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Chicago teachers strike was unique in its social justice demands

Chicago teachers and staff returned to the classrooms in November after more than two weeks on strike. Their walkout lasted longer than the city’s landmark 2012 strike, as well as those in Los Angeles and Oakland earlier this year.

The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) strike ended with Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot agreeing to restore five make up instructional days.

A tentative agreement approved by CTU delegates requires the school district to put a nurse and social worker in every school within five years and allocates $35 million more annually to reduce overcrowded classrooms. Both unions (SEIU and CTU) won pay bumps for support staff, who were making poverty wages.

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Yet these substantial gains still fell short of what many members had hoped to achieve, given that they were fighting for basic investments already enjoyed by most suburban school districts—investments that mayor Lightfoot had campaigned on this spring.

“It took our members 10 days to bring these promises home,” CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates told reporters after an agreement was reached over instructional days. “But I want to tell my members: They have changed Chicago.”

Members of SEIU 73 ratified their contract this week, and CTU members will now have 10 days to do so. But the impact of the two-week walkout is likely to extend far beyond the contracts themselves.

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