Oct 28, 2019
As of this writing, 32,000 Chicago teachers and school support staff have been on strike for more than a week. Their union is asking for improved school workers’ pay and healthcare, for smaller class sizes, preparation time for elementary school teachers, for staffing every school with a nurse and a librarian, and for hiring more counselors, case managers, and workers to help homeless students. They are also calling for an end to budgeting and school rating systems that have helped to starve and close neighborhood schools in poor areas.
Mayor Lightfoot campaigned promising additional nurses and librarians, among other things the teachers are demanding. But now she says there isn’t enough money. The two main Chicago newspapers agree with her, and have run article after article throwing whatever dirt they can at the strikers, hoping some of it will stick. But despite their propaganda that the strike is hurting students, it should be obvious after all these years of attacks on the schools that whatever improves the conditions for teachers is also an improvement for students.
Some of the Democratic candidates, including Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, have come to picket lines or rallies, or at least voiced support for the strike—even though the mayor fighting the teachers is in the same Democratic Party. Strikers are happy for a show of support. But whatever they get will depend on their strike, not on these politicians.
Teachers and support staff have been enthusiastic on the picket lines. Some students and parents have joined them. Bus drivers have been giving teachers free rides to their daily rallies.
It is outrageous that teachers should have to fight for these demands. Even to begin to get them, they’re going to have to show this mayor that she will not be able to carry on business as usual in this city until she answers the demands of the teachers, which are at the same time demands for the students.
But as every teacher knows, even if they got every single one of their demands, it wouldn’t solve the problems they confront in the classrooms every day—because those are problems on a bigger scale. Issues teachers talk about all the time, like homeless students, students with health and mental health problems, crime, the lack of a future for their students—those are problems of the society. And those will only be solved by a fight over which direction society goes, a fight to turn it into a society that puts the needs of every human being as its primary goal, not profit.