Chicago teachers and school employees marched downtown Wednesday in a show of force amid the ongoing teachers strike, converging on a rally outside Mayor Lori Lightfoot's first city budget address.
Thousands of people, carrying signs and chanting, marched from multiple locations into the Loop, causing rolling street closures during the morning rush hour. Commuters were advised to take public transportation if they planned to be in the area on Wednesday.
Groups from four meet-up spots on the edge of downtown all marched to City Hall, as Lightfoot was about address the City Council.
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The Chicago Teachers Union said in a statement Tuesday night that the event was picket lines shifting away from more than 500 schools, into the Loop in a joint effort with members of Service Employees International Union Local 73, whose school support staff are also on strike, as well as allied organizations.
“The city is not done hearing us yet,” CTU President Jesse Sharkey said Tuesday night. “Together, we’re going to win.”
Meanwhile, Lightfoot delivered her budget address on Wednesday, unveiling her long-awaited proposals to help fill an $838 million budget gap. The speech is expected to include details on not only how the city is planning to close that gap, but also details on potential tax increases that city residents could face.
The march and rally shifted to a sit-in on city streets as Lightfoot's address began.
With that as the backdrop, negotiations are still ongoing between the two sides in the teachers strike, which caused its fifth day of canceled classes on Wednesday.
“There has to be a commitment and a will and a sense of urgency on all sides. That’s what’s going to make a difference,” Lightfoot said.
The city says its latest proposals add up to an additional $500 million more in spending for teachers and their classrooms over the next five years.
Union officials say there was a “good conversation” between the sides on Tuesday, but say they have not landed on “just terms” in those negotiations.
“We understand that we’re not going to solve all problems, but we need to see a substantial down payment and then a plan to address class sizes and other issues,” CTU Chief of Staff Jennifer Johnson said.