

The Chicago Teachers Union presented its demands for “Green Schools,” Thursday, in advance of a historic contract bargaining session with Chicago Public Schools, the first of its kind to be open to the public.

The contract proposals outlined by CTU leadership include retrofitting buildings to fix aging infrastructure, removing lead pipes and installing solar or heat pumps to mitigate pollution in South and West side schools near industrial corridors. The union also wants healthier and more culturally relevant lunch options in 25 schools.

“Students cannot focus on learning when they’re uncomfortable,” said Lauren Bianchi, a social studies teacher at George Washington High School on the East Side. “We do not have central air in many of our buildings, and with increasingly extreme and hot weather days, our classroom window units are not cutting it,” she added. Bianchi also described how strong smells from industrial facilities mean opening classroom windows is not always an option, referring to her neighborhood as an “environmental justice community.”

CTU Vice President Jackson Potter also outlined several climate change-related initiatives, including installing solar panels in schools and providing funding for career and technical education training for students to prepare them for jobs in the renewable energy sector.

To fund these demands, CTU is asking state leadership to prioritize applying for federal grants amid CPS’s $391 million deficit.

The unprecedented bargaining session, scheduled for Friday, will give the community “a front-row seat” to CTU negotiating with the district, according to Hilario Dominguez, the union’s Legislative Coordinator.

Union president Stacy Davis Gates said CTU has been interested in allowing the public to witness the bargaining session for years, but former mayors Lori Lightfoot and Rahm Emanuel rejected it.

“It is because we have a mayor who is willing to put the ‘public’ in public bargaining out there that we are able to do this,” Davis Gates said of current Mayor Brandon Johnson.

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