Emergency Labor Network

The strike is undeniably one of the most significant  labor struggles in decades. What is at stake is not only the working conditions  of Chicago  teachers but also their job security and preservation of their union.  Moreover,  the teachers are fighting  for the survival of public education in the face of the campaign being waged by  Education Secretary Arne Duncan, formerly the head of the Chicago public school  system, to Charterize and Privatize the nation’s school system


Under his plan and the one being pushed by Mayor Rahm  Emanuel and the Chicago School Board — an appointed group made up of corporate  CEOs, real estate magnates and bankers — “failing schools” would be closed and  turned over to private interests or made charter schools employing non-union  teachers and free from state supervision.


As this historic fight continues, the corporate-driven  propaganda mills are working overtime to demonize teachers and especially their  leaders. During the September 11 widely watched “Morning Joe” MSNBC  program, Joe Scarborough, a former member of Congress, repeatedly castigated the  teachers’ union leaders as “stupid.” The Washington Post denounced them as well  and was joined by both of Chicago’s major newspapers — the Tribune and  Sun Times —  in placing the blame  for the inevitable disruption of life in the city squarely on the teachers. But  as Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) President Karen Lewis explained, “The teachers  had no choice.” And the 98% vote authorizing the strike proved conclusively that  the rank-and-file were at one with their leaders — in fact, the rank-and-file  are the leaders.


According to Lewis, the city’s proposed evaluation scheme  — basing teachers’ advancement and  job security on students’ standardized testing — could result in 6,000 teachers  losing their jobs. She called the plan “unacceptable.” How could any union worth  its salt not agree?


We live in the age of austerity, and unfortunately too  many unions across the country have bought into the employers’ demands for  cutbacks, concessions and “shared sacrifices,” resulting in massive layoffs,  cuts in wages and benefits, and worsening working conditions. Now, at last, the  Chicago Teachers Union has stepped forward and said, “Enough!” Their fight is  our fight, and we in the Emergency Labor Network urge all unions throughout the  country, joined by defenders of public education, parents, students, and  community allies, to join this historic struggle and demonstrate solidarity with  the embattled teachers, including providing financial support.


There is plenty of money available to meet the needs of  all of the Chicago teachers and provide students with a  quality education. For starters, the big banks and corporations are sitting on  trillions of dollars, having been bailed out by the same federal government that  refuses to pour more money to improve and reinvigorate the public school system.  Taxes on the wealthy, scandalously low even when compared to the Clinton years, need to be  substantially increased. But this is not what is on the table in Chicago. Instead, ruling  circles are demanding that the teachers, not the millionaires or billionaires,  assume the burden of the debt and deficit.


If there is one thing that this strike should clarify for  anyone who still believes that the Democratic Party is the party of the U.S.  working class, just consider: Democrat Rahm Emanuel is leading the charge  against the CTU, Democrat Arne Duncan is behind him 100%, and Democratic  President Obama, who famously said in a message to labor, “I’ll walk with you on  picket lines as president of the U.S.,” appointed both of the above to high  office and supports their policies.


Isn’t it time for labor to organize independently of both  major corporate parties and do what unions have done in other countries and that  is establish a party that genuinely represents workers and the great majority?


Issued  by the Emergency Labor Network (ELN)

For  more information write or P.O. Box 21004, Cleveland, OH44121 or call 216-736-4715 or visit our website at Donations  gratefully accepted. Please make checks payable to the ELN and mail to the above  P.O. Box.


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