An open letter to the Chicago Teachers Union Bargaining Committee

Dear Committee:

My salutation is vague because I, as a rank-and-file member of the CTU, don’t know who the forty of you are.  Still, this letter is directed to each one of you.

We face difficult times where our livelihood, our careers, and our reputation hang in the balance of a complex situation that does not exist because we, as teachers, created it.

We know city leaders re-allocated funds for pension payments.  We know state leaders have for too long incompletely funded education in our city.  As teachers and staff in the Chicago Public Schools, we continue the fight to help Chicagoans understand the needs and struggles of our students so they can, one day, lead better lives.

Because of the gravity of context, I make this request:

When the next contract offer is presented before you as an unelected body, please do not make a decision about it on behalf of over 25,000 CTU members.  Instead, demonstrate transparency and shared leadership by sharing an objective summary of the offer so our elected delegates and CTU members can review it.  Even though you were part of the negotiations--as an unelected body--you should not make decisions that approve or reject contract offers that affect all CTU members.

In February when the last offer was presented to you, the offer our president described as "serious," details about what it entailed were vague.  It became one of those classic CPS moments when what you knew depended on who you knew.

After a few conversations, someone who is not a member of the CTU or CPS passed along to me a brief but clear summary that outlined the economic and non-economic impacts of that offer.  It’s an easy-to-read three-page document with one table, a few headers, and some bulleted items.  All CTU members should have received a copy.

In February, you made the decision to reject that offer on behalf of all of us.

This forty-member bargaining team is NOT an elected body, yet you make decisions for us.  However you gained a spot at that table comes down to this: it's an appointment.

Now, if we are going to argue—as we should—for an elected school board, it makes sense for us to be critical of positions of power gained in this city by appointment.

For months, CTU members have not received a meaningful update from you.  As rank-and-file members, we do not know when negotiation sessions happen.  As a community, we don’t know, in general terms at least, what's been secured and what's still debated.

People you individually talk to might know.  But if we don’t know one of you, we’re left uninformed.

I recognize you’ve taken on an incredible responsibility.  I understand that this commitment is in addition to all your other professional and personal responsibilities.  You do not have an easy task.  Thank you for your work.

Still, CTU members deserve first-hand objective information from the bargaining team representing us.  We should not have to look to the media or people’s individual social media accounts for the latest update.

I hope we can look forward to this objective summary when the time comes so that we, as a unified body, can make a decision that will help us fulfill the immense professional responsibility we have to our students and their communities.

Sincerely,

Ray Salazar, CTU member

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