It appears the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), which held a solidarity rally this Saturday afternoon, is facilitating a rejuvenation of the Wisconsin-style protest movement. The scene at Saturday’s rally, held in anticipation of Sunday’s yes-or-no vote on the latest negotiated agreement, seemed more like a convention of far-left radicals than the image of clean-cut teachers the CTU would like to project.
Thousands of red-shirted Chicago Teachers Union members flooded into Chicago’s aptly named Union Square Park at noon today to demonstrate for solidarity and workers’ rights. Protesters embraced radical revolutionary imagery, wearing shirts with Che Guevara on them and holding signs emblazoned with the “iron fist.”
Occupy Chicago and anarchist groups as well as the Progressive Labor Party, International Socialists, SEIU, AFL-CIO, and others stood alonside teachers chanting for solidarity:
Unions members from Milwaukee told me that their union had paid for at least two buses to transport protesters in from north of the border, including laborers who had attempted to organize a local business and been fired.
I spoke with the Socialist Equality Party’s Phyllis Scherrer, who is running for Vice President of the United States. Scherrer, a former teacher, said the teachers’ fight is really part of a broader struggle:
We are fighting to defend Chicago teachers, but this has to come through a struggle to broaden this defense of public education. That it’s not just a strike question, or not just a union question. It’s a political question, which means broadening it and breaking out of the limitations of the union struggle and creating a political struggle.
Representatives from the Progressive Labor Party’s protesters passed out information that said “capitalists have a different education plan for our children than we do,” and “communist revolution is the only solution….instead of fighting to protect the capitalists’ empire, we are organizing a red army of masses of workers to destroy capitalism and to build a workers’ society.”
The “World Socialist Web Site” called for teachers to “reject the contract betrayal” and “broader the fight to defend jobs and public schools.”
In constrast with earlier protests this week, the presence of bused-in protesters from outside of Chicago and the clearer cries against capitalism and in favor of union power previewed how the Chicago Teachers Union has set the stage, and is part of, those groups seeking broader societal upheaval.