Chicago’s Teachers in One Day Strike

Chicago’s public school teachers have walked out in a one day strike. Some are picketing at their schools. Some are just staying home. There’s more than one way of looking at this action. Here’s the press release from the Chicago Teachers’ Union:

The strike is a call for increased revenue for Chicago Public Schools and its students, and a direct response to continued attacks and efforts toward union-busting from Gov. Bruce Rauner, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the mayor’s handpicked CPS 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—the latter of which is the legal basis for the April 1 strike. Gov. Rauner, while unable to pass a state budget and putting the welfare of thousands of his constituents at risk, is on record in his desire to break unions and is currently starving city and state schools—at elementary, high school and university levels—unless downstate legislators accept his “turnaround” agenda.

April 1 will highlight proposals from the CTU and its education and community partners for winning school funding and funding for other important services. The only solution that doesn’t involve a complete downgrade of the teaching profession and teachers’ standard of living, and that protects quality public education, requires new revenue sources in the form of progressive tax reform that would get the super wealthy (top 5 percent) to pay their fair share in state taxes. This could generate up to $6 billion in new revenue for education and other social needs. In addition to progressive tax reform, the Union continues its demands about toxic swaps and tax increment financing (TIF)—swap terminations cost the district $240 million this year alone, and the TIFs could put enough money into the schools to completely reverse this year’s cuts. The Union’s calls for increased revenue for the district are now an issue on the national stage, and there is legislation pending in Springfield that would take TIF control out of the mayor’s hands and force the release of these funds to our schools.

Here’s what Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel had to say as reported by the Associated Press:

Mayor Rahm Emanuel says he agrees with Chicago teachers that more money is needed for education.

But he says the Chicago Teachers Union should join with him and Chicago Public Schools to lobby state lawmakers, rather than go on strike.

Thousands of teachers are protesting cuts in school funding Friday. Their one-day strike shut down schools for nearly 400,000 students.

Emanuel says for many of those students, school is the only place they get two meals each day or other services. He says the “kids are paying a price that” he doesn’t “think is right.”

and here’s what Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner said, as reported by the Chicago Tribune:

Rauner issued a statement Friday in response to the strike, saying: “It’s shameful that Chicago’s children are the victims in this raw display of political power. Walking out on kids in the classroom, leaving parents in the lurch and thumbing their nose at taxpayers — it’s the height of arrogance from those we’ve entrusted with our children’s futures.”

Elsewhere the Trib is referring to the strike as “Tantrum Day”.

I’m of mixed minds on this. I think that something should be done to end the budget impasse in Springfield. I’d prefer it if both sides gave in a little. Waiting for the governor to cave isn’t much of a plan but it seems to be the only plan that the Democratic leadership of the state legislature has. Illinois needs a budget but it needs a lot more than a budget. It needs a plan to foster economic growth. Without that we’re just bickering over the dead bones.

However, I don’t see a straight line connection between the budget battle and more funding for the schools. So far what I’ve seen strongly suggests that the strike is unlawful and immoral (since it’s a secondary boycott).

18 comments… add one
  • jan Link

    “Tantrum Day” sums it up. Unfortunately the tantrums are from adults, not children. Under these circumstances it’s the children who are voyeurs who are sidelined as their elders cry”It’s for the children!”

  • Andy Link

    What I don’t understand is what the teacher’s union thinks they can achieve. There’s only so much blood you can squeeze from a turnip – they can’t be ignorant to the fiscal realities.

  • Guarneri Link

    ” they can’t be ignorant to the fiscal realities.”

    Although you will be shocked to learn that greed extends beyond rich businessmen, that’s all that is going on with the CTU here. They want money from other people, any people, to go to them. Period, full stop.

  • Modulo Myself Link

    They’re making the right call. Emmanuel is done and Rauner seems feeble, just another businessman. Their demands are good too–taxes on millionaires, taxes on financial transactions. When your only idea is tax cuts for the wealthy and contempt for people who perform public service, you have opened yourself for brutalization. Rauner is such an obedient hack he’s not even sure about private-sector unions. These people have no idea what kind of world they are heading into.

  • PD Shaw Link

    I don’t understand the union’s demands. How many of them require a Constitutional amendment (income tax reform)? How many of them would raise revenue in the short term (I assume ending TIF authority could not impact current TIF agreements)? Does anyone want to tell MM how many tax increases Illinois and Chicago have enacted since the Great Recession?

  • walt moffett Link

    At least the union (and allies) recognize the need for more revenue which is more than I can say for Southern teacher groups.

    Yet, don’t imagine nobody elected really wants to fight with the donor class and rather look busy while milking the drama for electoral purposes.

  • You are correct in pointing out that what they want either requires amendments to the state constitution or is a one-time only fix with no obvious follow-up.

    In essence the CTU believes in the “Roomful of Money” theory”: that somewhere there’s a roomful of money and it can be drawn from any time they want without repercussions, costs, or pain. At the federal level they would be right. The federal government and/or the Federal Reserve can increase the money supply at will and, at least in the short term, there will be little cost, pain, or repercussion. As long as the dollar continues to be the reserve currency of choice that short term may be considerably longer. I don’t think that device should be used to pay operating costs but I’m the green eyeshade type.

    However, that’s not available at the state level and, importantly, the state legislature, securely under the control of Democrats, has exhibited no interest in any of the CTU’s schemes. The Democratic leadership has successfully blamed this on Rauner but they’re the real problem. They like things the way they are, life tenure in office and all.

  • jan Link


    I find casting blame onto literally a “newbie,” in the cast of political players, to be bleakly irrational. Like you’ve repeatedly have observed, Chicago has been run by democrats for decades. It’s their fiscal methods that have been deployed. Now that everything is going south how do logical minds compute said problems to be originating from a first term republican governor?

    The same can be said about Flint Michigan’s water problem, where the EPA, as well as local and state government had a hand in poor oversight. But, it’s the republican governor taking major heat from dems! How do real problems ever get really resolved when no one wants to take the first step in owning the problem, and then revising remedies so that phrase plaintively repeated over and over again, “, this will never happen again,” actually has some validity to it?

  • steve Link

    “The same can be said about Flint Michigan’s water problem, where the EPA, as well as local and state government had a hand in poor oversight. But, it’s the republican governor taking major heat from dems! ”

    Have a friend in Michigan who has been sending me the stories. Sorry, it really was mostly the Emergency manager the governor appointed. Even the governor’s panel came to the same conclusion.


  • jan Link


    While I don’t have friends living in MI I have read articles and partially listened to a hearing regarding the Flint water problems. During the mid-March Congressional Hearings, for instance, both Gov. Snyder and EPA Administrator, Gina McCarthy, were asked if they had made any mistakes dealing with this water debacle. Snyder openly apologized, saying he had made mistakes — owning them. McCarthy, OTOH, hedged her response and took no responsibility whatsoever.

    However, from what I’ve read there were a multiplicity of errors made, at all levels of government, plus a lack of project oversight, as well as a governmental dismissal of early public complaints concerning water safety. Here is a January analysis by Reason that I posted earlier. But, I guess it merits revisitation:

    The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, the state agency that is responsible for implementing federal EPA environmental standards and ensure water standards, ignored citizen concerns that there was something wrong with the water they were getting from the new Flint River water system. The city had temporarily switched to this system after deciding against renewing a 30-year contract with its existing supplier, the Detroit Water and Sewage Department that wanted Flint to pay higher rates and more stranded costs. (This was like asking someone who is struggling to prevent the roof on his/her house from collapsing to pay for a lavish home insurance policy.)

    The EPA allowed the DEQ to perform a faulty test to measure water quality that totally failed to catch the problem. That’s not all that the EPA did wrong, however. Even after it realized that the DEQ wasn’t taking a simple step necessary to prevent lead poisoning – namely adding phosphorous – it did absolutely nothing. It didn’t go public with this information; it didn’t warn residents that they should take steps to protect themselves. It basically fiddled as Flint residents were getting poisoned. What’s even more infuriating? It would have cost less than $50,000 annually to add the phosphorous.

    The local mayor was even worse than the EPA. If the EPA passively allowed residents to poison themselves, the mayor actively encouraged them to do so. He told them that there was nothing wrong with the water and they’d be wasting their “precious” money by buying bottled water. This, incidentally, was after GM stopped using this water because it was corroding auto parts.

    The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services dismissed tests showing a spike in lead levels in blood tests of local residents after the switch to Flint River as a “seasonal anomaly.”

Leave a Comment