Welcome to Issue #6 of the Red Star Bulletin!
The aim of this bulletin is to bring Chicago Democratic Socialists of America members a regular round-up of important legislation, committee meetings, and other updates from City Hall, as well as analysis of what this means for our organizing as socialists.
Make no mistake: the City Council is not friendly terrain for us. We must first and foremost continue to build power in the places it derives from–our workplaces, our neighborhoods, and the streets. But we hope to give CDSA members information they need to assess the electoral project we’re embarking on, and to continue building it into a powerful vehicle for working-class politics in our city.
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Chicago Teachers’ Union Contract Negotiations
It looks increasingly likely that this week, 35,000 organized workers in Chicago will be going on strike at the same time. Both the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 73 have voted to authorize a strike and set a strike date of October 17. CTU represents 25,000 teachers in Chicago Public Schools (CPS), and SEIU 73 represents school support staff and Chicago Park District Workers. CTU’s 2012 strike transformed the political landscape in Chicago, galvanizing many other grassroots campaigns and laying the groundwork that led to the election of socialists and other progressives to City Council this year. The prospect of an even larger school strike this fall holds immense possibilities for our city.
In 2010, the Caucus of Rank-and-file Educators (CORE) won the membership election and took over leadership of the Chicago Teachers Union. CORE handily defeated the United Progressive Caucus, which had held leadership essentially uninterrupted since 1972. As comrade Micah Uetricht put it, since CORE was elected, “CTU has grown into a dissident, radical caucus of rank-and-file teachers in strong partnership with community organizations.”
In 2014 CTU, SEIU Healthcare Illinois Indiana, Grassroots Illinois Action, and Action Now founded United Working Families (UWF), a coalition that has grown significantly since then. In the 2018 state and county elections, two UWF-endorsed candidates won seats in the state house and two won seats on the Cook County Board of Commissioners. In the 2019 municipal elections, nine UWF-endorsed candidates (including all five CDSA-endorsed candidates) won or retained aldermanic seats. As detailed in a previous issue of the Red Star, CTU, UWF, and SEIU made significant contributions to CDSA’s endorsed candidates.
CTU and SEIU 73 have good reason to distrust the city government. Decades of neoliberal policies have left the working class of the city in an increasingly desperate situation. Nowhere is that better reflected than in the public schools. Eighty-three percent of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) students come from families whose income is below the poverty line. Many school staff are, themselves, paid poverty wages for their work. Further, systemic racism disproportionately burdens minority students with under-resourced schools. Despite nearly a third of Chicago’s population being white, only 10 percent of CPS students are, as the result of many wealthier white families opting out of the public school system.
At this moment, CTU and SEIU 73 are on the front lines of the fight for a new Chicago–they will need the support of parents and community members, and socialists can play a key role in organizing this support.
CTU is asking for changes to classroom conditions that, research shows, are central to improving outcomes for CPS students: class size limits; increases in the number of librarians, nurses, social workers, and other support staff, as well as better pay for support staff.
Using the principle of “bargaining for the common good,” CTU and SEIU are also putting forward broader social justice demands for affordable housing and an end to privatization that are opening up new political possibilities in Chicago and could provide a model for teachers unions nationwide.
The contract negotiations between CPS and CTU have provided Lori Lightfoot the first significant opportunity to demonstrate that she has different priorities than Rahm Emanuel. But Lightfoot and her negotiators (notably the same negotiators deployed by Emanuel), have continually called on CTU to accept the contract that has been offered while ignoring CTU demands. The city has even rolled out a website which includes misleading information about the state of the contract negotiations.
The narrative Lightfoot and neoliberal opponents of public education deploy of greedy teachers demanding higher pay is enabled by state law. Under Illinois law, different rules apply to teachers’ unions that represent school districts of more than 500,000 people. That carve-out intentionally targets CTU, because CTU represents the only Illinois school district above that population threshold.
A section of the Chicago School Reform Act passed in 1995 also changed which issues are “mandatory” in bargaining–CPS must negotiate, and CTU can strike over them–and which issues are permissive–CPS may negotiate, at its own discretion. As it stands, mandatory bargaining points are wages, benefits, the length of the school day, the length of the school year, and that is basically it–class sizes, support staffing and outsourcing of school services are all “permissive,” unlike in every other school district in the state.
In order for a CTU strike to be legal, CPS and CTU must reach an impasse during their negotiations. It is impossible to reach an impasse over something that you are not required to negotiate over in the first place, so any impasse must be related to a mandatory bargaining point.
This is how Lori Lightfoot can continue to say that CTU has not made any counter-proposals to CPS’ contract offer. CTU has not made a counter offer on the mandatory bargaining points of the contract. But, when CTU brings up class sizes, or the woeful lack of nurses and librarians in schools, CPS representatives have repeatedly made clear that they do not need to talk to CTU about those issues and have no intention of doing so. Lightfoot and CPS say that the 2020 budget will include increased staffing numbers and that the city’s contract with CTU is not the place for affordable housing policy. CTU says that if Lightfoot intends to meet these demands, there is no reason that she should not #PutItInWriting.
That is how things have reached this point. Over 94 percent of CTU members voted to authorize a strike. It’s also worth noting that a 2011 state law, designed to render a CTU strike virtually impossible, requires 75 percent of membership vote to authorize a strike. All other Illinois teachers’ locals must have 50 percent plus one of voting members authorize a strike. CTU must reach 75 percent of total membership. Yet each of the three times that CTU has held strike authorization votes since the law went into effect, members have far and away exceeded this requirement.
The Caucus of Rank-and-file Educators, the Chicago Teachers’ Union, and SEIU 73 are taking a stand. They are taking a stand in defense of Chicago’s students. They are taking a stand in solidarity with support staff. They are taking a stand against decades of neoliberal privatization and disinvestment. They are taking a stand against systemic racism. They are taking a stand to demand a better future for Chicago. It is incumbent on all of us to stand with them.
On Monday, October 14, CTU and SEIU will be holding a rally and march to demonstrate to the Mayor the need to meet their contract demands. The rally will be held at the Chicago Temple Building (77 W Washington). The rally will begin at 2pm, doors will open at 1:30pm. The march will follow the rally.
Ald. Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez (33) will host a strike information session Tuesday, October 15 from 7:30-8:30pm at Tabor Lutheran Church (3542 W Sunnyside Ave). Facebook event here.
You can sign up here to get plugged in to CDSA strike support efforts.
You can donate here to the Bread 4 Ed fund, which seeks to ensure that striking workers and CPS students are fed during the strike.
Below is a collection of articles covering the contract negotiations and the possibility of a strike.
Chicago Tribune – “Dear Chicago Public Schools teachers: Take the deal” (13 September 2019)
NBC News – “A looming teacher strike in Chicago is about far more than just salaries” (19 September 2019)
Chicago Sun-Times – “Mayor Lightfoot promised equity for our schools, and she should put that in writing” (24 September 2019)
Chicago Sun-Times – “Chicago Park District employees vote in favor of a strike” (24 September 2019)
Jacobin Magazine – “Chicago Teachers Weigh a Strike” (24 September 2019)
Chicago Sun-Times – “Take the deal, teachers. You’ve won” (25 September 2019)
Chicago Sun-Times – “Is a generous pay offer enough to ward off a teachers strike? Union says it’s fighting for more than money” (25 September 2019)
American Federation of School Administrators – “Chicago Principals Accuse District of Misleading Public in Teacher Negotiations” (25 September 2019)
Chicago Tribune – “Bernie Sanders, John Cusack rally with Chicago teachers as strike vote begins” (25 September 2019)
WGN – “Possibility of 3 strikes at same time next month in Chicago” (25 September 2019)
Chicago Sun-Times – “I’m a Chicago teacher who voted to strike. We just want what’s best for our students” (26 September 2019)
Chalk Beat – “Youth to Chicago mayor: Spend more on schools, less on police” (26 September 2019)
Chicago Tribune – “With Chicago teachers strike looming, city boosts efforts to win public’s hearts and minds” (30 September 2019)
Chicago Sun-Times – “SEIU turns up heat on Lightfoot, says contract dispute could leave parents without safe alternative if teachers strike” (1 October 2019)
Chicago Reader – “Busted Priorities” (2 October 2019)
WGN – “Chicago teachers host ‘art build’ ahead of strike” (5 October 2019)
ABC 7 – “Chicago Teachers Union demands for staffing increase as strike date nears” (8 October 2019)
Chicago Sun-Times – “As strike looms, CTU still pushing affordable housing instead of focusing on key contract issues, Lightfoot says” (8 October 2019)
Chicago Tribune – “Mayor says teachers holding up contract talks over affordable housing. Union replies: ‘We have nearly 17,000 homeless students.’” (9 October 2019)
Chicago Sun-Times – “Another strike in Chicago? Teachers at Passages charter school set walkout deadline” (10 October 2019)
Essence – “Chicago Mayor Sidesteps Affordable Housing Talks, Union Continues Fighting For Nearly 17,000 Homeless Students” (10 October 2019)
Chicago Sun-Times – “Fact-check: Lightfoot gets failing grade for claim about Chicago Public School teachers’ pay” (11 October 2019)
Chicago Teachers’ Union – “Mayor offers teachers same salary offer in exchange for ignoring exploding class sizes” (11 October 2019)
WBEZ News – “Chicago Teachers Union Says It Sees A Path To Avert A Strike” (12 October 2019)
In The News
City Budget — The Daily Line
Mayor Lightfoot asks for help from Springfield regarding the budget. The state-level assistance she is requesting does not include the recommendations outlined in Red Star Bulletin #5.
Community Benefits Agreement — Block Club Chicago
Ald. Harry Osterman (48th Ward) took a tour of Woodlawn and heard from residents and community groups worried about the gentrifying impact of the Obama Presidential Center. Osterman is the chair of the Housing Committee in City Council and has not set a timeline for voting on the CBA.
#DemocratizeComEd — In These Times
Overview of the #DemocratizeComEd campaign. Explains that the acquisition of ComEd’s assets could be funded by a public utility certificate — a special, low-interest bond reserved for the purchase of utility infrastructure.
#DemocratizeComEd — Chicago Sun-Times
Federal agents raid State Sen. Martin Sandoval’s (11th District) home and office as part of ongoing federal investigations of State and City officials. Meanwhile, ComEd has acknowledged a federal subpoena targeting its lobbying activities.
#DemocratizeComEd — Crain’s Chicago Business
Residential energy prices are up 7% in Northern Illinois, the highest rate in four years. This is due to higher prices for the energy itself. The Illinois Power Agency secures energy on ComEd’s behalf via a market-based mechanism.
Healthcare for All – Chicago Sun-Times
City council tabled a vote on Lightfoot’s nominee for head of the Department of Public Health over her view that reopening community mental health clinics is not the right move.
Hiring Freeze — Chicago Sun-Times
Ald. Gardiner (45th Ward) slams Mayor Lightfoot for hiring former alderman Arena, whom Gardiner defeated in the 2019 elections.
Housing for All — Block Club Chicago
A description of the ways housing justice organizers see aldermanic prerogative as contributing to segregation in Chicago and the measure they would like to see the city take to reverse course.
Marijuana Legalization — Chicago Sun-Times
Ald. Villegas (36th Ward) mistakenly introduced a resolution to city council that would have allowed a wide variety of businesses to allow marijuana consumption on premises.
Marijuana Legalization — Chicago Sun-Times
Mayor Lightfoot continues to insist that marijuana dispensaries be prohibited downtown.
Sanctuary for All — Block Club Chicago
Ald. Lopez (15th Ward) alleges that the Chicago Police Department was manipulated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to arrive at the scene of an ICE raid.
See our page for regular Ward Nights here.
20th Ward: Let’s Celebrate Fall
A Fundraiser for Alderwoman Jeanette B. Taylor
Friday, October 18, 6 PM – 9 PM
5707 South Wentworth Ave.
Purchase Tickets here.
Facebook link here.
40th Ward: Full Circle 40th
A Fundraiser for Alderman Andre Vasquez
Wednesday, October 16, 2019 at 5 PM – 7:30 PM
5739 North Ravenswood Ave
Facebook link here.
The Red Star Bulletin was conceived by Ramsin Canon and is a project of the Political Education & Policy Committee. This issue was drafted by CDSA members. Special contributions were made by Rebecca Burns, Ramsin Canon, Tina Groeger, Nick Hussong, and Sveta Stoytcheva. Graphics were contributed by Patrick O’Connell. If you would like to contribute to the Red Star Bulletin or have any feedback, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Red Star Bulletin would like to recognize regular contributor Tina Groeger for being identified as a class enemy to real estate developers.