Just after the Chicago Teachers Union released a statement on its website declaring their intent to strike Monday morning, the union published a solidarity statement from feminist and honorary chair of the Democratic Socialists of America Gloria Steinem as the top item on their website.
In it, Steinem expressed her support of the union and described what their fight as one against, among other things, an “apartheid-like system of differential discipline systems”:
Tonight, I proudly wear a red t-shirt in support of the Chicago Teachers Union strike. They have been forced to strike – for the first time in 25 years – by the false economy of firing and penalizing the experienced teachers most needed by the students and by new teachers; by lengthening the school day as warehousing without educational services, healthy school buildings, and paid teachers; by what they have the knowledge to call the “apartheid-like system” of differential discipline policies; and by what seems to be a national tactic of demonizing teachers in order to turn public schools into corporate profit centers….
…This is why this country needs unions, collective bargaining, and mayors who recognize, honor and fairly pay the people our children know – and who know our children….
The Chicago Teachers Union declared its intent to go on strike Monday after Sunday’s negotiations failed to resolve the conflict between the third largest school district in the nation and the union. A press release put out late Sunday evening on the CTU website reiterated the union’s position:
Again, we are committed to staying at the table until a contract is place. However, in the morning no CTU member will be inside our schools. We will walk the picket lines….We stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters throughout the state and country who are currently bargaining for their own fair contracts. We stand with those who have already declared they too are prepared to strike, in the best interests of their students….
The Chicago schools had been offering the CTU a 2 percent raise every year for four years. In response, the union had demanded a 30 percent raise over two years followed by a 25 percent raise over two years. One week ago, the union revised its demands to a 19 percent raise in the first year of the contract. The union was also negotiating the implementation of a longer school day and other issues, including rehiring teachers laid off and how to conduct new teacher evaluations.
In response, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said that “All that makes it a strike by choice, because they are not financial issues,” Emanuel said. “This is totally unnecessary, it’s avoidable, and our kids do not deserve this.”
The last time the Chicago Teachers Union went on strike was in 1987, when the standoff lasted 19 days. According to the Illinois Policy Institute, the average teacher in Chicago makes $71,000, while the average Chicagoan makes $30,203.