From the July-August 2015 issue of News & Letters
Chicago—Over 1,000 teachers and labor supporters rallied in Chicago on June 9, three weeks before the Chicago Teachers Union contract expires. The plaza of the Thompson Center was a sea of red T-shirts with teachers and other unionists chanting “This means war!” about the contract battle ahead.
Teachers gained the current contract in 2012 only by maintaining their strike for nine days, defying Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his appointed school board and threats that strikers’ jobs would be gone. But the teachers had the support of students and parents and the solidarity of unions and rank-and-file workers throughout the area. They demonstrated that support, literally, on a daily basis with large, loud, colorful marches of as many as 10,000 union supporters around the Loop and in the neighborhoods.
Emanuel, who closed 52 more public schools and siphoned off more public school money to the crony capitalists who control the strings of privatized charter schools, is still the enemy. But at today’s rally, far more of the signs teachers carried and the slogans they chanted identified Gov. Bruce Rauner as their main adversary and the foe of working people.
The newly elected billionaire governor of Illinois does not control the state legislature, yet he is demanding that legislators pass his package of union-busting “reforms” just as Republican governors in Wisconsin, Indiana and Michigan had pushed through.
Gov. Rauner has refused to release tens of millions of dollars already in the budget, approved for schools and the most basic services of food, health and shelter, holding the poor and workers hostage to extort passage of his union-busting bills.
He has urged the school board to declare bankruptcy and shake off contractual obligations including union rules, wages and pension obligations. As CTU president Karen Lewis stated, the schools are “broke by choice.” The 3% a year board counter-offer to CTU wage demands is essentially a wage freeze.
The governor has declared open class warfare on workers in Illinois. The enthusiasm of the rally and the march down LaSalle Street promises that teachers fighting for a contract in coming months will be shock troops in that class war.