Mar 28, 2016
The Chicago Teachers Union called a one-day strike and rally for April 1st. The union plans to picket schools, then assemble for a big rally downtown, demanding more money for schools. Other unions and community groups are calling people out to join them.
This is the latest step in a long battle. The Chicago Board of Education has been demanding big concessions from the teachers since negotiations began last year. The board first proposed that it end picking up part of the teacher’s pension payments, which would amount to a seven percent pay cut. Then the board thought they might have a deal which would impose a somewhat smaller pay cut. When the teachers’ union rejected that deal, the board threatened to impose the seven percent cut – but then backed off, and instead announced they would make teachers take three unpaid furlough days. This latest one-day strike is the union leadership’s response.
It appears the union is calling for a one-day strike in order to keep within the bounds of the law. Chicago teachers can’t legally go on a real strike until almost the end of the school year.
In other words, “the law” is a trap. It is set up from top to bottom to keep workers from fighting. If teachers strike outside the elaborate legal process, it means facing legal penalties. But meanwhile, the board has refused to pay teachers the raises negotiated in the last contract – and the law does nothing. The board threatened to impose a pay cut, and is in fact imposing a cut with the furlough days – and the law lets them get away with it.
No, the law is not neutral. If teachers stick to these laws, the politicians who wrote them will get an outcome they want. And these politicians have made it abundantly clear that they are determined to go after the schools of working class children and the teachers who work in them.
This one-day strike may let the teachers show their resolve. But everyone knows the mayor and his hand-picked board won’t back off after one day.
If the Chicago teachers are determined to save their schools and their jobs, it will take a determined mobilization. This one-day strike can be a start. But that’s what it is – only a start.