Despite what the political and media elites would like you to think, a recent poll showed 55.5% of Chicago households support the Chicago Teachers Union Strike. Why? In the weeks leading up to the strike, we spoke to members of the Chicago Teachers Solidarity Campaign about why they’re on the side of teachers, parents and students, not billionaires.
Lew Rosenbaum and Diana Berek
Occupy Rogers Park; CPS grandparents
Diana: I’m a parent of children who went to public schools, and I’m a grandparent of children who are in public schools in Chicago. The only way that parents and the community can have a voice in what education and how it’s structured and who it’s for is if there’s a public education. Once it becomes corporatized or privatized, there’s no guarantee that we will ever be listened to again. We’re barely listened to now. We have to fight and struggle to get that more democratized.
Lew: It affects not just teachers, but practically everyone in Chicago. It affects the 99 percent.
Progressive Democrats of America, Chicago Chapter; Retired CPS high school teacher and assistant principal
I know how hard it is to work in Chicago. It’s almost laughable the budgets neighborhood schools are given. When you’re in a poor area, the needs of the students are so great that the school alone cannot address them, but we don’t have the resources to bring in qualified people—like social workers and psychologists—to address the issues.
I can understand why parents want to get away from certain neighborhood schools, but I would rather that the school system and the city work to prevent the kind of damage that is done to children from poor areas. To me, it’s a cruel farce to have No Child Left Behind when we leave whole neighborhoods behind.
Organizer for Chicago Acts
I’m a teacher, and I couldn’t find a job teaching art because they cut all these art and music programs for young, inner-city kids. So when I couldn’t find a job teaching I got a job as a union organizer with Chicago Acts, and now I’m organizing charter school teachers and staff to form a union. One of the things we tell them is that even once you get a contract, even once you get unionized, it’s still a fight. But without that, you’re at their beck-and-call. You have to have some kind of voice, some kind of organization.
I think that the mobilization of the CTU teachers has had an impact, not only on themselves, but on other unions. My husband’s a postal worker, and workers are pretty excited about people organizing and fighting back.
Teamster Defense Guard
We need to teach children early on about the true history of the United States–the oppressive and the oppressed, the rich and the poor, the haves and have nots. I came to this late. It wasn’t until I read A People’s History of the United States before I learned how systemic in nature the oppression is—it’s not just a few knuckleheads. The reason they’re going after teachers and the public sector now is the union density—there’s more union workers in the public sector now than the private. They want to break unions, pay workers less, and charge people more. And as the quality of service goes down, the prices go up.
Former CPS student whose parents were part of the struggle to build Chavez Elementary Multicultural Academy
I wanted to be part of the biggest labor fight happening now, and help people take notes on how to build their own struggles. The reason my parents went on hunger strike, which was basically that every class had enough students for two classes, is also the reason that teachers are struggling now.
Interviews and photos: Rosa Trakhtensky