CHICAGO – Teachers, steelworkers, electricians, firefighters and other union members, their families and supporters, rallied here on the Southeast Side to defend teachers and union rights. (video below) The rally included a caravan of union members from Madison, Wisc., who are themselves locked in a battle to defend labor and human rights.
Chicago’s new mayor Rahm Emanuel and his administration have launched an attack on labor rights and working conditions in an effort to balance the city budget on the backs of union workers. The city’s clash with the teachers union is front and center in this effort.
Sue Garza, a Chicago Teachers Union member at the neighborhood Jane Addams Elementary School, was one of the main organizers of the rally. It was held next to her home on a blocked off street. Friends and neighbors donated food and beverages for the event. Speakers spoke from the back of a flatbed truck.
Garza urged those in attendance to organize block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood, to defend and build support for teachers, public workers, unions and all working people.
Union workers’ fighting back is not a new theme for Chicago’s Southeast Side. The infamous Memorial Day Massacre of 1937 took place here. Ten steelworkers were gunned down and killed, and another 90 injured at the gates of Republic Steel demanding union recognition and the right of collective bargaining.
Wisconsin Sen. Robert LaFollette, Jr., chair of the Civil Liberties Committee used Congressional hearings to expose the anti-union violence promoted and organized by Republic Steel. Eventually the reaction to this horrible slaughter of peaceful union demonstrators helped lead to the successful organizing of Republic and other “Little Steel” companies by the United Steelworkers.