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Chicago Teachers Union strike slams cuts

By Richard Blake and Fernando Figueroa |
April 2, 2016
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Protesters gather at the University of Illinois Chicago to Protest Cuts"
Protesters gather at the University of Illinois Chicago to Protest Cuts" (Photo credit: Joe Isobaker)
25,000 march in downtown Chicago as supporters cheer on.
25,000 march in downtown Chicago as supporters cheer on.

Chicago, IL – In an historic showing of force and bravery, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) carried out a one-day strike on April 1. Over 25,000 people, some from as far away as Canada and Florida, participated by walking picket lines, speaking out on campuses and marching in the streets to demand justice for the workers and students of the Chicago school system.

Facing unjust budget cuts that are designed to harm teachers and students for the benefit of the 1%, the CTU held strong in the face of adversity and held a series of actions across the city of Chicago to fight back. Teachers and their supporters began with picket lines at 6:30 a.m. at schools across Chicago. Every school in the city was enveloped by chants of “Hey hey, ho ho, Rahm Emanuel's got to go.”

Teachers across the city then used a variety of tactics to connect the union's demands with the city's misallocation of funds and priorities. Hundreds of strikers from Saucedo Scholastic Academy met with teachers and students from nearby schools to march on the Cook County Jail to demand “education not incarceration” and an end to the school-to-prison pipeline. Several universities in Chicago hosted rallies throughout the day to protest massive budget cuts and layoffs they have been subjected to, including 500 at the University of Illinois Chicago.

Speaking at Northeastern Illinois State University, the executive director of AFSCME Council 31, Roberta Lynch, declared: “We're standing in solidarity with CTU. Governor Rauner is holding the state hostage in an attempt to destroy all unions in this state. He's cutting state universities by 30%. Public education is what gives ordinary people an opportunity to rise higher. Rauner wants to destroy labor unions and public education, the institutions that lift people up.”

Organizations from the community, teachers, students, parents and many other supporters came out at 4:00 p.m. for the final event of the day to protest the outrageous financial cuts planned for the Chicago school system. Speakers consistently connected the CTU strike to attacks on other unions, the university system, and the black community. 25,000 people then began a march through downtown Chicago. The massive crowd chanted “Get up, get down, Chicago is a union town”, “Starving schools is a crime, time for bankers to do their time,” and many others. “Dump Trump” was heard across the march as the protesters passed Trump Tower. Police roughed up and arrested several protesters as the march neared Lake Shore Drive.

The labor movement looks to the CTU as an example of resistance to massive cuts and austerity as they continue to build a broad front opposed to attacks on unions and public education.