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18,000 Chicago teachers and supporters rally on Labor Day

By Dee Michel

Chicago teachers rally

Chicago, IL – In the largest labor rally here in at least 30 years, tens of thousands of teachers, parents and community and trade union supporters rallied on Labor Day in preparation for a strike by the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), if Chicago Public School (CPS) doesn’t meet their demands.

CTU has been in contract negotiations with the school board since November 2011. Teachers have been without a contract since June of this year after the five-year agreement with the district expired without a new one in place. Issues included the lengthening of the school day, testing and class sizes. Then the school board rescinded the 4% raise scheduled for June 30 in the CTU contract.

“CPS seems determined to have a toxic relationship with its employees,” Karen Lewis, CTU president, said. “They denied us our 4% raises when there was money in the budget to honor our agreement; they attempted to ram a poorly thought out longer school day down our throats; and, on top of that they want us to teach a new curriculum and be ready to be evaluated based on how well our students do on a standardized test. It has been insult after insult after insult. Enough is enough.”

At the Labor Day rally, Lewis also called Mayor Rahm Emanuel “a liar and a bully” in her remarks, and said, “The only way to beat a bully is to stand up to a bully.” CTU is going forward with their plans to strike on Monday, Sept. 10. This will be the first teachers strike since 1987.

The entire trade union movement is behind the Chicago teachers in their struggle for better schools, smaller classes and better pay. Also, many parents are joining Parents For Teachers, because they know that it is the teachers who have the interest of the children at heart, not Rahm Emanuel and the class of bankers he represents.

According to Sarah Chambers, a member of the union bargaining committee, “Parents are frustrated by the mayor and his decisions, like the increase in class sizes.” Chambers said further, “The children of the school board and the mayor attend private schools. Parents realize that the teachers, not the school board, are for the students.”

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