CHICAGO—The Chicago Teachers Union House of Delegates voted overwhelmingly last night to authorize an April 1, 2016, unfair labor practice (ULP) strike to bring attention to the need for critical revenue solutions to stabilize the city’s school district and protect students and their families. The vote passed by a tally of 486-124, or 80 percent, which means that on the April 1 “Day of Action,” the CTU will join a larger coalition of labor, student groups, community-based organizations and activists who are standing in solidarity against Chicago’s “business as usual” politics by staging a variety of non-violent actions throughout the city. CTU members will begin picketing at their schools as early as 6:30 a.m. and throughout the day before joining tens of thousands in a 4:00 p.m. rally at the Thompson Center.
The strike is a call for increased revenue for Chicago Public Schools and its students, and a direct response to continued attacks and efforts toward union-busting from Gov. Bruce Rauner, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the mayor’s handpicked CPS CEO, Forrest Claypool. For the past year, the district has stalled contract negotiations with the CTU, threatened and mandated furlough days, cuts and layoffs, and removed step and lane increases for educators—the latter of which is the legal basis for the April 1 strike. Gov. Rauner, while unable to pass a state budget and putting the welfare of thousands of his constituents at risk, is on record in his desire to break unions and is currently starving city and state schools—at elementary, high school and university levels—unless downstate legislators accept his “turnaround” agenda.
April 1 will highlight proposals from the CTU and its education and community partners for winning school funding and funding for other important services. The only solution that doesn’t involve a complete downgrade of the teaching profession and teachers’ standard of living, and that protects quality public education, requires new revenue sources in the form of progressive tax reform that would get the super wealthy (top 5 percent) to pay their fair share in state taxes. This could generate up to $6 billion in new revenue for education and other social needs. In addition to progressive tax reform, the Union continues its demands about toxic swaps and tax increment financing (TIF)—swap terminations cost the district $240 million this year alone, and the TIFs could put enough money into the schools to completely reverse this year’s cuts. The Union’s calls for increased revenue for the district are now an issue on the national stage, and there is legislation pending in Springfield that would take TIF control out of the mayor’s hands and force the release of these funds to our schools.
In joining with dozens of labor unions and community organizations, the CTU is taking a stand in the fight for funding for the city of Chicago and its nearly 400,000 public school students. The Chicago Board of Education cannot continue to cut its way out of CPS’ budget problems. The public does not trust the mayor and the CPS CEO to fix the financial mess they have created, and the Board’s only solution is to force teachers and education support staff to pay in the form of pay cuts and benefit reductions, to slash school budgets, and to continue to close schools. Unless new revenue is found, this year’s cuts will be followed by additional cuts in subsequent years.