The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Interview of Ed Hershey

Jan 19, 2015

The following few excerpts are taken from a much longer interview with Ed Hershey conducted by Katryce Lassle, after the Chicago Teacher’s strike. It was published November 23, 2012 in the Chicago Weekly, (now the South Side Weekly.) It can be found at www.chicagoweekly.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/11.21.12.pdf

Q: How involved were you in the strike, and how did you become involved in the first place?

Well by virtue of being a union teacher you’re involved. I mean, I was the most active person in the union at my school – I’m one of the more active people in the city as far as that goes. Things changed last year – first when Wisconsin happened, and then when Rahm Emanuel got elected, and that sort of ended up catapulting me into doing stuff at my school....

Q: What were the main grievances that teachers were trying to communicate?

Working a longer day without getting paid for it was the biggest thing. Close behind was merit pay, not getting paid accordingly for steps [seniority] and lanes [additional degrees and education]. Those were the main ones, but they were talking about increasing the pension costs and health care costs....

One complaint we had was that we had no professional development time other than at the beginning and the end of the year....

Q: A majority of CPS teachers voted in favor of the new contract. Did you vote? If so, were you in support of or in opposition to it?

I did vote, and I voted against it because I think ... the union cut the strike short. I think a lot of the membership and union apparatus itself believed the hype in the media that the public was going to turn against us.

What we saw in the streets was not what you’d be led to believe by the media. I’m sure there were parents who were annoyed, who wanted their kids back in school, but the proportions of who those were and how they felt ... we could have stayed out. One parent said, “I would have supported you if you’d stayed out; I think you guys should get what you deserve.” I don’t think we were going to win a whole lot more than we did, but we could have pushed further.