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Thousands of Chicago teachers prepare for strike

CHICAGO, April 17 (UPI) — The Chicago Teachers Union is on a trajectory to a strike after rejecting an arbiter’s recommendation on a proposed four-year contract.

A strike by the union’s nearly 23,000 members could come as early as May 16. Teachers in Chicago public schools have been working without a contract since June 2015.

The report by Steve Bierig, an impartial fact-finder brought in as part of a state-mandated process, called for an 8.75 percent pay raise over four years, raises through seniority and bonuses to encourage retirements. It also included the phase-out of most of the city government’s contribution to teacher’s pensions. The recommendations were similar to a proposed offer in February, which was rejected by the union’s bargaining team.

Bierig noted his proposed deal would have no effect on an ongoing dispute over school funding between state government, particularly Gov. Bruce Rauner and state legislators, and the Chicago Public Schools and the teacher’s union. The Chicago school system faces a $500 million deficit.

The union’s refusal of Bierig’s proposal starts a legally-mandated 30-day cooling-off period, after which a strike could be called.

“The clock has started…We have no choice but to prepare ourselves for a possible strike,” Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis said in a statement.

Teachers conducted a one-day strike on April 1 to push forward the stalled contract negotiations and press lawmakers to funnel more state funds to public education.

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