Chicago public school teachers vote to strike if deal can't be reached

The union and the city are at odds over teachers' pay and staffing levels.

Public school teachers in Chicago have overwhelmingly voted to strike if their union can't agree on a contract with the city.

A work stoppage by the union's 25,000 teachers and educational support staff would affect more than 360,000 students in the nation's third-largest school district.

Chicago Teachers Union president Jesse Sharkey said Thursday that 94% of the union members voted yes to the strike if a deal can't be reached, according to Chicago ABC station WLS.

"This increases bargaining pressure and makes it clear that the members of the Chicago Teachers Union, in all our city schools, mean business, and we need to see more progress at the table," Sharkey said.

A vote of 75% was required to authorize a strike.

The vote has triggered a mandatory cooling off period, which means the earliest a strike could occur would be Oct. 7, WLS reported. Union representatives will meet on Oct. 2 to set a potential strike date, in case a contract agreement can't be reached.

The union and the city are at odds over teachers' pay and staffing levels.

"We’ve committed to increasing critical support staff to record levels and presented an offer that would boost teacher pay by 16 percent over the next five years, making Chicago’s teachers among the highest compensated in the nation," Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Chicago Public Schools CEO Dr. Janice Jackson said in a joint statement issued Thursday after the union vote was announced. "We are committed to doing everything we can to finalize a deal that is sustainable for all Chicagoans and for our City’s future, that respects our teachers, and continues our students’ record-breaking success for years to come.”

The union is seeking 15% raises over three years plus language in the contract that addresses its school staffing concerns regarding substitute teachers, librarians, school nurses and social workers, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The work stoppage would be Chicago teachers' third since 2011 and the first under Lightfoot.