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David Ormsby

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In Chicago Public Schools Labor Talks, Jean Claude Brizard is 2 for 3

Posted: 06/21/2012 6:33 pm

Believe it or not, but Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard has secured a ratified labor agreement.

No. It's not the big kahuna. But it is an important labor cog in the school machinery. And its salary terms will likely serve as a template for the Chicago Teachers Union contract. Or at least they should.

Overshadowed by the teachers union strike authorization vote and rhetorical solar flares, CPS and Service Employees International Union Local 73 last week announced that a new three-year agreement has been ratified by the SEIU membership, an agreement that will yield to union members an annual salary increase of two percent.

The teachers are seeking a 30 percent hike over two years.

SEIU Local 73 is the second largest union in CPS, representing 5,500 custodians, child welfare attendants, watchmen, special education classroom assistants, children and family benefit liaisons, school bus aides, parent workers, security officers, security aides and PT security officers working in CPS.

"... [W]e were far apart when we first sat down to the table with SEIU Local 73, but we worked through the process and found that when you keep lines of communication open and continue negotiating, agreement is possible," said Brizard.

Nothing like a subtle hint to you know who.

"Our members' top concerns going into negotiations were to ensure that the Chicago Public School system provided Chicago's children and young adults with a top notch public educational environment and job security," said SEIU Local 73 President Christine Boardman.

Negotiations between CPS and SEIU Local 73 began in March and culminated on June 9 with ratification by its members. Word is that Boardman was sensitive to the prevailing fragility of public opinion vis-à-vis public employee unions.

Contract highlights include:

- Short Term Disability and Maternity Leave: CPS will provide members with access to a new benefits system by offering Short Term Disability, which includes, for the first time ever, maternity leave coverage (56 percent of SEIU 73 members are female).

- Professional Development: CPS will assist Child Welfare Attendants interested in advancing into the Special Education Classroom Assistant role by reimbursing expenses for the required exam.

- Wellness Plan for Members: SEIU 73 will partner with CPS on a wellness plan to help motivate members to focus on their health and adopt better and healthier life choices. Translation: knock off the twinkies and get butts into the gym.

- Employee Pay Increase: All employees will receive a two percent pay increase in each of the three contract years or 6% over the three years.

The SEIU agreement will put more pressure on the CTU to budge from its 30 percent, two-year demand to something closer to planet earth and the six percent that the special education classroom assistants and other SEIU school employees will be earning. Additionally, the public's souring mood on organized labor demands for big salary boots while private sector pay stagnates and private wealth evaporates, will also force the CTU President Karen Lewis to soften teacher salary demands. Or it should.

Heck, with a $700 million deficit, CPS will still need to sell a school building or two on e-Bay to pay for just the SEUI deal. But it beats 30 percent.

By the way, in May, CPS reached a five-year contract agreement with UNITE HERE Local 1, which represents 3,200 lunchroom workers.

Two down. One to go.

Ms. Lewis?

davidormsby@davidormsby.com

 

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