“Labor for Bernie” Network Building New Approach to Union Politics

by Rand Wilson

Labor for bernie

Labor for Bernie was initiated in June 2015 by trade unionists who have worked closely with Senator Sanders for many years. The network now includes thousands of elected officers, shop stewards, organizers, and rank-and-file members from 50 states and all of the national labor organizations as well as many independent unions.

These labor activists signed an on-line statement embracing Sanders as the only declared candidate, in either major party, “who challenges the billionaires who are trying to steal our pensions, our jobs, our homes, and what’s left of our democracy.” The first 5,000 union supporters may be viewed on the Labor for Bernie website.

More than a quarter of these Sanders supporters belong to building trades’ unions (with more than 1,000 coming from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers alone). Members of other unions who have showed significant membership support for Sanders’ presidential campaign include the Communications Workers of America, American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, Service Employees International Union, International Union of Operating Engineers, United Auto Workers, and International Brotherhood of Teamsters.
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Why is UNITE/HERE supporting Rahm Emanuel ?

UNITE HERE Considers Itself Progressive. So Why Is the Union Standing with Rahm Emanuel?  BY FRED KLONSKY

RahmEmanuel

In the winter of 2011, I was running as a delegate to the annual Representative Assembly (RA) of the Illinois Education Association (IEA), the largest teacher union in the state. The 1,000 delegates to the state’s RA had long met at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare in Rosemont. Running as a union delegate in 2011, my platform was simple and concise: “If the IEA RA is held at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare, don’t vote for me because I won’t attend. I don’t cross picket lines.”

UNITE HERE Local 1, who represents the housekeepers and other employees of the Hyatt Hotel chain in Chicago, were engaged in a labor dispute with the company. The downtown Hyatt Regency and North Michigan Park Hyatt were targeted with mass protests and non-violent arrests.

Members of my teachers local and I had joined with hundreds of others demonstrating union and labor solidarity against one of the city’s wealthiest and powerful corporate families, the Pritzkers. The owners of the Hyatt chain, the Pritzker family were prominent supporters and funders of the national and local Democratic Party. Penny Pritzker had been the chief fundraiser for Obama’s first presidential bid, and would soon serve on Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s hand picked board of education; later, she would leave to be President Obama’s Commerce Secretary. Continue reading

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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Book Excerpt: Campaigning for Union Office

Labor Notes Staff

jumpstartOur new book, How to Jump-Start Your Union: Lessons from the Chicago Teachers, shows how activists transformed their union and gave members hope. This excerpt tells how the Caucus of Rank-and-File Educators (CORE) campaigned for top offices, and won.

It’s one of the universals of organizing—first you make a list.

Elementary teacher Alix Gonzalez Guevara remembers staying up late transferring data about each school from a district-published book into an Excel spreadsheet: region, address, how many teachers, how many students.

This became a Google document, an online spreadsheet available to everyone working on the campaign. The schools were grouped by regions. Within each, a couple of lead activists took responsibility to find people to do outreach at each school. Continue reading

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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If You’re Not Excited You’re Not Paying Attention

by Street Heat

Since my last post, we have witnessed a series of events that can only be seen as vindication of those of us who have rejected the notion that the death of the labor movement is a foregone conclusion. Also vindicated is the perspective that labor must begin strategically targeting and organizing in such a way that can shift the balance of power in whole markets in order to win.

It would seem there are more than a few in labor who are determined to turn things around. They are proving the crisis of labor is in fact deep, but not insurmountable.

The Chicago teachers strike pitted the third largest teachers union in the country, the 25,000 member Chicago Teachers Union (CTU)  against Barack Obama’s former chief of staff, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanual. The stage was set for a confrontation between CTU and their newly elected militant leadership and Chicago’s Democratic Party establishment. Known as a ruthless political opponent, Emanuel was outmaneuvered by bold and aggressive organizing that framed the issue successfully and truthfully as a battle to save public education for Chicago’s children. The CTU was able to maintain public support throughout the strike and were both aggressive enough to win substantial gains as well as pragmatic and saavy enough not wage an open ended strike, resulting in making concrete improvements both in conditions for Chicago’s students as well as working conditions for the Teachers. By rejecting the pro austerity narrative and controlling the framing of the struggle as one for justice and fairness the Teachers defeated attempts to isolate them. All in all, a solid win in an age where strikes are seldom planned and even more seldom won.

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The Chicago Teacher’s Strike and the Struggle for a New Unionism

By Bill Fletcher, Jr.

Bill Fletcher, Jr.

One of the most striking features of the Chicago teacher’s strike was the level of community support for the teachers. Contrary to public expectations, the strike turned into a social mobilization around education rather than a battle for the special interests of teachers. This feature did not come out of nowhere, but actually reflected an on-going effort to shift the direction of labor unionism in America, and in this case, labor unionism among teachers.

As successful as teacher organizing has been over the last fifty years, there has been an increasing gap between teachers and communities.  This came to catastrophic proportions in the disastrous 1968 New York City Teachers strike, which pitted African American and Puerto Rican community-based organizations against the largely white United Federation of Teachers (affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers) over the issue of community control of schools. While the teacher’s unions became increasingly successful in winning a better living standard for their members, they frequently became a source of resentment for many parents and community-based organizations who no longer saw the unions as being at the vanguard of the struggle for genuine education reform.

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