#teacher | As strikes loom, CPS parents may find few Park District options for their kids

If Chicago’s public school teachers take to the picket line later this week, parents across the city will need to figure out what to do with their children.

Unfortunately for those parents, more than 2,500 Chicago Park District employees may be striking at the same time as the city’s teachers.

A work stoppage, according to the park district, would drastically scale back the resources that were available to parents during the last CTU strike in 2012.

Service Employees International Union Local 73 — which represents park district employees — has said that “landscape laborers, special recreation workers, attendants, instructors, recreational leaders, supervisors and other workers from over 250 parks” will strike on Thursday if the union can’t reach an agreement with the district.

At a press conference Tuesday evening, the SEIU bargaining team said that, if no deal is in place Tuesday night, parks employees would be on the picket line Thursday.

“If we don’t reach an agreement tonight, there will absolutely be a strike Thursday morning,” said Larry Lacoff, the chief negotiator.

One of the key issues in the negotiations is health care costs. The union contends the district wants employees to pay double what they pay now.

In an open letter posted to its website, though, the district said, “Should a work stoppage occur, it will impact Chicago Park District hours, program schedules, landscape maintenance and waste removal.”

The park district will keep open 18 park fieldhouses across the city, but the facilities will only be open from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays. Those fieldhouses are at the following parks: Warren, Rosedale, Gompers, Margate, Hamlin, Riis, Humboldt, Columbus, Dvorak, Archer, McKinley, Taylor, Washington, West Lawn, the South Shore Cultural Center, Hamilton, Ridge, and Trumbull.

The district said exceptions to fieldhouse closures include Maggie Daley Park, the McFetridge Sports Center, the Morgan Park Sports Center, and the Lincoln Park and Garfield Park Conservatories.

“These facilities are managed and operated by outside contractors or non-SEIU staff and will remain open during regularly scheduled hours for the duration of the work stoppage,” the district said in a statement Tuesday.

Fieldhouses would be closed on weekends should a strike occur.

“All regularly scheduled programs, including specialty programs such as Jr. Bear, Windy City Hoops, and special recreation/Special Olympics programming will be canceled during the duration of the work stoppage,” the district said.

Additionally, pools, gymnastics centers, and boxing centers would be closed, according to the district. All park district room rentals would be canceled as well.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot was asked about the status of negotiations with SEIU Local 73 during a City Hall news conference Tuesday with Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson that focused on the threat of a teachers strike.

“Those negotiations are ongoing. I think there’s another session that’s scheduled for tomorrow and we’ll see where we are at the end of the day,” the mayor said.

“In both of these instances — whether CTU or SEIU 73 — there’s a deal to be had. But, we can’t bargain with ourselves.”

The mayor was asked what will happen in Chicago parks if there is a strike. Will the parks be cleaned? Will they be patrolled? Will there be recreational and day care programming?

“If there’s a strike, I don’t anticipate that anybody’s gonna cross a picket line,” the mayor said. “A limited number of park sites will be open staffed with non-bargaining unit employees.”

Contributing: Fran Spielman


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