After days of nonstop negotiations, the Chicago public school teachers have decided to go on strike for the first time in 25 years, leaving parents of more than 400,000 children scrambling to make child care plans. NBC's Kevin Tibbles reports.
The strike follows more than a year of slow, contentious negotiations over salary, health benefits and job security after the school board unanimously voted last year to cancel teachers' 4 percent pay hike in the final year of their contract.
More than 26,000 teachers and support staff began hitting the picket lines Monday morning, while the school district and parents made plans for keeping students safe and occupied during the day. Nearly 150 schools will be open for a half day, as will 60 churches. The Chicago Park District and the YMCA will offer day-camps.
Lewis said talks would continue throughout the strike, but she said time had not yet been scheduled Sunday night as to when the two sides will next meet.
The strike sets up a historic confrontation between Mayor Rahm Emanuel, President Barack Obama's former top White House aide, and organized labor in the president's home city.
"I am disappointed that we have come to this point given that all the other parties acknowledged how close we are, because this is is a strike of choice," said Emanuel. "And because of how close we are, it is a strike that is unnecessary."
The work stoppage could hurt relations between Obama's Democrats and national labor unions, who are among the biggest financial supporters of the Democratic Party, and will be needed by the party to help get out the vote in the November 6 election.
While Emanuel has not attended the talks, he and Lewis have clashed. She has accused him of being a bully and using profanity in private meetings.
Teachers walked off the job for 19 days in October 1987. Prior to that, there had been nine strikes between 1969 and 1987.
Students who attend charter schools should go to school, officials reminded Sunday.
"We think our parents have gotten the message. We think our kids have gotten the message, but we wanted to make sure that we were very clear to every person who lives in Chicago that charter schools will be open tomorrow," said Beth Purvis, the CEO of Chicago International Charter Schools.
There are about 45,000 charter school students in the city -- about 12 percent of the city's total student enrollment.
Sitthixay Ditthavong / AP
Members of the Chicago Teachers Union distribute strike signage at the Chicago Teachers Union strike headquarters on, Sept. 8, in Chicago. The union announced it had failed to reach an agreement over teachers' contracts with Chicago Public Schools.