Chicago Teachers Union Polling Members Over Strike or ‘Shift to Remote Learning’

The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) is polling its members on whether they would back a city-wide strike or a shift to remote learning, citing the surge of the Omicron variant of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, as students are set to return to the classroom on Jan. 3.

All CTU members were asked to fill out a survey titled “Possible Actions for Safety January 2022,” ahead of an all-member webinar on Dec. 28 to discuss “how each member and every school safety committee can contribute to this escalation in our safety campaign.”

“In preparation for Tuesday’s meeting, we are asking every rank-and-file CTU member to complete a safety survey by Dec. 27, so we know what the greatest needs are in every school and to get a sense of possible actions members are willing to take,” the roughly 25,000 member union said.

The union in its survey cited concern over rising COVID-19 infections largely driven by the Omicron variant. The strain is estimated to have taken over the virus’s Delta variant as the most prevalent strain contributing to new COVID-19 infections, accounting for 58.6 percent of all strains actively circulating in the United States as of Dec. 25, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“Cases of the new Omicron variant are spiking in Chicago and around the country,” the survey said. “It is imperative that we return from our winter break with a plan to ensure school communities’ and our own safety.”

The CTU asked members to answer the survey to “help guide the CTU’s response to CPS’s [Chicago Public Schools] inadequate pandemic response.”

It asks a number of questions, including if members believe there has been adequate testing for COVID-19 at schools or workplaces for students and staff.

The poll asks members to rank on a scale of one to four how effective and responsive their school or workplace has been in implementing mitigation efforts, including contact tracing or case communication, classroom quarantines, and flipping to remote learning if there has been a COVID-19 outbreak.

“If COVID continues to dangerously accelerate or should staffing levels in our schools drop to unsafe levels, would you support a district-wide pause and temporary shift to remote learning?” the survey asks.

It also asks members what actions they would participate in to force CPS to “improve its COVID safety measures.” These include convening a meeting of the school safety committee on Jan. 3, flyer parents at the school or workplace “in a socially distant, masked manner outdoors or via remote meeting.”

The survey also asks if CTU members would “participate in an action at your school, e.g. a neighborhood car caravan,” or “participate in a city-wide action like a car caravan or outdoor rally, participate in a city-wide work stoppage.”

It comes shortly after CTU president Jesse Sharkey urged Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot in a letter (pdf) to take “immediate steps” to ensure that children and adults “are as protected as possible in this terrifying surge” upon return to the classroom.

“I implore you to direct your CPS team to collaborate with us over the next week and a half to ensure that our schools can reopen safely on January 3,” said Sharkey. “We, too, want to be in our classrooms with our students this January – and we want to do so safely, with guardrails in place that protect us all. Anything less will cause unnecessary harm, and that is simply unacceptable.”

The Epoch Times has contacted Lightfoot and CPS for comment.


Isabel van Brugen is an award-winning journalist and currently a news reporter at The Epoch Times. She holds a master’s in newspaper journalism from City, University of London.

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