Labor History in 2:00

September 10 Chicago Teachers Have Had Enough

September 10, 2017

On this day in labor history, the year was 2012.

That was the day the Chicago Teachers Union walked off the job for the first time in 25 years.

The historic weeklong strike resonated nationwide among trade unionists and served to reinvigorate the labor movement.

Certainly higher wages and better benefits were among the teachers’ demands.

The city’s mayor, Rahm Emanuel had canceled the union’s wage increase, laid off close to 1000 teachers and went on the attack against seniority rights and working conditions.

The strike enjoyed wide public support among parents and the public.

Teachers emphasized broader educational problems they faced, namely the attacks fueled by corporate privatization.

They wanted a return to more traditional forms of education rather than simply preparing students for endless rounds of testing. 

They wanted more art, music and gym classes.

And they demanded stable funding for social support services for the most vulnerable, at risk youth.  

Union teachers understood that the Board of Education was using standardized testing to get rid of teachers and schools in order to privatize education, all in the name of turning around failing schools and “helping the kids.” 

Though the contract was far from perfect, it showed the power working people have to hold the line against continued assaults on their standards of living, especially in the public sector.

The CTU was able to beat back attempts at merit pay and increased use of student test scores in teacher evaluations. 

They won first time recall rights, supply reimbursements and liberal arts classes. 

There were concessions made on seniority rights, pay for laid off teachers and longer work days. 

But the CTU demonstrated that strikes can win in a period of extended anti-union onslaughts.

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