CHICAGO — Chicago teachers held a rally Tuesday night as they began to vote on whether to authorize a strike next month.
Contract negotiations continue and the voting will last until at least Thursday. To strike, 75% must vote in favor. The earliest a strike could take place is Oct. 7.
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders was in attendance and spoke to the crowd at Chicago Teachers Union headquarters.
“What we are seeing is teachers standing up and fighting for justice," Sanders said.
Chicago-area-native actor John Cusack made a surprise appearance at the rally as well.
“I’m proud to stand with you guys in solidarity,” he said.
Educators and Chicago Public Schools officials have been negotiating pay and staffing shortages, among other issues.
Union members say they remain far apart. District officials say their latest offer is strong.
CTU wants a 15% raise over a three-year contract. The district's latest offer is a 16% total raise over a five-year contract.
The last teachers' strike was 2012 and while union members eventually returned to the job, their relationship with then Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel turned contentious as a result.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she would like to avoid the same scenario. She said she’d like to work on it together with CTU.
“I am willing and this administration is committed to making sure that we do everything that we can to get a deal so that our students continue to have the opportunity to grow and thrive without a disruption,” Lightfoot said last week.