To echoing chants of "Hey, hey, ho, ho Rahm Emanuel has got to go," referring to Chicago's mayor, and the brassy thump of a marching band, NYSUT Secretary-Treasurer Martin Messner led a contingent from the statewide union who showed solidarity with thousands of teachers, parents and community members at an April 1 day of action in Chicago. The teachers, members of the Chicago Teachers Union, AFT Local #1, staged the one-day event to call for increased funding for Chicago public schools.
"At the end of the day, the forces working against us are the same as those working against the educators in Chicago," said Messner. "It was a long day, but we were happy to take the fight on the road to help our union brothers and sisters in Chicago. We appreciate everyone stepping up to help out."
Others traveling with Messner to Chicago included Alan Lubin, NYSUT executive vice president emeritus; NYSUT Board member Ray Hodges; Tom McMahon, president of the Mahopac Teachers Association; and Viri Pettersen, president of the Rockville Centre Teachers Association. Several NYSUT staffers also traveled to Chicago to lend their voices to the fight.
Back home, NYSUT leaders called on members to show their solidarity with the CTU, and public education in general, by wearing red for public ed on April 1.
"Educators are facing a very dangerous situation in Chicago, and a bad governor and a bad mayor," said Lubin. "But these are the same issues we face, so, it was good to be able to offer our support."
American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten also attended, tweeting, "The cuts to funding show a reckless disregard for children. That's why we're out here" and "There's money to fund schools if politicians want to make kids a priority."
Other highlights from the day of action: a New Orleans style-jazz funeral march at Northeastern Illinois University signified the death of higher education; employees staged a Fight for $15 walkout at a local McDonald's, and several rallies and marches were simultaneously at public school and university sites throughout the city.
The day of action came in response to continued attacks and union-busting efforts by Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, Emanuel and Chicago Public Schools 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.
CTU members propose progressive tax reforms to generate new revenue, a move that could garner up to $6 billion for education and other social needs.
The Chicago teachers were joined locally in their efforts by a coalition of labor, student groups, community-based organizations and activists that included members from the University Professionals of Illinois, 1199 and SEIU. Unionists from across the nation and world — including those from Korea, Brazil, New Mexico, California, New Jersey, Connecticut and Ohio — also participated in the event.