As we go to press (Oct. 22), the strike of 32,500 educators, all members of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), is entering its fifth day with even greater energy and determination than in September 2012, when the Chicago teachers’ strike kicked off a Teachers’ Revolt that would go on to sweep the entire nation over the next seven years.
The reason for the heightened resolve is this: Unlike 2012, the 7,500 Chicago Public Schools (CPS) support staff (custodians, para-professionals, etc.), organized in SEIU Local 73, have joined the strike.
“We’re fighting for the schools that Chicago’s youth deserve,” stated Jesse Sharkey, president of the CTU, who went on to enumerate the teachers’ main demands, including increased wages, smaller class sizes, nurses and counselors in every school, real sanctuary schools, more bilingual and special education teachers, and housing for teachers.
The picket lines and daily mobilizations have been massive, underscoring the strong parental and community support for the teachers. It was, after all, in Chicago that the playbook for community outreach was developed back in 2012.
Democratic Mayor Lori Lightfoot — the chief negotiator for CPS — was elected earlier this year with the support of the Chicago teachers, as she promised increased funding for schools and an end to the schools-to-prison pipeline. Once in office, however, she has claimed that there is no funding to meet the strikers’ demands — an argument that has been rejected roundly by CTU and SEIU Local 73, which point to the $1 billion in increased yearly school funding for CPS since 2016.
“The candidate [Lori Lightfoot] that people in this city voted for said that she agreed with them that our schools were a priority and we had to resource them,” stated CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates. “The mayor is saying something completely different.”
Another big difference this time around is the active and visible support for the Chicago teachers’ strike by the top leadership of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), which has established a national strike fund for the striking educators. Donations to this fund can be made on the AFT website (www.AFT.org) or by check, and mailed to: CTU Strike Solidarity Fund; 555 New Jersey Avenue, NW; Washington DC 20001. Please note: CTU Strike Solidarity Fund on the memo line.
— The Editors