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article imageBack to school: Chicago teachers end strike, class on Wednesday

By Yukio Strachan     Sep 18, 2012 in Lifestyle
Chicago - And on the 7th day... the teachers rested.
The Chicago Teachers Union’s House of Delegates voted Tuesday to end a strike that kept 350,000 students out of the classroom for seven days, The Chicago Tribune is reporting.
“I'm very excited. I miss my students. I'm relieved because I think this contract was better than what they offered,” said America Olmedo, who teaches fourth- and fifth-grade bilingual classes. “They tried to take everything away.”
And Shay Porter, a teacher at the Henderson Academy elementary school told The Tribune : “We ignited the labor movement in Chicago.”
Teachers weren't the only ones happy.
Debi Lilly, a Lakeview resident, said she was thrilled her 3rd and 5th grader would be heading back to Hawthorne School Wednesday after missing seven days of classes, The Tribune said.
“Thank goodness, thank goodness,” Lilly said enthusiastically. “Now I believe they’re putting the children first.”
NBC Chicago reported that a small group of parents echoed this same sentiment while marching outside CTU headquarters on Monday holding signs that read "If you care about the kids, go back to work" and "350,000 CPS Hostages! Let our children learn" and "Don't say you care, show it!"
The voice vote comes after some 800 delegates had a chance to discuss and debate the tentative contract given to members on Sunday afternoon. This means roughly 350,000 Chicago Public Schools students will head back to class on Wednesday.
We're going back on our own terms
About 30,000 Chicago Public Schools teachers walked off the job on Sept. 10 after more than 10 months laborious negotiations over salary, health benefits and job security. This was the city's first strike in 25 years.
Teachers walked off the job for 19 days in October 1987. Prior to that, there had been nine strikes between 1969 and 1987.
"We feel very positive about moving forward. We feel grateful that we have a united union, and that when a union moves together we have amazing things happen," CTU's president, Karen Lewis, said at a news conference shortly after the vote.
The contract will now be submitted to a vote by the full membership of more than 25,000 teachers over the next few weeks. (You can view more details about the contract here.)
"An overwhelming majority" voted to suspend the strike, according to Susan Hickey, an 18-year veteran social worker at CPS, and one of the 800 Chicago Teachers Unions delegates who participated in the vote, ABC7 Chicago reported.
"It was an overwhelming vote today in there. It was not that many people that said, 'no,'" Hickey said. "I'm happy we're going back. I really am happy for the kids and I think that the contract is looking good. I think if we had a chance to look at it more today, more of the pieces were put together, and I think that, again, you know, I'm glad we're going back on our own terms."
Court order failed
Going back on their own terms, as Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago school board found out on Monday, was very important to union members.
When union teachers asked for extra time Sunday to review the proposed contract before ending the strike, Emanuel decided to take the matter to court.
On Monday, Emanuel and CPS attorneys filed a request for an injunction to force teachers off the picket lines, claiming the outstanding issues, as publicly stated by the CTU -- teacher evaluations and recalls -- weren't legal reasons for a work stoppage,NBC Chicago reported.
But a judge denied it. Instead, a hearing on the matter was set for Wednesday at 10:30 a.m., if schools did not reopen,WGN-TV Chicago said.
Now that the union has voted, however, this legal action is now a moot point.
CPS students report to class Wednesday morning.
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