Teachers lead wave of strikes and job actions in Chicago

CHICAGO – April 1 is likely to go down in the history books here as labor unions and community organizations representing people from all walks of life stage strikes and job actions from one end of the city to the other. The unprecedented “day of action” involves dozens of unions, community groups and their allies uniting to reject the assault on budgets that the Chicago Teachers Union and others have said leaves this city “broke on purpose.”

The teachers got the ball rolling when their union’s House of Delegates voted earlier this month to authorize an unfair labor practice strike to bring attention to the need to stabilize the school system and protect teachers and students in the face of attacks on the education budget by Illinois Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.

The school district has, for more than a year, stalled contract negotiations with the CTU, and has threatened and mandated furlough days, cuts and layoffs. The solution, the teachers say, is not starving the schools out of existence but the development of new revenue sources. Those revenues should come, according to the union, from progressive tax reform that would result in the wealthy (the top five percent) paying their fare share in state taxes. That approach, the union says, would generate $6 billion in new funds.

The unprecedented part of the strike tomorrow is that numerous other community organizations and as many as ten other unions will be joining the teachers on the picket lines and staging their own parallel job actions. They all see themselves as victims of reckless budget cutting and see the need for forming a permanent coalition to represent Chicago’s people in a battle against the banks and financial institutions.

Among the many groups joining the strike tomorrow are the fast-food workers organized by the Fight for $15. It will be the first time these workers strike at the same time as the teachers. This will be the 11th strike in Chicago held by fast food workers since they began their strikes and job actions in 2012.

“It’s about joining them because it shouldn’t be teachers or public workers or low wage workers who are made to suffer from budget cuts. It shouldn’t be the working people and the poor people who have to pay to fix the mess,” said a McDonald’s worker who plans to participate in striking at her store.

Chicago Public Schools CEO Forrest Claypool has said the strike is “illegal.”

“Chicago Public Schools is on the verge of collapse,” countered the CTU in a statement. “Instead of threatening educators who are engaging in a historic day of protest to fight to save our schools, Mr. Claypool should join them in this courageous day of action.

“”We are shutting down the schools for a day so we can keep them open in the days to come.”

Teachers and parents are gathering outside the city’s school buildings at 6:30 in the morning to begin picket lines, chanting and singing.

There will be a teach-in with faculty and students at Chicago State University Library (4th floor) from 10 a.m. until 1:30 p.m.

Also at 10 a.m. workers will picket the Nabisco plant on the city’s Southside protesting the destruction of 700 union jobs in the community.

At 2 p.m. there will be a march from 136 N. Western denouncing the school to prison pipeline.

From 2 p.m. until 3 p.m. the Community College Teachers Union (IFT Local 1600) and Chicago Student Union will conduct a teach-in at City Hall.

From 2 p.m. until 3:30 p.m. there will be a rally at The Quad, University of Illinois at Chicago, before heading to the Thompson Center rally.

At 3 p.m. the Alliance for Human Services will demonstrate at 401 S. Clinton to demand funding for human services.

All the unions, community organizations and others will converge at 4 p.m. at a mass rally at the Thompson Center, Clark and Randolph. From 4:40 – 6:30 p.m. It is expected that tens of thousands will then march through the Loop.

The April 1 actions are not the first time many of these groups have gotten together in Chicago and not the first time Chicagoans have united to do battle with the “1 percent.” Last year many of them got involved in the elections and forced Mayor Rahm Emanuel into a runoff. In December they joined together to protest the mayor’s role in covering up the killing by a Chicago police officer of Laquan McDonald. Some of those same groups came together again in the recent primary elections to oust the States Attorney who had helped engineer the cover-up.

Photo: CTU marching. Facebook. Photo credit Bob Simpson.


John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.