Support spreads for the CTU

September 17, 2012

CHANTING "UTLA-CTU, standing strong, united too!" and "A teacher is more than a test score!" 150 members of United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) rallied at the union headquarters after school on Friday, September 14, to show solidarity with Chicago teachers.

Teachers brought a variety of homemade signs with slogans like "Lower class size, stop school takeovers, the CTU's fight is our fight"--and a sign made out of a pizza box with the words, "Chicago: #1 in pizza and now #1 in fighting for the schools our students deserve!"

UTLA President Warren Fletcher spoke to the crowd about the importance of Chicago's fight. "They are facing a Broad Foundation-funded anti-union attack on teachers and schools--sound familiar?" he asked, referring to school "reform" business founded by real estate magnate Eli Broad. Speaking of the CTU's courageous fightback, he said, "We will follow your lead."

Urged on by union activists, UTLA also gave a $5,000 donation to the CTU this week, and several UTLA areas donated hundreds of dollars to the CTU solidarity fund by passing the hat at their area meetings. CTU President Karen Lewis and Vice President Jesse Sharkey made a phone call to Wednesday's meeting of the UTLA House of Representatives to hear cheers of solidarity from the 200 delegates.

The CTU strike has ignited new discussion inside UTLA about the need for more organizing, more fightback against the LA Unified School District (LAUSD), more outreach to parents and community, and job actions--the kind of strategy that the dissident Progressive Educators for Action caucus has been advocating.

UTLA's contract with the district expired in June 2011, and since then, the union has negotiated a series of concessionary deals, exchanging furlough days for jobs and contract rights for a temporary moratorium on school giveaways to charters. UTLA is currently in negotiations with LAUSD over a new evaluation system, and the district wants a substantial part of teachers' evaluations to be based on student test scores.

Teachers in several locals across the country have sent in messages of solidarity and organized events in support of strikers.

For example, in Burlington, Vt., 50 people rallied at City Hall in solidarity with the CTU, connecting their struggle with their own in Vermont. Cassandra Edson of the Vermont State Employees' Association said she "admired the strength and courage of Chicago teachers," and that "unless all union members stand together, nothing will change."

Civil rights activist Patrick Brown spoke about how as part-time faculty at the University of Vermont (UVM) he works full-time but only gets paid for part of it, without benefits or any kind of job security. UMN professor and member of UVM United Academics-AFT/AAUP Nancy Welch drew the connection between Democrat Mayor Rahm Emanuel's plan for Chicago school's and Democratic Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin's plan to privatize UVM.

Kara Haines of the Vermont Federation of Nurses said, "In a bent-over world, those standing up look insane. Let's keep standing tall together to fight for our rights!"

In Boston, the Boston and Cambridge teachers' unions passed statement so solidarity and pledge $1,000 each to help Chicago teachers on strike. The Boston Teachers Union took out a full-page ad in the in the Chicago Sun-Times, to tell Chicago's mayor that the union had "voted unanimously" to support the CTU.

The letter told Emanuel, who mischaracterized Boston teachers' settlement when he chastised Chicago teachers for not accepting CPS's latest offer:

We understand you referenced our recent contract settlement in Boston a few days ago. While one cannot compare apples to oranges, we'd like to point out a few flaws in your characterization of our settlement...Thank you for mentioning our contract settlement, which came about as a result of a mutually respectful conversation between the parties. Perhaps you can learn from us--and begin to treat your own teaching force with the same respect.

Sojun Godfrey contributed to this article.

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