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Chicago strike: Will teachers union approve proposed contract?

Kids may be back in school on Monday if the Chicago Teachers Union is able to reach an agreement about salary increases, teacher evaluations and rehiring policy for laid off teachers. NBC's Rehema Ellis reports.

Updated at 5:45 p.m. ET: CHICAGO -- As Chicago teachers union delegates met Sunday to go over the details of the proposed contract hammered out late Saturday night, some worried the union would not approve the deal.

A faction of the union sees it as a "back room deal" that does not have unified support. While Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis and her team are ready to present the details this afternoon, already there is a vocal faction promising to vote no.   

A source close to the union says late into Saturday night, Lewis' caucus shouted obscenities at her and the other leaders - "You sold out" and "Rahm's getting everything they wanted, what the hell did we get?"   

Lewis, who is exhausted from a tense week, indicated that she's done negotiating and asked "Will my own caucus defy me?"

At the heart of those who oppose this new deal - they feel the negotiating team did not fight for paraprofessionals and special education teachers and students.

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Compounding the delegates anger is today at sundown is the Jewish holiday Rosh Hashanah and many of the Jewish delegates feel pressured to vote  even though  they shouted at Lewis there is "no way to vote on something we haven't seen." 

On the other hand, union members could vote to accept the new contract, ending the city’s week-long teacher strike -- the first one in 25 years -- opening school doors for 350,000 students as early as Monday. But delegates could ask for 24 hours to talk to individual members in their schools before making a decision on what to do next.


“We are a democratic body and therefore we want to ensure all of our members have had the chance to weigh-in on what we were able to win,” said CTU President Karen Lewis. “We believe this is a good contract, however, no contract will solve all of the inequities in our District."

Delegates are not the ones who will sign off on the new contract, union leadership explained. That responsibility remains with the union rank and file.

Negotiators started the day with a vow to remain at the table all day, to hammer out final details in an agreement which could open classroom doors again on Monday.

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"Hopefully we can do it," said CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey said on Saturday before heading into talks to end the week-long teacher strike. "But like I said, the devil's in the details in the contracts, and we want it in writing."

The talks, which began at 9 a.m. Saturday, took most of the day and were still going on 12 hours later. Both sides are working out the details to a "tentative" contract that could suspend the strike and put students back in class.

Once the language of the contract is decided, it will go to the union's House of Delegates for approval. Both sides have expressed a desire to have the contract ready for approval by Sunday.

Even though an agreement is still being negotiated, Sharkey thinks the strike itself was a victory for his members.

"Educators in the city of Chicago feel like they've had their voices heard for the first time in a very long time," he said. "Frankly we're tired of the political establishment taking credit for every gain the schools make, when we're the ones who do all the work."

Earlier in the day, Mayor Rahm Emanuel had no words about the possibility of an agreement and refused all questions pertaining to the strike as he worked the crowd at the Mexican Independence Parade.

Around the same time in Union Park, an estimated 2,500 teachers and supporters gathered for a "Solidarity Rally."

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Lewis was one of the 20 speakers who took to the stage during the rally and applauded the teachers for standing their ground while reminding them the work was not over.

"We are still on strike," Lewis told the crowd decked out in red. "We have a framework; we do not have an agreement."

On Friday, leaders on both sides of Chicago's teacher strike said they have a "framework" in place to end the stalemate that's embroiled the city and kept students out of classes for a full week.

Chicago's first teacher strike in 25 years could end Sunday if the union's House of Delegates approves that action. The delegates are not the ones who will sign off on the new contract, however, union leadership explained. That responsibility remains with the union rank and file.

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