A New Teacher Union Movement is Rising

Bob Peterson
Common Dreams

Teacher unions must unite with parents, students and the community to improve our schools—to demand social justice and democracy so that we have strong public schools, healthy communities, and a vibrant democracy.

Chicago Teachers Union rally in Daley Plaza in 2012. The nation’s public schools, writes Peterson, “must become greenhouses for both democracy and community revitalization.”, pbarcas / cc / flickr,

A revitalized teacher union movement is bubbling up in the midst of relentless attacks on public schools and the teaching profession. Over the next several years this new movement may well be the most important force to defend and improve public schools, and in so doing, defend our communities and our democracy.
The most recent indication of this fresh upsurge was the union election in Los Angeles. Union Power, an activist caucus, won leadership of the United Teachers of Los Angeles, the second-largest teacher local in the country. The Union Power slate, headed by president-elect Alex Caputo-Pearl, has an organizing vision for their union. They have worked with parents fighting school cuts and recognize the importance of teacher–community alliances.

In two other cities –Portland, OR, and St. Paul, MN – successful contract struggles also reflect a revitalized teacher union movement. In both cities the unions put forth a vision of “the schools our children deserve” patterned after a document by the Chicago Teachers Union. They worked closely with parents, students, and community members to win contract demands that were of concern to all groups. The joint educator-community mobilizations were key factors in forcing the local school districts to settle the contracts before a strike.
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Chicagoans Call for Paid Sick Days

Arise Chicago

Coalition Joins Chicago Aldermen to Support Legislation to Boost the Economy, Protect Public Health and Strengthen Financial Security for Working Families

arise_chi_sickleaveCHICAGO – In a strong show of support, small business owners, workers, health care practitioners, parents and Chicago Aldermen rallied Wednesday at City Council for paid sick days legislation. The group, organized by the Earned Sick Time Chicago Coalition, is calling on City Council to pass an earned sick time ordinance that would guarantee that the nearly half million Chicago workers who do not have access to paid sick days are able to take time off when they or their families are ill.  A recent survey found that 82% of Chicago voters support paid sick days legislation.

“In this economy, it’s more important than ever that people can afford to stay home when they or loved ones are sick, without fear of falling behind on bills or losing their job,” said Alderman Moreno, co-sponsor of the Chicago Earned Sick Time Ordinance. “No working person in Chicago should be forced to choose between their family’s economic security and their family’s health.” Continue reading

Mayor 1%

Mayor 1%: Rahm Emanuel and the Rise of Chicago’s 99% by Kari Lydersen Haymarket Books, 2013

reviewed by Michael Hirsch

Protesters descended on Rahm Emanuel’s house on July 4 to decry his austerity policies. Credit: Rotating Frame/Flickr

Protesters descended on Rahm Emanuel’s house on July 4 to decry his austerity policies. Credit: Rotating Frame/Flickr

New Yorkers rejoicing in Michael Bloomberg’s departure from office can be grateful for another small favor: they don’t live in Chicago, where residents are stuck for at least two more years with an austerity-mad, street-brawling mayor who wields near absolute power over a City Council far more supine than the one we have here.

Bloomberg, the billionaire CEO, is rarely abusive in public. He speaks well of the city even as he helps friends pick its pocket. When defending neocolonial police action in communities of color, he doesn’t gloat about it — at least not within earshot of the press. Chicago’s sharp-elbowed Mayor Rahm Emanuel is more like the schoolyard bully who brazenly steals your lunch and gives it to the rich kids. Think of him as Bloomberg’s nasty little brother. Same pedigree. Different tack.

Kari Lydersen’s timely Mayor 1%: Rahm Emanuel and the Rise of Chicago’s 99% exhaustively traces the rise of Emanuel, a one-time Clintonista, former congressman and Obama consigliore whose mayoral victory in 2011 changed politics in Chicago from a machine-dominated satrapy where city unions had some small influence to an autocracy where community services were drained, unions frozen out or broken and city workers bludgeoned. Continue reading

New report shows racial inequality created by Chicago priorities

downtownproperityCHICAGO— On October 8  the Grassroots Collaborative held a press conference at City Hall to release a groundbreaking new report, “Downtown Prosperity, Neighborhood Neglect: Chicago’s Black and Latino Workers Left Behind,” detailing how the job creation benefits of TIF and city investments go almost exclusively to white, college-educated city residents or suburb-dwellers, and not to the Black and Latino residents of Chicago neighborhoods.

“Our report shows spending billions of dollars of TIF money in downtown has only gotten Chicagoans one out of four of the new jobs created.  Prioritizing downtown to the exclusion of neighborhoods is an economic development strategy failing most of the people in the city,” said report lead author Eric Tellez, Research and Data Manager for the Grassroots Collaborative .

The report lays out a sharp racial disparity in downtown job gains and losses.  From 2002 to 2011, Black majority city zip codes suffered a median loss of 620 downtown jobs per zip code and Latino majority city zip codes suffered a median loss of 381 downtown jobs per code; meanwhile, white majority city zip codes each added a median of 509 downtown jobs during the same period.  Englewood was one of the leading neighborhoods in terms of downtown jobs lost–losing approximately 800 jobs–while Naperville gained over 800 downtown jobs. Continue reading

Worker occupation leads to worker cooperative in Chicago

New Era Windows Cooperative

New Era Windows Cooperative (Photo credit: peoplesworld)

Podcast Episode 29 — A New Era
Recorded 07.13.2013: Peg Strobel interviews Armando Robles and Ricky Maclin from the New Era Windows Cooperative, a new worker-owned enterprise formed out of the famous Republic Windows plant occupation and subsequent Serious Energy bankruptcy. Robles and Maclin talk about how the coop was formed with the assistance of The Working World and their union, United Electrical Workers, and the transformation this has made in their lives. (35:25)
Download: MP3 (32 MB) or OGG VORBIS (41 MB).

Or for direct link to podcast without download, go to “Episode 29″ at: http://www.chicagodsa.org/audarch6.html

Faculty Organizing into Unions – Podcast of Ideas and Experiences

Bill Barclay

Bill Barclay

by Bill Barclay, Oak Park DSA branch (of Chicago DSA)

The Chicago December DSA podcast featured two faculty active in their unions, but at very different stages in the history of organizing on their respective campuses.  Holly Graff is Professor of Philosophy at Oakton Community College (Chicago) and Senator in the Illinois Education Association chapter at her college.  Joe Persky is Professor of Economics at University of Illinois at Chicago and President of United Faculty.  United Faculty is affiliated with both the American Federation of Teachers and the American Association of University Professors, in itself an unusual organizing model.

Oakton CC’s faculty union is an old one while UIC’s is brand new – not even a contract yet.  Both participants discuss how they and their unions can help defend higher education, stressing the importance of a vision of post-secondary education that is democratic and accessible to all in today’s political economy. They also talk about the ways in which their unions have been involved with other organized staff on their respective campuses as well as their interaction with the Chicago Teachers Union during the fall 2012 strike.  Finally, there are some interesting differences as well, particularly near the end of the podcast, when they talk about their respective bargaining strategies.

Episode 22, Recorded 12.08.2012:

For other excellent political economy podcasts, see: http://northshoredsa.org/talkin_socialism.html

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My Chicagoland Black Friday in words and pictures

 by Bob Simpson

As I was writing this blog post on Sunday morning, news came from the Associated Press about the real human cost of our Black Fridays:

“DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — At least 112 people were killed in a fire that raced through a multi-story garment factory just outside of Bangladesh’s capital, an official said Sunday. Bangladesh has some 4,000 garment factories, many without proper safety measures. The country annually earns about $20 billion from exports of garment products, mainly to the United States and Europe. Bangladesh’s garment factories make clothes for brands including Wal-Mart, JC Penney, H&M, Marks & Spencer, Carrefour and Tesco.”

Walmart stocks up on products manufactured under deadly sweatshop conditions. It organizes Black Friday sales knowing they can touch off riots in their stores. Then Walmart sends security guards and police after peaceful demonstrators who only seek justice in the global workplace. Who said irony is dead?

I didn’t hear of any Black Friday shopper nastiness in Chicagoland, but there were a number of peaceful demonstrations against Walmart and other retailers who exploit and abuse their own employees and supply chain workers around the world.

My Black Friday began at around 4:30 am with a drive from my home in Oak Park to Bedford Park, a suburb south of Midway Airport. The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) had rented a hotel meeting room there as a staging area for Walmart protestors, plus buses to carry them to several Chicagoland Walmart stores and eventually to downtown to support food and retail workers there.

It was dark and deserted within the complex of hotels, but when I found the yellow school buses, I knew I was in the right place. Once in the lobby, a UFCW staffer saw me  and guided me to their meeting room where staff people were already giving away lime-green Our Walmart tee shirts, buttons and signs. About 30 people were there drinking coffee and munching on donuts.

The new Chicago school budget strangles public education

by Bob Simpson

When you wage war on the public schools, you’re attacking the mortar that holds the community together. You’re not a conservative, you’re a vandal.” —Garrison Keeler

The 2013 Chicago Public Schools(CPS) budget received a resounding thumbs down at a community forum held at Malcolm X College on the West Side the evening of July 11. Over 200 people filled the auditorium to listen to an explanation of the budget from Chief Operating Officer Tim Cawley and then ask questions and make their own recommendations. The reaction of those who spoke from the audience was overwhelmingly negative. Cawley was loudly booed several times. Similar meetings were held at Kennedy-King and Daley colleges on the South Side. No meetings were held on the city’s North Side.

The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) described it as a “fantasy budget at best.”
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Lucy Gonzales Parsons – International Women’s Day

Profile of Lucy Gonzales Parsons (1853–1942). By William Loren Katz.
Labor organizer and orator.

Lucy Parsons as she appeared in 1886.

Image via Wikipedia

In honor of International Women’s Day, here are lessons, books, websites, and films to fill the gaps in our own knowledge, in the textbooks, and in the curriculum.

“Workers shouldn’t “strike and go out and starve, but strike and remain in and take possession of the necessary property of production.” So believed Lucy Gonzales Parsons, who died 70 years ago this week. In light of all the meanings the word “occupy” has come to gather in these times, William Katz’…

On March 7, 1942, fire engulfed the simple home of 89-year-old Lucy Gonzales Parsons on Chicago’s North Troy Street, and ended a life dedicated to liberating working women and men of the world from capitalism and racial oppression. A dynamic, militant, self-educated public speaker and writer, she became the first American woman of color to carry her crusade for socialism across the country and overseas. Lucy Gonzales started life in Texas. She was of Mexican American, African American, and Native American descent and born into slavery. The path she chose after emancipation led to conflict with the Ku Klux Klan, hard work, painful personal losses, and many nights in jail. In Albert Parsons, a white man whose Waco Spectator fought the Klan and demanded social and political equality for African Americans, she found a handsome, committed soul mate. The white supremacy forces in Texas considered the couple dangerous and their marriage illegal, and soon drove them from the state.

Lucy and Albert reached Chicago, where they began a family and threw themselves into two new militant movements, one to build strong industrial unions and the other to agitate for socialism. Lucy concentrated on organizing working women and Albert became a famous radical organizer and speaker, one of the few important union leaders in Chicago who was not an immigrant. Continue reading

Forum: Equality and Jobs for the 99 %


Official symbol of Socialist International.

Image via Wikipedia

Equality and Jobs for the 99%:  Economic Justice for All

A public event sponsored by Democratic Socialists of America

 November 11, 2011; 7:00 p.m.  Location: St. Stephen and Incarnation Church, 1525 Newton NW, Washington, D.C.



Eliseo Medina – International Secretary-Treasurer, SEIU

Sarita Gupta – Executive Director, Jobs with Justice

John Nichols – Washington Correspondent, The Nation

Joslyn Williams – President, Metropolitan D.C. Central Labor Council

Maria Svart – National Director, Democratic Socialists of America

DSA, the principal U.S. affiliate of the Socialist International, is the largest socialist political organization in the country, with more than 6,000 members and active locals in more 40 U.S. cities and college  campuses. DSA Locals in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Wichita, among others, have taken an active role in the Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Freedom Plaza, and other Occupy protests in support of jobs and economic justice.

This forum  is organized in conjunction with the 15th National Convention of Democratic Socialists of America, which is being held at the Sheraton Premiere at Tysons Corner November 11-13, 2011. Visit www.dsausa.orgfor more information.

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