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5000 march to oppose layoffs in Chicago Public Schools

By Joe Iosbaker |
February 6, 2016
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Members of the Chicago Teachers Union march against layoffs
Members of the Chicago Teachers Union march against layoffs (Photo by J Burger)

Chicago, IL - In response to the announcement of over 1000 layoffs of teachers and staff, the Chicago Teachers Union rallied, marched and occupied the Bank of America (BoA) on LaSalle Street, Feb. 4.

Waves of union members, students and supporters from organized labor and the community filled the streets of the Loop as the march wound through the streets for several hours. At the start of the action, 16 teachers were arrested in the BoA lobby. Sarah Chambers was one of those arrested. When she was finally released at 11:30 p.m., she said, “We were there demanding that Bank of America renegotiate toxic swaps and return the money to the schools.”

Before the financial crash of 2008, the Chicago Public Schools borrowed a huge amount of money from a number of banks, with BoA among the largest. The bankers sold the loans on the false premise that they would save the schools money in the future if interest rates rose. In fact, the banks knew that a crisis was coming soon, and that interest rates would fall.

The CTU has confronted Mayor Rahm Emanuel on this matter, exposing that he won’t go to court to get relief from his banker cronies. Many other big cities have saved millions from such legal actions.

This is one of the examples that the teachers use to show that there is no need to lay off frontline workers in the schools, cut pensions or impose other attacks. As she headed home from jail, Chambers said, “CPS is broke on purpose. Rahm’s appointed Board of Ed is forcing their crisis on the backs of teachers and teacher assistants.”

The morning of the protest, the Chicago Tribune reported that Emanuel’s popularity had sunk even lower. 60% of likely voters supported the CTU, against 20% for Emanuel. With this level of solidarity, Chambers declared, “We will continue to fight back to protect our students.”