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Chicago: Striking unions honored at People’s Thanksgiving

By Joe Iosbaker |
December 9, 2019
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CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates speaking at People's Thanksgiving.
CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates speaking at People's Thanksgiving. Behind her is SEIU Local 73 Executive Vice President Jeffrey Howard. (Photo by Jackson Potter)

Chicago, IL - Thunderous applause greeted officers and strikers from the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 73 at an event sponsored by Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO). The 28th People’s Thanksgiving, a fundraiser for Fight Back! brought over 100 people together to recognize the historic Chicago Public School strike by the two unions.

In the words of CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates, “The work we do is to dismantle white supremacy.” She vowed that the union will be “bolder, more aggressive and impatient” and to have a “Chicago that reflects the needs of the many.”

Local 73 Secretary Treasurer Joe Richert and Executive Vice President Jeff Howard joined Davis Gates in receiving an award named in honor of the great working-class leader, Lucy Gonzalez Parsons. Gonzalez Parsons led the fight for justice for the martyrs of Haymarket, the leaders of the 1886 U.S. general strike. That movement for the eight-hour day was centered in Chicago. Eight trade unionists, socialists and anarchists, including Lucy’s husband, were framed by the ruling class, and five of them were executed. To honor them, the first of May was declared International Workers Day, which is celebrated worldwide.

Also awarded were five members of the city council: Sue Garza, Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, Jeanette Taylor, Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez, and Byron Sigcho-Lopez. All elected since 2015, their awards called them “Tribunes of the People” for carrying the demands of workers and the oppressed into City Hall. Aislinn Pulley of Black Lives Matter-Chicago spoke of the movement for justice for the murdered teenager, Laquan McDonald, which brought down Mayor Rahm Emanuel. These alderpersons are among the 19 in the city council that stand for community control of the police through the legislation for an elected, civilian police accountability council (CPAC). The crowd responded to their awards with the chant, “All power to the people,” started by FRSO Central Committee member, Frank Chapman.

The community organization, Southside Together Organizing for Power (STOP) was given the “Harry Haywood Award,” “For defense of the Black community of Chicago’s South Side against the siege of gentrification.” STOP has led the fight demanding a Community Benefits Agreement to come with the building of the Obama Center. Funding for the center includes tax monies, but also contributions from billionaire donors. The movement is demanding that jobs be set aside for people in nearby communities, protections of housing for working families, and the strengthening of neighborhood schools.