Forty five years go, fresh from Chicago, I began teaching kindergarten in Central Harlem. Instead we went on strike. A year later we did it again–and on issues that remain (to this day) open to fierce arguments among friends. They were tough strikes–and yet I remember them with both sorrow and joy. The students in my own children’s schools joined their teachers in off-site sort-of schools after the picketing was over. Relationships between teachers and students blossomed. But there was also great divisiveness between pro and anti-strike families. Much of that took years to recover from. And it wasn’t helped by some outrageous lies published by the media–which they apologized for personally but not in the NY Times itself. (More another time)
All this to say, the CTU needs ALL of our support–in every way possible. Call friends who live there to be physically supportive, with funds, with letters to the editors. Read the CTU’s own press. This is a city that has been the reform “toy” of one after another big time superintendent and Mayor. The victims–students, families and teachers–have been trying their best to keep it afloat. This action is an act of desperation, and it’s a time for all trade unionists and their allies and civil rights activists to join forces. Did you know, for example, that it wasn’t so long ago that 49% of Chicago’s teachers were Black or Latino. The number is now 19%. It’s not just charters, or privatization, it’s also about getting rid of decently paid teachers who might someday get pensions. It’s part of the downsizing of America.
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