Now is the time for bold action
As the Coronavirus whipped through Chicago in March, CTU sprang into action. Union members began providing support for their communities with Go Fund Me campaigns and collection efforts for food, medical supplies and more. The CTU has pushed for desperately needed supplies — including diapers — to support families as the crisis ravages neighborhoods in need.
“Now is the time for bold action, to commit to bold ideas and actions,” said CTU organizer Jhoanna Maldonado. “Fortunately, that’s not new for CTU. We have a history of making bold demands.”
As Union organizers transitioned from face to face organizing in school buildings and out in the community, Maldonado led a webinar focused on providing mutual aid to CPS students and their families. The training brought together Union members and community activists who have been “on the ground” virtually doing mutual aid work since schools closed and the state imposed its shelter in place order.
CTU members on the webinar highlighted the harm caused not just by COVID-19 but by the lack of a robust social safety net to support families in need.
Families face food insecurity
At Simpson Academy many families were struggling with food insecurity before COVID-19 and now face even more dire circumstances. “We had previously partnered with the Chicago Food Depository,” teacher Deborah Crawford explained. “And now, it’s a great option for families who are struggling with food.. This is another avenue to help our parents feed their children.”
Understanding that her school’s most at-risk immigrant families will be excluded from federal stimulus support, Kelly High School social studies teacher Anna Lane took matters into her own hands. She organized a GoFundMe page to raise money to buy diapers for families in Brighton Park.
“I got connected with an amazing group of women at Telpochcalli School who were doing this out of pocket,” she said. “So, I told them, I have no shame asking for money and set up a GoFundMe.” They were able to help 30 families in need. The fundraising efforts have taken off, with a Southwest Side mutual aid GoFundMe page that raised $50,000 for undocumented families.
Support for STLS students a priority
Christine Dussault, CTU delegate at Chase Elementary, is working to make sure homeless students are protected.
“In this moment we need to make sure that our STLS students remain our top priority, and be vigilant in trying to connect our families with resources as needs continue to grow,” she said. “Our best asset is staying in touch with each other so we can work together. We are living in a time when things are changing rapidly and it might feel overwhelming. But if we can’t stay connected to each other, then we won’t be able to stay on top of the effort to pull together the resources we need to provide to our students.”
Understanding how to use distance learning technology has been a big challenge at Fulton Elementary School,so teacher Andrea Parker began tutoring parents and students from her school, community and church.
“It’s not just a question of families not having Internet,” she said. “Parents don’t know how to use Google Meet. They don’t know how to use Zoom or Google Classroom. I had to give them a tutorial on how to use the technology.”
The pandemic has shone a light on the lack of support and services for the low-income Black and Latinx communities hardest hit by COVID-19. CTU members are painfully aware of the inequities and economic insecurities their families face every day and are looking for ways to help students and families get what they need to survive the current crisis.
CTU COVID-19 resources
CTU organizers Rebecca Martinez and Jhoanna Maldonado created a COVID-19 Resource Page, compiling the highest quality, best organized set of vetted resources available on the web. The page culls programs from across the city for government services, immigrant and refugee assistance, cash assistance programs, food supplies, housing and utility supports, healthcare, and education and e-learning resources.
Harper High School teacher Jonathan Wilson believes we are living in a teachable moment and has a message for his colleagues and families. “We need to understand that folks are getting hit from all sides,” he said. “And, one thing this time has really shown us is that the only people who have the working class’ backs are working class folks.”