Are Chicago Teachers Headed Toward a Strike?

Published on The Bullet, Socialist Project’s E-Bulletin No. 1302, by Lee Sustar, Sept 8, 2016.

A three-cornered battle between a budget-slashing mayor (Rahm Emanuel), a union-busting governor (Bruce Rauner) and determined teachers (CTU) could result this fall in the second public school strike in Chicago in four years.

The school district also upped the ante by announcing 1,000 layoffs and further budget cuts that will squeeze special education and force principals to eliminate jobs.

All indicators point to a teachers’ strike in the fall. But the political landscape has changed since the CTU won a 2012 strike through rock-solid picket lines, mass protests and widespread popular support. This time around, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who has seen his approval ratings plummet in the wake of police killings of African Americans, has dropped the confrontational rhetoric.

Instead, he’s using the state budget impasse created by Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner as a pretext to force teachers to accept a pay cut in the form of covering a higher share of their pension costs. Taxpayers will pay $250-million more to fund school pensions, Emanuel argues, so it’s time for teachers to pay their share.

What the mayor omits is the fact that the pension crisis was created by the school district’s failure to make pension contributions over the course of a decade. As CTU Staff Coordinator Jackson Potter wrote, “Not only are teachers and paraprofessionals taxpayers who will share in the burden of increased property taxes, but we have seen mass layoffs, program reductions, pay freezes, furlough days and a general lack of regard for the needs of our classrooms.”

Deliberate Underfunding: … //
… Class Allies? … //
… Electoral Efforts: … //
… Working Class Radicalization: … //

… The most important factor in favor of the CTU, however, is the wider working-class radicalization that found expression in the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign.

Four years ago, the CTU’s efforts to expose the diversion of public taxes to business developments, known as TIFs, seemed obscure. The same was true of the union’s demands that the big banks renegotiate interest rate deals with Chicago schools to take advantage of record low rates. A proposal for a tax on financial transactions seemed like an outlier, too.

But in the wake of the Sanders campaign, these demands are suddenly part of the mainstream political debate – despite Hillary Clinton’s shift back to the right to court Republicans in the general election. The CTU’s demands to tax the rich to pay for public education will resonate with working people in Chicago and beyond.

Just as important, the continued police killing of Black youths has fueled working-class discontent across the city. By continuing to support Black Lives Matter protests, the CTU can make a critical link between the lack of funding for schools and the lack of economic opportunities for Black working-class youths.

If the past is any indication, building on those alliances – and others besides – will be critical to the union’s strike strategy. The coming showdown may well be tougher and longer than the 2012 strike. But in the face of the attacks from the governor and the mayor, the CTU has a choice: Either accept a deal that would roll back decades of progress or step up to the union’s biggest battle in more than a generation.

(full text with links).

(Lee Sustar is the labour editor for Socialist Worker, where this article first appeared).

Related Links for some thoughts on Schooling – Gedanken zur Schule:

Other Links:

Economic Update: Economics for Labor Day, Sept 8, 2016, 55.39 min, uploaded by Democracy At Work … on dark money, Mylan drug scandal, air lines concentrating, capitalism and poor countries (India, China). On Labor Day: key facts, struggles, and issues;

European bankers will be exempt from migration curbs after Brexit - Philip Hammond reveals, on The, by Steven Swinford, Sept 8, 2016;

The Sick Ocean, on Dissident Voice, by Robert Hunziker, Sept 8, 2016: a major new scientific report, Explaining Ocean Warming, was released on Sept 5th. It is grim;

LABOR: Organizing for Power in the New Gilded Age, on AlterNet, by Jane McAlevey, Sept 4, 2016: there have been some great union victories to show the way;

Machtkämpfe und Rücktritte, wohin steuern Europas Populisten? – Phoenix Runde am 05. Juli 2016, 44.55 min, von phoenix auf YouTube hochgeladen; (mein Kommentar: Populisten, das Schimpfwort der gerade im Sattel sitzenden Meinungsmacht für ihre aufstrebenden, gefährlich werdenden Gegner – Heidi).

The agony of trying to unsubscribe – with James Veitch, 7.40 min, on TED, June 2016: … from an unwanted marketing email …;

Papst Franziskus, Vereinte Nationen und Agenda 2030 – Harald Lesch, 11.26 min, von Urknall, Weltall und das Leben am 8. April 2016 auf YouTube hochgeladen;

… and this:

  • Imagine – John Lennon (Live), 3.00 min, von Matías Jiménez hochgeladen … watch the facial expressions of the two persons between 1,01 – 1.16 min, a man and a women, at left in the first row.

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