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Big Rumbling in Chicago as Teachers Move Toward Historic Strike

The teachers are possibly on the cusp of their first strike in a quarter century, with nearly 90 percent of union members voting in June to authorize one.

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“I don’t think [Emanuel] has the city’s and citizens’ best interest in mind,” said Tom Brady, an elementary school English teacher on the city’s far South side, who has worked for 24 years in the public school system. “Ultimately [former Mayor Richard M.] Daley did not want labor unrest. Emanuel is more willing to have labor unrest… It’s not just teachers, it’s also the librarians, and then the police and firefighters’ contracts are up next.”

Chambers said other unions in the public schools and citywide are watching the teachers' struggle as a bellwether of things to come.

“If they take us down, they take everyone down,” she said. “There are 19 unions in the schools. Our contracts affect the working conditions and contracts for everyone else.”

Other public-sector unions and community groups have rallied behind the teachers, and surveys have shown that parents strongly support the teachers’ position.

Barrett said, “People call Rahm the best union organizer we ever had.”

Kari Lydersen, an In These Times contributing editor, is a Chicago-based journalist and instructor who currently works at Northwestern University. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Chicago Reader and The Progressive, among other publications. Her most recent book is "Mayor 1%: Rahm Emanuel and the Rise of Chicago’s 99 Percent." She is also the co-author of "Shoot an Iraqi: Art, Life and Resistance Under the Gun" and the author of "Revolt on Goose Island: The Chicago Factory Takeover, and What it Says About the Economic Crisis." Look for an updated reissue of Revolt on Goose Island in 2014. In 2011, she was awarded a Studs Terkel Community Media Award for her work. Reach Lydersen by email: kari.lydersen@gmail.com

 
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