Thousands turned out to march at Wednesday's Chicago Teacher's Union rally downtown that aimed to send a strong message to Mayor Rahm Emanuel concerning teachers' ongoing contract negotiations.
"He stole your 4 percent raise. Then he cussed me out!" Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis exclaimed to a full house of some 4,000 Chicago Public Schools teachers at the Auditorium Theatre, Fox Chicago reports.
After the rally, the teachers took to the streets for a rush-hour march.
At issue for the CTU members are their salaries, the longer school day, resources for their schools, as well as the city's expansion of charter schools while public schools struggle. According to a recent report, CPS is aiming to open 60 new charter schools in the next five years, though the city says that number is as yet only a "projection."
In a press conference preceding the teachers' rally, Emanuel admitted that CPS teachers should receive a raise.
"Chicago teachers deserve a pay raise," the mayor said, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. "They work very hard. Chicago schoolchildren do not deserve a strike."
Yet many teachers remain skeptical of the mayor. Harper High School teacher John Thuet told the Chicago Tribune that he believes the mayor has "lost touch with reality."
"I feel like we're getting walked on. They're extending our hours, not giving us raises. And if we don't stop it now, I don't know when it will stop," Thuet told the Tribune.
The teachers union appears primed to take action -- and rumors of a strike are no secret. While no strike vote was taken Wednesday, CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey said this week that such a vote will be taking place "when it’s appropriate" -- likely before the school year's end.