Feb 16, 2015
On February 7, Ed Hershey spoke at an election rally at the National Museum of Mexican Art in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago’s 25th ward.
Thank you all for coming on this cold day.
My name is Ed Hershey. I teach science at Lindblom High School in Englewood, where I’ve taught for nine years. I’m running for 25th ward alderman. I’m running to say that we need a working class fight in this ward, and in this city.
Schools: I’ve lived the attacks on our students, on our children, for years now. Every year they tell us that cutbacks are necessary at the schools, that there is not enough money. Because of a supposed deficit, they cut programs for students: after school programs, sports programs, art, music, libraries, things that get students engaged, things that spark their interest in school.
I’ve fought these attacks. I led the strike organizing at Lindblom [in the teacher’s strike in the fall of 2012]. I organized students and teachers who wanted to fight the school closings. I’ve spoken against new charter schools. I stood with the mothers at Whittier, when they fought for a library at their school. I was arrested when [Alderman] Solis demolished their community center. When students at Lindblom organized a protest and die-in against police violence, I stood with the students.
Privatization: We’ve had cuts in our classrooms, to allow [Mayor] Rahm Emanuel to hand school money over to private interests. The year after the school closings cut 50 schools, Emanuel opened new charter schools despite the fact that, in the same year, there was more than one charter school scandal, in which charter schools were caught handing over our tax money to their “connected” friends. And this year, Chicago Public Schools gave a contract worth hundreds of millions to Aramark to “manage” the cleaning of the schools.... It surprised no one that the schools are filthier as a result. The moneyed interests in this city use the school system as a cash cow, and they’re milking it for all they can get.
Chicago Public Schools pay several hundred million for “debt service,” that is, interest payments to the banks. Those payments amount to several times the amount that was cut out of the classrooms last year. That’s the problem with capitalist society – the bankers’ interest comes before our students’ education. In fact, they take money from our children to hand it to the banks.
They’re taking this money at the same time they let other public services decay. Emanuel has cut hours at all the libraries, where working people go to look for work. Just look at the decaying viaducts near here. How long has it been since those were repaired? They gave a big contract for red light cameras, which they use to fleece us of money, rather than trying to maintain safe speeds....
Housing: An issue we’ve heard about from residents is housing. In Pilsen, developers are moving in, raising the rents, which pushes working people out of the community. Water bills are rising for homeowners. Rising property values means increasing the rent.
I understand management at many of the developments that used to be the ABLA projects is privatized. Private companies are taking money for profit out of rent payments. People are being pushed out in various ways: being charged market rate rent “by mistake,” charged more rent to have a goldfish, etc. Certainly this area used to house many more people. It’s close to downtown, so developers want it. It will take a fight to keep housing that people can afford.
Jobs: We need to fight for jobs. We hear the most from people that there are no opportunities and nothing for young people to do. It would not be at all hard to solve this problem. The city could hire working-age young people to make the services run. That’s what I propose for jobs: if the city services we need are expanded, it would create jobs. Hire more teachers and aides in the schools; create more after school programs; extend library hours; fix the streets and infrastructure. All that would create thousands of jobs. We know there’s money for it.
Wages: In this election, the candidates talk a lot about the minimum wage. The Democratic politicians will not give us what we need. Wages will only begin to go up when the working class fights for higher wages, wages enough to live well on.
Some people tell me they don’t vote, that they never vote. And I can’t blame them. Both the Republicans and Democrats are parties of the wealthy. The Democratic Party, the only party that counts in this city, imposes the policy demanded by the banks and corporations. Working people who feel they get nothing out of voting for those politicians are right.
But I am working to make this election different. A vote for me is a vote against them – against the money interests and their politicians. It’s a vote for a fight. A big vote would make a statement that other working people could hear – it would say that there is a part of the working class that has had enough with business as usual. People would be saying, with their vote for me, that a fight is necessary. Elected or not, I will get up to support anyone who makes a fight, and I will come out and stand on the front lines.
So I hope you agree, and I hope you will vote for me, and get your friends, family and neighbors to vote for me as well. Also know that for us, this election is only the beginning. We were fighting the Board of Education before this election, and I plan to continue to do so afterward – win or lose the election.
[For more information about Ed Hershey’s campaign, see the independent website: www.workingclassfight.com]