How can Chicago teachers win again?

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 10:  Thousands of Chicago public school teachers and their supporters march through the Loop and in front of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) headquarters on September 10, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. More than 26,000 teachers and support staff hit the picket lines this morning after the Chicago Teachers Union failed to reach an agreement with the city on compensation, benefits and job security. With about 350,000 students, the Chicago school district is the third largest in the United States.  (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

by Lee Sustar (via SocialistWorker.org)

THREE YEARS after their strike defeated an attempt to gut their contract and further entrench the corporate education deform agenda in city schools, Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) members could soon be walking the picket lines again.

Like last time, a Democratic mayor, Rahm Emanuel, is poised to cut jobs and pay and gut classroom resources. But now they face a Republican governor, Bruce Rauner, who is seeking to crush the union outright.

CTU members–who in December voted by an overwhelming 88 percent margin to authorize a strike–vowed to walk out as early as April 1 if Chicago Public Schools (CPS) unilaterally pushed more pension costs onto teachers.

CPS backed off its threat–for now–after the union began preparing for an unfair labor practices strike. But the school board claims that unless the CTU makes major concessions, it will be compelled to take this step as a result of a budget deadlock in the state legislature, a squeeze on Chicago city finances and a long-running fiscal crisis at CPS itself.

The CTU–which is still planning protests for a day of action on April 1–counters that CPS is “broke on purpose.” The union points out that the district began the current school year with a $1 billion deficit as a result of the decades-long tax dodge by big business; a push for expensive, nonunion charter schools; and high-interest loans to CPS that benefit the big banks at the expense of kids. If CPS unilaterally imposes higher pension costs on workers, the CTU has stated that it will invoke its right to strike against an unfair labor practice.

A strike over a new contract could still come this spring or in the fall if no agreement is reached. The CTU has been working under an extension of the old contract, which expired in June 2015.

Emanuel and Rauner–whatever their own differences–are both targeting the CTU, presenting the union with one of the greatest challenges in the organization’s 79-year history.

Even so, the CTU can still prevail if it builds on the public support it won in the 2012 strike to lead a wider labor-community fight against sweeping budget cuts in education and across the public sector–this time making the fight against racism and inequality even more prominent. A solidarity meeting for the CTU, set for March 9, will focus on many of those themes.

With Emanuel still reeling from the disclosure of a video showing the 2014 police murder of Laquan McDonald and Rauner saddled with popularity ratings that show a majority of Illinois voters disapprove of him, the CTU can rally popular support behind a program of challenging austerity and taxing the wealthy to pay for schools and social services.  Continue reading

Resisting Rauner’s Rampage

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by Tyler James (via SocialistWorker.org)

IN CASE anyone had any doubts, it’s now indisputable: Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner is determined to destroy public education at all levels, from K-12 through university.

Whereas other political leaders in the state capital of Springfield have allowed our schools and universities to be slowly sapped of much-needed funds over decades, Rauner’s approach is aggressive and fast-paced. He’s not content with the slow death of public education. He wants blood, and he wants it now.

You might have thought this couldn’t happen in a liberal-leaning, union-dense state like Illinois. But you’d be wrong–it can and will happen unless we do something to stop it.

Rauner is currently holding Illinois’s public universities hostage, effectively strangling the system by refusing to allow a budget to be passed until he gets his way. “His way” means a 30 percent across-the-board cut in funding, among other things. And there’s no reason to think that he’s in a rush to make a deal and settle for less. Time is on his side.  Continue reading

What Socialists Say About Rahm’s Tax Hike

Not a single tax increase on working people. (1)

Rahm is proposing the biggest property tax increase in modern Chicago history — in a city that already has the highest sales tax in the whole nation. Rahm says it’s “inevitable” if the city is going to stay in the black. The corporate press says the city’s finances are a mess and “tough choices” — more cutbacks, thousands of layoffs, big tax hikes on ordinary Chicagoans — must be made. What do socialists say about all of this?

First of all, we say that this is not a complicated issue. It’s actually quite simple. Chicago is not broke. We live in one of the most wealthy cities in the world. Some of the biggest corporations in the world and richest individuals in the US call our city home. Scarcity isn’t our problem — it’s backward political priorities that favor the wealthy few to the detriment of the majority.

We say: not a single cent increase in taxes or fees on ordinary working-class Chicagoans. None. Period.

Not a single cut to our schools, roads, transit, libraries, health clinics, and so forth. Not one.

Not a single layoff for teachers, bus drivers, librarians — for city workers of any kind.

The solution to Chicago’s budget woes are simple: tax the rich. And then tax them some more.

Tax big-ticket financial transactions on LaSalle Street just like they tax us when we buy socks. Tax luxury assets in excess of $1 million. Tax the big landlords in the loop with high-powered lawyers to get them out of paying property taxes.

And while we’re at it, we could stop wasting precious city funds on handouts to the rich — you know, stuff like: TIF’s, corporate subsidies, tax breaks for the likes of Boeing, and interest/service fees for the fat cat banks that hold Chicago city debt.