UIC Center for Healthy Work stands with Chicago Teachers Union and SEIU Local 73 members
The UIC Center for Healthy Work stands with Chicago Teachers Union and SEIU Local 73 members who are negotiating with the City for fair and just working conditions. The UIC Center for Healthy Work, based in the School of Public Health, is a research and education center which aims to protect workers’ health and safety, promote worker well-being and remove barriers to healthy work. We identify and promote employment programs, practices, and policies that will improve worker and community health locally, across the state, and throughout the nation. We collaborate with community groups, non-profit organizations, workforce development agencies, workers’ rights centers, employers, and professionals to support jobs that:
- Pay a livable wage
- Are free from workplace hazards
- Include affordable health insurance
- Offer job security
- Offer opportunities for advancement
- Are free from discrimination
- Include benefits such as paid sick leave, paid vacation, and retirement savings
The outcome of the current negotiations will affect not only the workers and their families, but ultimately the health and well-being of students, their families and their communities. Schools prepare students to be the workforce of the future and contributing members of their communities. It is essential that the workforce be healthy in order to be effective, forward-thinking members of society. Therefore, we support activities that will ensure a healthy future for CPS students. CTU’s proposal to staff schools at professionally recommended levels with social workers, counselors and other clinicians is a holistic plan that will go a long way in identifying potential health problems and lessen existing problems that may arise in this future workforce. Furthermore, smaller class sizes have long been shown to play an important role in student achievement (Achilles, 2012; Ehrenburg et al., 2001) and economic success later in life (Meuning & Woolf, 2007). All students, including those from lower- income neighborhoods, deserve a bright economic future – to ensure that the social determinants of health will not be barriers to their well-being and to increase the likelihood that they will have safe jobs with thriveable wages, paid benefits and a career path.
SEIU Local 73 members, for their part, provide critical support services to schools, yet they have been working without a contract for more than a year. Their proposals for better working conditions have public health implications for support services workers but also teachers and students. For example, the trend to privatize school maintenance has resulted in lower wages and fewer benefits for the support services workers and teachers and community groups report poorer maintenance of the schools, creating potential health hazards for workers and students. In these negotiations the City has an opportunity to reverse an employment trend, i.e., to move away from privatization-- which all too often places workers in precarious circumstances—unpredictable work schedules, shortened work hours, low pay, and lack of advancement opportunities.
We look to the City of Chicago to become a beacon for the nation in establishing and maintaining working conditions that advance the health of the existing school workforce and their families, but also the health and well-being of Chicago’s children.
Ehrenberg, R.k Brewer D, Garmoran A, Willms. J (2001) Class size and student achievement.Psychological Science in the Public Interest. Vol.2, No. 1 https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1111/1529-1006.003
Achilles C. (October, 2012) Class-size policy: the STAR experiment and related class-size studies. NCPEA Policy Brief. Volume 1, Number 2. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED540485.pdf
Meuning & Woolf (2007) Health and economic benefits of reducing the number of students per classroom in US primary schools. American Journal of Public Health. Vol. 97, No. 11: 2020-2027