Widespread Support for CTU Strike
September 17, 2012
By Marc Bussanich, LaborPress City Reporter
Last week there were reports that public school students in Chicago would be back in the classroom on Monday, September 17, but Chicago Teachers Union members decided to continue the strike as they were not happy with the tentative contract. Late on Sunday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and city attorneys escalated the dispute by filing an injunction with a Cook County court to force the teachers back into the classroom
Stacy Davis Gates, legislative and political director for the CTU said, in response to the CTU teachers’ job action last week, “I’ve never seen such unity and solidarity in my entire life. The teachers have been bullied and belittled, but now are finally standing up for themselves.”
Gates noted that downtown Chicago has been a groundswell of activity and support.
“There’s tens of thousands of people in the streets. They’re not just teachers, but parents, students and community members.”
The union estimated that last Monday’s big demonstration in downtown Chicago reached 50,000 people.
“People have been very supportive. A recent poll demonstrated that 66 percent of parents who send their children to Chicago public schools support us in our struggle,” said Gates.
Gates also noted that the reaction from the Chicago media has been a mixed bag, although “they agree that the new Mayor made a mistake by taking aim at the CTU rather than being collaborative. I think it’s a resounding fumble by Emanuel.”
While the CTU is negotiating for fair wage increases in a new contract, the expansion of charter schools is another major issue behind the strike.
Gates said, “In 2000, 40 percent of the Chicago teaching force was African-American. Now it’s down to 19 percent. We think the proliferation of charter schools, school turnarounds and school closings are the major reasons for that decrease. That’s why a recall policy [whereby laid-off teachers get first dibs on new openings in the district] is very critical for us because we’re losing teachers, we’re losing black teachers and as a result the black middle class in Chicago is suffering.”
Professor Lowell Turner, academic director of The Worker Institute at Cornell University, which launched just last week, said in response to the injunction sought by Emanuel, “This is obviously a very important battle. I do hope they settle it soon because the longer it drags on, the harder it’ll be to maintain public support.”
Turner added, “A couple of things stand out for me with the CTU strike. The CTU planned this and went into this with a strategic focus and a lot of public and parental support, even though the parents were going to be inconvenienced. But there was a lot of communication in advance so that people understood what the issues were about.”
Turner also noted that the CTU teachers are standing up against nationwide attacks on teachers.
“Teachers aren’t fools. They know we need education reform, including the NEA and AFT. But we’re not going to get there by attacking teachers and unions. The CTU is standing up against reforms they think are going in the wrong direction—too much testing—and promoting reforms that go in the right direction.” firstname.lastname@example.org