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CPS Strikes Contract Deal With Service Workers Union As Teachers Threaten Strike

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SEIU Local 73 members employed by CPS at a recent meeting.
SEIU Local 73 members employed by CPS at a recent meeting.

As negotiations between Chicago Public Schools and the city's teachers union reach a boiling point, the school board is claiming a significant victory--striking a tentative deal with the second-largest union in the district for a three-year contract.

Service Employees International Union's Local 73, which represents 5,500 custodians, child welfare attendants, special education classroom assistants, school bus aides, security officers and more announced Sunday that a tentative agreement had been reached on a new contract that includes job security, discipline fairness, and affordable healthcare.

CPS expressed support for the new contract in a press release issued Monday:

“We’re grateful to the SEIU Local 73 labor team and their 5,500 members for their commitment to this process and reaching an agreement that will serve their members, our students, and Chicago’s taxpayers,” CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard said in a statement. “This agreement ultimately puts our kids first and reassures families that SEIU Local 73 members will be ready to serve their school communities at the start of next school year.”

The district's language in celebrating this contract agreement underscores its growing divide with the Chicago Teachers Union, which vowed Friday to vote on a strike before this school year's end -- beginning on Wednesday.

The strike vote will be the latest move in the battle between teachers and administrators that has raged on for over a year, marked by failed contract negotiations, objections to new teacher evaluation models and pushback against the city's initiatives to lengthen the school day.

In a conversation with ABC Chicago, Brizard emphasized the contrast between teacher and worker negotiations with the school system to resolve contract disputes.

"For us, this proves that if two sides, even far apart, are willing to sit and talk, you can come to common ground. And we did that with SEIU," Brizard said in the interview. (See full video above.) The teachers' methodology, in contrast, "puts a monkey wrench in the process that we've all agreed to follow," the school chief said.

But teachers, led by union president Karen Lewis, say they're out of options.

"[Teachers] are tired of being blamed, bullied and belittled by the very district that should be supporting them," Lewis said in April.

Flickr photo by SEIU Local 1.

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