Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Jim Vail - The Chicago Teacher Strike - A View from the Inside - Part 2

So the strike helped expose the lies of politicians, and the fight between the people 99% and the billionaires 1% who supported Lightfoot's campaign. It was an eye opener to teachers who voted for Lightfoot based on her lies.

The union leadership organized and ran a very successful strike to fight for better schools. They are to be commended for that. 


But the union leadership also plays a dirty political game that they say they have to in order to get anything in this system. 
this strike won't change the ugly reality we live in today - where over the past 30 years or so the 1% have accumulated 21 trillion dollars, while the rest of us have lost 900 billion dollars. 
.... Jim Vail
In the continuing search for truth and justice, on the Chicago teacher strike I've been looking for articles that come from different directions - examining all sides of the cube to see through the chaff. Like you know you can expect a glowing victory article from Labor Notes and an attack from the World Socialists on the far left. The liberal press will support the liberal mayor and the right wing will attack her for caving. It is a spin zone.

In every one of these posts on other teacher unions, keep in mind how our union operates here in NYC and compare it to the others. Despite the different political views of the UFT leadership (center Democrat - Biden type politician) and the CTU leadership (social democrat - Bernie  like), they operate on some levels in the same way -- with the CTU being more top-down that one would expect.

Yesterday I presented an insider view from someone I trust who is not in the leadership but close to it. Assessing The Chicago Teacher Strike - A View from...

Today I am presenting the views of Jim Vail, not loved by the CTU leadership if I remember correctly, an original CORE member from a decade ago but who became a left critic of the leadership. I got to hang out a bit with him at the AFT convention in Detroit in 2012 when he was still a delegate and we did agree on some of the critical issues. Here is his report republished from Substance and first published on Jim Vail's website Second City Teachers, which may be accessed here. Jim exposes the Lori Lightfoot sham which was predictable based on her supporters. (But it is funny to see the left Jacobins attacking Elizabeth Warren on similar grounds despite the fact that Wall St hates her guts.

Strike ends! Was it a win for teachers?




The Chicago Teachers Strike finally came to a crashing end after a historic 11-day walkout, the longest teachers strike since 1987.


The union and its supporters are going to say it was a win. The opposition and those with high hopes will say it was not.


And that was reflected in the vote - 364 - 242 to end the strike.

So the union was a bit divided when they voted on ratifying the tentative agreement.

Chicago Teachers Union CTU President Jesse Sharkey stated that the delegates vote on the contract, that he is not here to sell the contract.

But he then went on to sell the contract - saying repeatedly it would be a risk to strike for another week or so with no guarantee we would get more in the contract. But he didn't sell it hard, he knew people would be disappointed.


CTU Vice President Stacy Gates played politics – putting a tweet on the board for the delegates to show that the Speaker and the Governor have agreed to support an Elected School Board.

Another political promise?


Mayor Lori Lightfoot campaigned on empty promises of supporting the neighborhood schools and adding more social workers and nurses, straight from the CTU playbook. When it came down to putting her pledges in writing - she refused until the union and the strike forced her to put some things in writing (about $400 million in extra staffing and support for the schools).


She promised to invest in the South and West Sides that have been neglected, and now in office she is fighting against activists who sued the Lincoln Yards $1.2 billion TIF where tax money to help those "blighted" areas is instead going to a wealthy development company called Sterling Bay. She gave these guys everything they wanted in writing.


She also campaigned for an elected school board and then immediately stopped it. The union has a right to be furious with her.


So the strike helped expose the lies of politicians, and the fight between the people 99% and the billionaires 1% who supported Lightfoot's campaign. It was an eye opener to teachers who voted for Lightfoot based on her lies.

The union leadership organized and ran a very successful strike to fight for better schools. They are to be commended for that.


But the union leadership also plays a dirty political game that they say they have to in order to get anything in this system.


So it was disappointing to hear our leaders say Mayor Lightfoot was fanatical, or religious, a true believer - who wanted a five-year contract (crazy for that long since she can do a lot of damage by closing a lot more schools in her alliance with development), no extra prep time for elementary school teachers (this preserved the 'longer school day' that she they say has led to higher graduation rates) and no change to the Reach teacher evaluation system used to fire lots of teachers at a time of extreme teacher shortages.


What was the union zealous about? What exactly were we all willing to not go back to school until we got it?


The union framed it as a cap on class sizes - we got some good stuff in writing, far from perfect, a nurse in every school, every day (look close at the contract wording!), veteran pay (not that much considering $25 million over five years) and extra pay for Para Professionals (a definite win the union and teachers can be proud of). They forced CPS to increased the sports budget by 35%, adding $5 million to a meager $15 million was a win for city athletics.


It was very inspiring to hear many high school delegates say that their schools still wanted to strike to support of the elementary schools getting a 30 minute prep period each day, to ensure a better school day. Solidarity!

This contract is a reflection of the ruling class attack on public education that was at the apex when President Barack Obama took office in 2008 and implemented the Race to the Top.


The teachers unions supported President Obama (the newly elected CORE leadership was able to abstain from an endorsement, though former CTU President Karen Lewis pushed for it).


Like one of the many colorful signs said during the teachers protests - Unlike Burger King, you can't have it both ways!


But ultimately politics played a very big role here. It almost became a pissing match between the Mayor and the CTU. Nobody wanted to lose - within the box they were playing.


As the great political philosopher and linguist Noam Chomsky says, in the American system you put everything within a box - and within that box you can have some very rigorous debate and free speech. But in this system you are not allowed to go outside that box.


So this strike won't change the ugly reality we live in today - where over the past 30 years or so the 1% have accumulated 21 trillion dollars, while the rest of us have lost 900 billion dollars.


It is a fight not only for teachers, but all of us!

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