Chicago teachers have launched their one-day strike over “unfair labor practices,” and their allies are showing solidarity by hosting a plethora of actions across the city.
Despite the frigid, wet weather, public teachers and their allies are taking part in actions across the Windy City today as part of the Chicago Teachers Union’s one-day strike. Union members hit the picket line this morning to push back against “unfair labor practices” in the Chicago Public Schools system.
Allies from a variety of organizations and movements, including the Fight for 15, SEIU Healthcare Illinois and Illinois Federation of Teachers, are holding a number of actions across the city in solidarity with the teachers. Chicago’s public school educators, who are in contract negotiations with the district, are unhappy with CPS’ cancellation of “step and lane” raises and the possible loss of the 7 percent teacher pension pickup, which teachers say amounts to a pay cut.
This morning, Pamela Seaton, a special education teacher at Dr. Martin Luther King Junior College Preparatory High School, joined a few dozen of her colleagues on the picket line.
“The main message is basically that we need funding for our schools … and not to be treated like dirt,” Seaton told PI’s Ellyn Fortino, adding that her school is “down to barebones” as a result of budget cuts. “That’s basically our main message. We teach the future, so they need to kind of treat us with more respect.”
CPS, which has teamed up with the Chicago Public Library and Chicago Park District to provide contingency locations for students to be housed during today’s strike, claims that the work stoppage is illegal due to ongoing contract negotiations.
Seaton finds the district’s claims to be “upsetting.”
“No one said anything about the furlough day that they just implemented. That was not planned in the school year, so parents did not have an option or anything to plan for that in advance. So it’s such a big deal if we do something, the same exact thing,” she said. “So also, it’s not illegal because they broke our contract from the one we were running under. They broke our contract because of the lanes and steps. So this is perfectly legal.”
Seaton said teachers are asking for fair compensation and that the state of Illinois pass school funding legislation “that will not affect our pensions.”
“I just hope that people will begin to appreciate the art of teaching,” she said. “It’s an art, and it’s a very hard job, and we do it for the love of it, truly. We are not in it for the money … I share my check. I get my students food. I get them clothes. I get them ready for prom. I do things like that, so you know … you see people saying, ‘Teachers want more money.’ Well I need a raise to live in Chicago. It’s a mandatory thing that I have to live in Chicago. The cost of living is going up, so give me the things that I need so I can stay here in Chicago.”
CTU President Karen Lewis also visited the picket line at King, where she previously taught.
James Staros, chair of King’s history department, also spoke with PI about the purpose of today’s teachers’ strike:
The Chicago City Council’s Progressive Caucus issued a statement repeating their “strong support” of the teachers’ strike and called for “progressive revenue solutions to address the school funding crisis.”
“The Governor is holding our public schools and human services hostage by refusing to pass a budget that includes progressive revenue solutions,” Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza (10th), a CTU member, said in the statement. “We are standing shoulder to shoulder with the teachers in waging this fight for the funds that the state is withholding.”
“All of these folks coming together to work toward fairness deserve the support of the Emanuel Administration and CPS CEO Claypool,” Ald. David Moore (17th) added. “Economic justice can only make our city better and help to raise the living standard and purchasing power of our residents.”
In addition to the actions in Chicago, there are protests happening throughout Illinois Friday as a means to push back against the ongoing state budget impasse and policies of Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.
SEIU Healthcare Illinois Executive Vice President Greg Kelley explained why the CTU teachers’ strike has ballooned into a larger day of action across the state:
When he was asked about the U.S. Supreme Court decision this week to side with public workers in the Friedrichs case, the anti-union stalking horse, Gov. Rauner called the decision ‘tragic.’ It was a window into the mind of the most blatantly hostile governor to workers that Illinois has seen in modern history.
The manufactured crisis the state now endures has at its heart Rauner’s desire to strip workers of protections, to drive down their wages and to reverse an entire century of gains by labor that created our Middle Class. In his pursuit of his anti-union goals, we have seen some TRULY tragic results. Thousands of vulnerable Illinoisans have lost care, are in danger of losing care or are just falling through the cracks. Small businesses, schools and social service agencies are closing their doors. And at the bargaining table, Gov. Rauner continues his assault, seeking to strip our home healthcare and child care workforce–the lowest paid in the state–of wages, training and health insurance.
Today, we rise up and say ‘no’ to the tragedy unfolding at the hands of Bruce Rauner and Mayor Emanuel. We say ‘no’ to cuts that leave seniors, children and people with disabilities in the lurch. We say ‘no’ to special treatment for corporations, Wall Street banks and billionaires. We say ‘no’ to greedy nursing home owners, who put profits over people.
And we say a loud ‘yes’ to the dignity of labor, the protection of the vulnerable and the fundamental right of all workers to bargain collectively.
UPDATE 1: (1:42 p.m.): CTU educators and their supporters held a protest outside of Cook County Jail this afternoon to push back against the “school to prison pipeline.” Former mayoral candidate and Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia was also there for the action. Check out our full report here.
PI’s political cartoonist Chris Britt also offered his take on today’s protests. Take a look.
UPDATE 2 (3:33 p.m.): CPS filed a complaint against the teachers’ union Friday seeking a “permanent, preemptive injunction,” according to CPS CEO Forrest Claypool. The move is meant to prevent future strikes like the one being held today. The complaint, filed with the Illinois Educational Labor Relation Board, also calls for the union to pay for all damages incurred by today’s strike, i.e. the costs surrounding the contingency sites offered to students today, as well as the district’s legal fees and a fine.
Claypool contends that Friday’s one-day strike is illegal because the fact-finding process is not yet complete, with the district’s labor attorney arguing that “CTU has no legal justification for such blatantly illegal conduct.” But the union is pushing back against the district’s claims.
“We disagree,” said CTU spokeswoman Stephanie Gadlin. “The Supreme Court 60 years ago authorized unfair labor practice strikes under the National Labor Relations Act and we believe teachers have those rights. This was a one day job action. Their charges were filed after the fact and they seek to enjoin us from doing something [we] have no intention of doing again. We call on CPS to join us in fighting for more revenue for schools.”
UPDATE 3 (3:54 p.m.): Labor leaders are blasting Gov. Bruce Rauner for his criticism of today’s teachers’ strike in Chicago. Lewis pushed back against Rauner’s comments surrounding the legality of the strike, taking aim at his style of governing:
Physicians take a Hippocratic Oath to uphold ethical standards when dealing with patients’ health. Governor Bruce Rauner, who continues to suffocate the life out of the state, has today taken a Hypocritical Oath to do what is in the best interest of children as he denounces the very people who are fighting for them. Chicago’s public school educators have taken a bold stand by uniting with students, parents, workers and communities to fight for revenue for our schools during a one-day Unfair Labor Practice Strike.
Since Rauner has been in office he has failed to govern. Instead he has come in like the venture capitalist he is to slash budgets, restrict funding for critical social services, destroy Chicago’s school district–along with Chicago State University, and hold every citizen of our state hostage to his failed turnaround agenda. Simply put, he is bad for Illinois.
Instead of attacking people in public service who have devoted their lives to educating children, he should use his title to make a positive difference in people’s lives,” Lewis said. “We are calling for progressive revenue solutions for our schools and state. Teachers are about solutions–and we are united with people across this city and state to fight for them.
Meanwhile, American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten came to Chicago today to join teachers on the picket line at serveral schools and attended a rally at Northeastern Illinois University on the city’s Northwest Side.
“We are outside on the sidewalk today so we can be successful inside, in our classrooms, tomorrow. But Gov. Rauner is pulling up the ladder of opportunity for our children and showing a blatant disregard for children,” Weingarten said adding that the governor “is showing a willful disregard for children by refusing to fund public K-college education through a manufactured crisis.”
Public colleges and universities throughout the state have not been funded for nine months due to the lack of a state budget and, consequentially, some 150,000 low-income college students will not receive Monetary Assistance Program grant funds, which help cover tuition costs. Additionally, the CPS school district passed a budget back in August that called for $480 million in state funding, but without a budget the money is unlikely to materialize.
UPDATE 5 (4:12 p.m.): Thousands of people have arrived at the Thompson Center to attend the Chicago Teachers Union rally and march. Progress Illinois is live tweeting from the rally. Follow us @ProgressIL to see what is happening in real time.
UPDATE 6 (5:26 p.m.): Speakers including Lewis, State Rep. Robert Martwick (D-Chicago, who introduced the elected school board bill, Rev. Jesse Jackson and CPS students gave speeches during the rally covering everything from the negative impact of school budget cuts to overcrowding in schools. Earlier today, we caught up with a group of West Side parents and teachers who were protesting in front of a now-shuttered CPS school that fell victim to the record-breaking closure of 50 public schools back in 2013. See our full report on the action at the now-closed Robert Emmet Elementary School here.
The massive crowd is now starting to march, chanting for the recalls of both Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Gov. Rauner.
UPDATE 7 (6:17 p.m.): The protesters have now shut down a portion of Lake Shore Drive:
UPDATE 8 (6:27 p.m.): Chicago police are now moving the protesters off of Lake Shore Drive: