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Chicago Teachers Strike: Teachers Union Begins Strike Authorization Vote Wednesday (VIDEO)

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Chicago teachers participate in a large downtown rally ahead of a Wednesday strike authorization vote.
Chicago teachers participate in a large downtown rally ahead of a Wednesday strike authorization vote.

It all comes down to this: The Chicago Teachers Union is calling on its members to authorize a citywide strike in a vote Wednesday.

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis voted early Wednesday at King College Prep, the school where she previously taught, joining thousands of others throughout the city that will decide whether to move to strike, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

And Lewis is confident that the city's teachers will do exactly that.

Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard has repeatedly criticized the Wednesday vote as premature as it arrives ahead of a July 16 report from an independent fact-finder on teachers' ongoing contract negotiations.

"We are negotiating in good faith," Brizard told ABC Chicago. "We do want to come to resolution. So, this is not something that is necessary."

Teachers say the strike authorization vote is not so much about a strike, but more about sending a message to CPS and Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

"We don't want to strike," Samantha Sims, a CPS English teacher, told NBC Chicago. "I tell my kids all the time it's nothing personal. Sometimes you just have to send a message."

Ahead of the vote, both sides of the ongoing debate reached out to CTU members via e-mail blasts. Brizard wrote, according to the Sun-Times, that "there is no need to vote now." Meanwhile, CTU leaders told their members, "We can’t afford to wait! The time to vote is now."

Lewis commented that Brizard's e-mail to the union's member was desperate and "rather sad," CBS Chicago reports.

At issue for the CTU members are their salaries, the longer school day, resources for their schools, as well as the city's expansion of charter schools while public schools struggle.

While Emanuel has already stated that "Chicago teachers deserve a pay raise," teachers remain skeptical of the mayor.

Ahead of the vote, Democrats for Education Reform made a "significant buy" of radio advertising to circulate ads that criticize the teachers' early strike vote. The ads argued it "makes no sense" for teachers to push for a strike vote "before they even see the deal" being offered.

Voting is expected to continue through Friday and religious leaders will be on hand to witness the counting of the teachers' ballots. In order for a strike to move forward, 75 percent of the union's 25,000 teachers will need to authorize it. And the earliest a strike could be called is Aug. 17, after the fact-finder's report is released and reviewed.

Chicago teachers have not gone on strike since 1987.

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