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Chicago teachers vote to authorize strike

By staff |
December 14, 2015
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 Sarah Chambers (center) during 2012 teachers strike.
Sarah Chambers (center) during 2012 teachers strike. (Fight Back! News / Staff)

Chicago, IL - In the face of attacks on teachers, their schools and students, union members in Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) Local 1 are ready to fight.

This morning, Dec. 14, they announced the results of a vote held this past week: 22,678 out of 24,752 members voted, and 21,782, or 96%, voted to strike the Chicago Public Schools if management doesn’t reverse course.

CTU struck in 2012, and the anti-union mayor, Rahm Emanuel, has only increased attacks on the public schools since then.

In videos released this past week, teachers explained why they were voting to strike. Sarah Chambers, a Special Education teacher and a member of the executive board of Local 1, listed her reasons. “I’m voting yes to protect my students. I’m voting yes to fight for the schools our students deserve, with libraries, music and art, small class sizes, like Rahm Emanuel’s kids have.” Emanuel won’t send his children to a public school.

Chambers continued, “I’m voting yes so when our kids suffer trauma in the street, there are counselors for them, because CPS is cutting counselors left and right, and the only ones left are doing test proctoring. In elementary school, our kids are taking 15 to 19 tests.”

“I’m voting yes because CPS sees our kids as data points, and not the creative, brilliant minds that I have seen.”

Board of Education balances budget on the backs of kids

Under Emanuel, the budget for the schools has been cut repeatedly. The CTU leadership demanded that the city doesn’t have to aim cuts at the poorest people to balance their budgets. One big example: the unfair interest and fees that the Board of Education pays to the big banks of LaSalle Street because of ‘toxic swaps.’

Before the financial crisis of 2008, Wall Street bankers got together with their buddies in Chicago city hall. Because of years in which rich people have refused to pay their taxes, the city’s budget was under strain. The banks convinced then-Mayor Daley to accept interest rate swap agreements as a way to borrow money with lower interest payments than regular loans. But these financial instruments locked the city into very long term interest rate payments.

When interest rates crashed in 2008, Chicago and other cities ended up with far higher fixed payments than if they had avoided the toxic swaps. Now federal regulators and legal experts argue that the bankers were guilty of hiding the risks from their borrowers. In Houston, the city sued and has recouped tens of millions of dollars.

Mayor Emanuel refuses to pursue legal action against the bankers for these criminal deals which have cost the city over $1 billion.

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