As the Chicago Teachers Union opened contract negotiations with the city this  June its “Green Schools Initiative” was a central demand. According to Stacy Davis Gates, president of the CTU, “This is Chicago Teachers Union’s demonstration of our accountability to our larger community. Our collective bargaining agreement and our coalition work, especially in communities of color, will be a net benefit to everyone.”

Following the model of last year’s successful UAW negotiations, CTU is opening their bargaining to the public for the first time, both online and in person. Union leaders are using the occasion to highlight the issues they think resonate most with the public — using the first session to bargain over “healthy, safe, green schools.” It included testimony from parents and community groups about environmental justice.

According to an article in E&E News, the negotiations illustrate the growing alignment between the climate and labor movements, which historically have clashed over the energy transition. Worsening climate impacts, such as the wildfire smoke that blanketed Chicago last year, have helped push some unions to embrace climate action as a workplace issue.

Demands of the Green School Initiative include:

  • Net-zero emissions in schools district-wide by 2035.
  • Solar panels, heat pumps, and composting programs in the 50 schools that most often experience extreme temperature problems.
  • A fully electrified school bus fleet.
  • A moratorium on new gas heaters.
  • A “carbon neutral schools” pilot program at five schools — with a goal of cutting energy costs 30 percent by the end of the next school year.
  • Windows that can open in every school.
  • Removal of lead pipes from all buildings.
  • A “climate champion” for each school to coordinate climate initiatives.
  • Heating and cooling centers that would be available to the community during extreme weather.
  • New clean energy education programs at every neighborhood high school, starting with those in environmental justice communities.
  • At least three new carbon-free schools to replace the most outdated ones.


To contact the Educators Climate Action Network: