The Chicago Teachers Union on Friday filed a unfair labor lawsuit against Mayor Rahm Emanuel's Board of Education, claiming that the board has coerced and bribed schools into lengthening their instructional day by 90 minutes.
The lawsuit, as reported by NBC Chicago, also claims Chicago Public Schools threatened to shutter schools where teachers did not approve the longer day and interrogated and intimidated teachers concerning their union activities, among other allegations.
The lawsuit [PDF] arrives on the heels of a fourth CPS elementary school -- Benjamin Mays in Englewood -- voting Thursday to waive the union's existing contract with the school system and add 90 minutes to their workday beginning in January. In exchange, the school will receive $75,000 in discretionary funding and its teachers will be given a lump sum payment roughly equal to a 2 percent salary increase.
The same day, Chicago City Council members, by and large, lined up behind Emanuel's push for the longer school day. Ald. Ed Burke, typically a labor proponent, said he was "starting to get embarrassed at the attitude of some leaders of organized labor."
In response to the council's comments, the union released a statement Thursday, vowing to "hold its ground" in the ongoing debate:
"It is unfortunate the City Council bowed to the pressure of a well-orchestrated propaganda campaign that has no scientific evidence to show that this will do anything to improve the quality of education in our neighborhood schools. It is shameful that not one politician stood up for our students and teachers who deserve better. A longer school day is inevitable but how will it be funded and how will it be planned? … The longer school day campaign is nothing more than a political gimmick based on lies, misinformation and half-truths."
News of the lawsuit arrives on the same day that former CPS head and current U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan arrived in Chicago to discuss education reform alongside Emanuel, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn and current CPS chief Jean-Claude Brizard in a North Side panel discussion at Schurz High School. The event is part of a multi-state bus tour.
(Scroll down to watch a video report on the debate over the longer school day.)
Duncan told the Chicago Tribune that Chicago's current school day, which is among the nation's shortest, is "not a badge of honor, but a disgrace" to the city, as he pledged his support for Emanuel's longer school day campaign.
"We were unsuccessful (in pushing for a longer school day), and it was one of my big regrets. There's no question about it," Duncan told the Tribune. "This is an amazing opportunity for Chicago to go to another level … They need to be thoughtful, they need to be smart, they need to be inclusive, they need to be strategic, but they need to get this done."
But the CTU appears to remain unmoved. Union president Karen Lewis told the Chicago Sun-Times Thursday that Emanuel's recent actions concerning the extended school day essentially mark "just out-and-out disrespect and war" against not only the teachers union, but all labor unions citywide.
She further claimed Friday, as the Sun-Times reports, that Emanuel exploded at her during a meeting on the issue, pointing his finger in her face and swearing at her.
"They are going around us to negate the contract with our members, and that is unlawful," Lewis told the Sun-TImes. "This is an attempt to take down and make irrelevant the Chicago Teachers Union because if the CTU goes, they can roll over every union in the city."
WATCH Fox's report on the debate over educational reform in Chicago: