|Thousands of striking teachers march through downtown Chicago Sept. 10.|
Chicago is the third largest U.S. school district. Major dailies from the Wall Street Journal to the New York Times are prominently covering the battle and siding with the city government.
In the afternoon, teachers began picketing outside the Chicago Public Schools headquarters downtown. Before long they encircled the block and spilled out into the street.
When the block filled up, a river of strikers and their supporters in red union T-shirts began a slow march through the streets, stopping in front of City Hall, Daley Plaza, and the CPS headquarters.
At least 25,000 participated. They chanted, “What’s disgusting? Union busting!” “We are union! We are proud!”
Last year the school board cancelled the scheduled 4 percent wage increase. Now the CPS is pressing a four-year contract proposal, which includes a pay raise of 3 percent the first year, with three subsequent 2 percent increases. The contract proposes that in five years, 50 percent of teachers’ evaluations will be based on students’ test scores and parent assessments.
When schools are shut down or downsized, teachers can be laid off based on these evaluations. The union is demanding that new teachers be hired first from the pool of laid-off teachers. The CPS rejected any such guarantee.
City and state governments around the country—including Democratic administrations from Los Angeles to New York State—are going after teachers and seeking support among working people with demagogic claims their anti-union drive is about “improving” education for their children. “More than 300,000 school employees have lost their jobs since the recession ended,” reported the New York Times.
For many decades, teachers union officials have pursued a “strategy” of backing Democratic Party politicians in hopes of influencing government education policy, but the assumed reciprocity is increasingly absent.
President Barack Obama backs the expansion of merit pay, of nonunion charter schools, and laying off teachers based on school “performance,” such as the mass firing of teachers in 2010 in Rhode Island. But he has thus far cautiously remained silent on this major labor dispute two months ahead of the elections.
At the same time, Emanuel—co-chair of the Obama campaign—returned to Chicago after attending only the first day of the Democratic Party National Convention in order to preside over his anti-union offensive.
On the day of the strike, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney called for putting “our kids first and … the teachers’ union behind.”
“We stand with Mayor Rahm Emanuel,” said Romney’s running mate, Paul Ryan.
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