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Chicago Teachers Union prepared to strike again

By Daniel Ginsberg

Teachers and supporters rally at Saucedo School during one day CTU walk out.

Chicago, IL – Reminiscent of four years ago, the streets of Chicago may again turn red as tens of thousands of Chicago teachers prepare to strike over a concessionary contract when negotiations end on Oct. 11.

Red, the color of the 28,000-strong Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), has to be Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s and Chicago Public Schools (CPS) CEO Forrest Claypool’s least favorite color. Emanuel and Claypool have an agenda of austerity and privatization, against a strong and unified teachers union that demands quality, well-staffed neighborhood schools.

90% of CTU teachers, dissatisfied with Claypool’s proposals, authorized the strike because teachers are demanding modest pay raises, no cuts to health care, strong pensions and adequately-staffed classrooms with full resources for the children, among other demands.

The city has always portrayed the cutbacks in the schools as economically necessary. Again, as in 2012, the strike will be both about defending teachers and students. CTU executive board member Sarah Chambers, a special education teacher at Saucedo School in Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood, said, “When Rahm slashes special education and hurts our disabled students, that’s a choice, not a necessity. Laying off librarians until only one out of four schools have librarians is a choice, not a necessity. And Rahm choosing to pay his banker buddies over funding special education is a choice, not a necessity.”

Claypool and Emanuel, who have been making drastic budget cuts and closing dozens of schools, are pushing for a four-year contract that will reduce teacher wages and harm school conditions for the children.

When CTU struck in 2012, Chicagoans embraced them, and tens of thousands of supporters came out to support them, forcing Mayor Emmanuel and CPS to back down. The most recent polling by the Chicago Tribune has shown that 79% of African Americans, 77% of Latinos, and 76% of union households disapprove of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s handling of education.

Governor Bruce Rauner, a billionaire out to destroy unions, has called for a takeover of CPS and wants CPS to declare bankruptcy. He’s made a special target of the teachers union. According to Chambers, “Rahm and Rauner are no longer the good friends they were when first elected, but the one thing they agree on is their desire to break the strength of the CTU.”

The Chicago Teachers Union has alerted workers everywhere that unions can fight and win, even against a mayor with White House connections and billionaire backing. CTU appears ready for this battle for both their members and their students.

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