By Timothy Mclaughlin
CHICAGO (Reuters) - The Chicago Teachers Union voted on Wednesday to set an Oct. 11 date for a possible strike that could disrupt classes for tens of thousands of students in the country's third largest public school system.
The union, which represents nearly 27,000 teachers and educational support workers, said its House of Delegates voted in favor of the work stoppage, which would be the city's third teachers' strike since 2012.
It poses yet another challenge for Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who is struggling to stop a surge in violence this year and is under pressure to address Chicago's financial woes.
"We (teachers) are not going to take cuts. The conditions in the schools are difficult and the people who work in the schools deserve not to be cut," Jesse Sharkey, vice president of the CTU, told reporters on Wednesday evening following the vote.
Chicago Public Schools Chief Executive Forrest Claypool told the Chicago Board of Education on Wednesday before the union vote that "this action is disappointing because negotiations are ongoing and I truly believe a strike can be averted."
Claypool said teachers were offered a "healthy raise" even after the district's proposal to require teachers to pay more toward their pensions. A CTU bargaining team rejected that plan in February.
CTU President Karen Lewis said negotiations would resume on Thursday.
The union's last contract expired in July 2015 and its bargaining unit unanimously rejected a contract offer from the financially struggling district in February.
The Chicago Board of Education approved a contingency plan earlier on Wednesday that would spend up to $15 million to provide non-educational services to students in the event of a work stoppage by teachers.
(Additional reporting by Karen Pierog; Editing by Peter Cooney)