Friday, September 21, 2012

Irony: Chicago Community Organizers Supported the Teacher Union

Obama's successors in Chicago take a different tack towards teachers.

The collaborative and other neighborhood groups were working with CTU President Karen Lewis and her caucus years before she ran and beat the CTU old liners. That partnership helped lay the groundwork for her election..... They are the shadow strikers. Behind the bullhorns and police lines, hundreds of community organizers and their compatriots strategized, marched and danced last week in solidarity with the Chicago Teachers Union. Quiet as it’s kept, the city’s robust community-organizing movement has been a potent sister act for the CTU. --- SunTimes


The comment and the article below illustrate the work that unions in today's world must do to win anything.
Striking Chicago Public Schools teachers their supporters march down Michigan Avenue Thursday.  |   Scott Olson~Getty Images
For teachers this is particularly important. Call it social justice and member-driven unionism -- for those critics who say a group like MORE should only pay attention to bread and butter issues -- that our job is not to worry about the kids. Unless the union worries about the kids they will find themselves standing alone. And don't forget. The parents of the kids are also workers and their support has a duality to it that resonates throughout.

Indeed, when we were forming the Grassroots Education Movement in January 2009 we heard about a GEM in Chicago that was aligned with the CORE Caucus and we adopted the name GEM here in NYC. GEM here is not the same as Chicago GEM, which was not a teacher oriented group but a coalition of community groups.


From a comment on the MORE Discussion list
The article linked below high lights some things about the Chicago struggle that I think are very important.

One of the most important lessons from Chicago, for me, is that it is possible for unions in the US to use strikes around contracts and collective bargaining as just one tactic in a larger ongoing strategy around a larger program of demands that are in the interests of all working people. Democratized, militant unions, in this strategic framework, become one player -- albeit a major, leading player -- within a larger movement involving other people and organizations, and a political campaign to change legislation and build political power.

I have not really seen unions do this in the US before. The strike and the contract are seen as settling certain specific issues, within a much larger agenda that goes far beyond the members of the union. This is what it means to politicize day-to-day problems beyond the union contract. It also presents an incredible example of how to break down barriers between teachers and working people in general.

In Chicago community organizations "were working with CTU President Karen Lewis and her caucus years before she ran and beat the CTU old liners.... The organizers are leveraging the strike to elevate causes that can’t be negotiated in the teachers’ contract. Things like smaller class sizes, an enriched curriculum, even “fighting to have books available on the first day of class”.... After the settlement, organizers can mount a citywide campaign to address the formidable list of concerns left on the table. The likely closing of dozens of public schools by next summer. Stark inequities in school resources. Crushing, unceasing street violence. “I wish a contract could settle everything, but it’s a much longer fight,”

http://www.suntimes.com/news/washington/15143757-452/shadow-strikers-marched-with-ctu.html#.UFi0TFMB1To.facebook

Below the break I included the entire article:





‘Shadow strikers’ marched with CTU


Striking Chicago Public Schools teachers and their supporters march down Michigan Avenue on Thursday. | Scott Olson~Getty Images
Updated: September 17, 2012 2:15AM


They are the shadow strikers.
Behind the bullhorns and police lines, hundreds of community organizers and their compatriots strategized, marched and danced last week in solidarity with the Chicago Teachers Union.
Quiet as it’s kept, the city’s robust community-organizing movement has been a potent sister act for the CTU.
The organizers mounted a full-court backup in the strike effort. They may be bleary-eyed and caffeine-soddened, but they are also big winners on the political front.
“Community organizations are so supportive because [teachers] have the same vision we have,” said Amisha Patel, executive director of the Grassroots Collaborative, a citywide network of 11 community groups.
The collaborative and other neighborhood groups were working with CTU President Karen Lewis and her caucus years before she ran and beat the CTU old liners. That partnership helped lay the groundwork for her election.
They are simpatico on issues such as tax-increment financing reform, neighborhood economic development, access to health care and violence prevention.
The organizers are leveraging the strike to elevate causes that can’t be negotiated in the teachers’ contract. Things like smaller class sizes, an enriched curriculum, even “fighting to have books available on the first day of class,” Patel explained when we met at a sidewalk cafe Wednesday.
“The message we want to get out, here on the ground, is what parents care about.” She scarfed down her noontime “breakfast,” then was off to another series of strategy sessions and street actions.
At 37, Patel, the slender, elegant daughter of an Indian immigrant factory worker and union member, represents a transformative generation of grass-roots power.
The collaborative organized and led several strike rallies around the city, including a march on Thursday that drew at least 5,000 participants and shut down blocks of Michigan Avenue.
Community organizing is embedded in Chicago’s DNA. Jane Addams, Saul Alinsky, Harold Washington and Barack Obama all tapped the strategy to force social change at crucial moments in the city’s history. This is one of those moments.
Organizing took a big hit when Mayor Rahm Emanuel took City Hall. During the 2011 mayoral campaign, Emanuel ignored “countless” invitations to community forums and requests for meetings to hear their concerns, Patel said. Most progressive leaders backed Emanuel’s opponents.
They’re back. The CTU’s historic, and so far, successful strike lays the groundwork for a loyal opposition.
After the settlement, organizers can mount a citywide campaign to address the formidable list of concerns left on the table. The likely closing of dozens of public schools by next summer. Stark inequities in school resources. Crushing, unceasing street violence.
“I wish a contract could settle everything, but it’s a much longer fight,” Patel said.
At the climax of Thursday’s rally, the sound system failed. Sporting a CTU-red flower in her hair, Patel stepped up to the long row of media microphones, grabbed a bullhorn and pumped up the crowd.
You will hear from the organizers again.
Soon.

1 comment:

  1. Bizarrely, I feel like echoing the disdain shown by Sara Palin and Rudy Giuliani at the 2008 GOP convention when associating Barack Obama with his community organizer past, but for very different reasons than theirs, coming from a very different point of view.

    "Community Organizer?!" What is that... Community Organizer???!!! (snark, snark, ha ha ha!)"

    They were belittling the position he held. I am belittling his betrayal of the position he held.

    When I say it, my sarcasm comes from this President's terrible corporate "reform" policies aimed at public education, his extremely destructive actions toward teachers and their unions, his negative treatment of public schools and the communities they serve.

    I see a community privatizer instead of an organizer, a force for its destruction rather than its improvement. A weakener, not a strengthener. Rather than an ally of the community, this former "organizer," President Obama, has become a foe.

    Unlike Palin and Giuliani, I never wanted to cast the President in a negative light, and certainly not for these reasons. But his actions cannot be denied. He is responsible for what he has done.

    Community Organizer? He has broken those ties. He does not deserve the association with the label. He has sunk beneath it.

    ReplyDelete

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