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Capitulation in Chicago?

Capitulation in Chicago?


by Stephen Lendman


By the time this article circulates, it may be all over but the shouting, finger-pointing, and bitterness among rank-and-file loyalists over another union sellout.


As this is written, it looks that way. It won’t surprise. Across America, union bosses keep prioritizing their own positions and welfare over workers they represent.


Instead of fighting for rights they deserve, they capitulate to corporate and government scoundrels. Wisconsin public workers learned the hard way. The state was ground zero to save public worker rights.


During February and March 2011, they waged an epic struggle. It captured international attention. It ended with a whimper, not a bang. When the dust settled, they lost jobs, wages, benefits, and bargaining rights.


The Madison-based South Central Federation of Labor passed a hollow general strike resolution. Nothing was done to initiate an urgent action many workers demanded.


AFL-CIO, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), and NEA-affilated Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC) leaders abandoned their struggle and sold out Republican Governor Scott Walker’s wish list.


It didn’t surprise. It been happening across America regularly. Workers have been ill represented for decades. The 1981 PATCO (Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization) strike was seminal. It was a shot across organized labor’s bow.


Over 11,000 workers lost jobs. AFL-CIO president Lane Kirkland conspired with Ronald Reagan in union-busting. During the 1980s alone, coal miner, steel worker, bus driver, airline worker, copper miner, auto worker, and meatpacker strikes were defeated. Union bosses sold out worker interests.


No wonder unionism today is a shadow of its former self. It’s headed for extinction without committed rank-and-file activism to save it.


On September 10, Chicago teachers walked out. At stake are rank-and-file rights, jobs, benefits, keeping education public, the futures of Chicago kids, the city’s soul, and perhaps America’s.


A previous article called Chicago America’s epicenter of resistance. It’s headed for becoming its epicentral defeat. Don’t blame teachers, parents or students. They’re resolute and deserve better. They’re also ill served.


On September 13, the Chicago Tribune headlined “Optimism over ending Chicago teachers strike, but no classes Friday,” saying:


Both sides expressed optimism. On a 1 - 10 scale, Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) president Karen Lewis said “I’m a 9″ on reaching a deal quickly. House of Delegates approval is required.


“We’re hoping we can tighten up some of the things we talked about yesterday….and get this thing done.”


Chicago Public Schools (CPS) chief education officer Barbara Byrd-Bennett echoed Board of Education president David Vitale’s optimism. Jesse Jackson showed up. He expressed “a sense of urgency.” What he’s doing to help isn’t clear. Expect little.


At 2PM Friday, over 700 House of Delegates meet. If negotiations are completed, they’ll vote up or down on ending the strike. Whether they’ll know full contract terms isn’t clear. Perhaps union officials will conceal ugly details. Full union membership has final say, but will it matter?


If strike action ends Friday, classes resume Monday. Expect another week or so to complete rank-and-file voting. If teachers learn they’ve been scammed, it may be too late to resume striking.


Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Vitale, and CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard are hardline. They’re all take and no give. They won’t yield and resume negotiating once current bargaining ends.


A weekend “Wisconsin-style” rally is scheduled in Union Park on Chicago’s West Side.


Hope springs eternal. Teachers expressed mixed views. Some hope CTU negotiators are bargaining hard. Others are skeptical. They have good reason. How can major issues be settled in five days when for months they’ve been unresolved. It’s understandable that every one wants classes resumed.


What good will it do if union bosses sold out teachers, schools keep being privatized, and kids are denied the education they deserve. All indications suggest it.


Job security won’t be strengthened. Thousands of teachers will lose jobs. As many as 120 schools will be closed over the next five years. Quasi-private charter ones will increase.


A Chicago Tribune editorial headline “Chicago Teacher Union fighting the inevitability of education reform,” saying:


Teachers “aren’t merely fighting City Hall. They’re fighting the inevitability of education reform. They are denying the arc of history.”


“They need to understand.” Principles involved “are set in (federal and state) law….They’re at the heart of the Democratic education reform agenda” under Obama’s destructive Race to the Top agenda. It follows Bush’s No Child Left Behind.


Both plan public education’s destruction. At stake is commodifying it, handing it to corporate predators, and making it another business profit center. Doing so assures destroying the futures of thousands of Chicago kids and millions across America.


Go along union bosses should be fired, hung in effigy, then out to dry like they’re doing to parents and children.


“Don’t let this arc of history get lost in all the red shirts and red-meat speeches.” Tribune bosses only care for bottom line priorities like profiteers they represent.


Kids are to be exploited for profit, not taught. That’s the bottom line of this struggle. Reform is code language for sellout. Teachers, parents and kids don’t have a chance if union bosses betray them for their own self-interest. All signs point that way.


They’ll claim success to hide failure and betrayal. They’ll say they got the best deal possible. At issue is will teachers buy it? How will parents react once they learn they are their children were scammed?


According to TribuneThink, the “knottiest issue in the strike is whether Chicago will stay on the national reform path. Or will Emanuel and CPS, under pressure to restore normalcy, cave to teacher demands….?”


They want their just due. Parents want public, not corporate run schools. Kids want futures. Education isn’t a commodity. It’s a societal right. It’s workable form is headed for the trash bin of history unless heroic efforts save it.


On September 14, the Tribune headlined “Both Sides still optimistic as Chicago teachers strike enters 5th day,” saying:


Number crunching delayed a Thursday deal. Details remain unresolved. Lewis called discussions “ebb and flow.” CTU lead attorney Robert Block said negotiations go up and down. “There are many areas, facets to be worked out.”


One CTU representative said CPS negotiators don’t play fair. They’re “stopped bargaining and dug in their heels.” How can teachers reach an equitable deal without a willing partner? They have none in Emanuel and his cronies.


Negotiations resume Friday. Plans still call for kids back in classrooms Monday. Lewis hopes so but isn’t sure. Her body language shows how much she’s bent.


CPS psychologist Elizabeth Chapin-Palder claims teachers are cautiously optimistic. Why who knows when behind their backs they’re being betrayed. When they find out it’ll be too late to matter unless they take matters in their own hands and carry the fight on their own.


Chicago’s Substance News editor George Schmidt provides accurate information on issues related to city education. He forthrightly supports teachers. They “know more about the city, its schools, and its children” than city officials, bureaucrats, and CPS and Board of Education bosses combined.


“Will Rahm try to put out this fire with gasoline,” he asked? He and officials around him “hint darkly that the strike is ‘illegal’ because teachers are talking about issues the Board refuses to allow into the union contract.”


They include class size, recalling laid off veteran teachers, proper year-round classroom temperatures, and others. They’re major ones essential for all contracts.


Vitale is a corporate bully. He’s used to operate autocratically. He’s Emanuel’s point man because Brizard already is widely disliked. Vitale replicates his dark side. Daily he lost his temper with negotiators and journalists. His arrogance grates on those around him.


He stops short of using profanity like Emanuel. “The unraveling of (Big Money) leaders….is taking place….before the eyes of the world.”


“Whether the unraveled is Vitale on camera, Emanuel fulminating behind the scenes….or Brizard quietly collecting his enormous pay while being told to sit down and shut up off stage, the sight is not pretty.”


Emanuel apparently plans dirty tricks. He may call a legitimate walkout illegal and end it that way. Doing so will make a bad situation worse. Claiming 30,000 teachers are criminals doesn’t wash. Hopefully they’re ready for whatever he has in mind.


They care about what’s most important. They want good education for Chicago kids. City officials have other fish to fry. Serving Chicagoans ethically, honorably and effectively isn’t on their menu. Exploiting them is policy at high salaries.


It’s not surprising that unionists and teachers call the Board of Education a “billionaires and millionaires” club. It also holds for CPS bosses. They earn six figure salaries. They have no teaching or administrative experience.


Emanuel-style patronage installed them. CPS head Jean-Claude Brizard earns a quarter million dollar salary. Rochester, NY teachers practically ran him out of town. They banished him for wrecking city schools. Since May 2011, he’s following the same failed scheme in Chicago.


CTU officials haven’t challenged him. Ebb and flow delays hardly matter. Capitulation looks likely.


Public education is being privatized. Bottom line priorities matter most. Teachers are expendable. Parents and kids have most to lose. It’s a sad testimony to the city of big shoulders.


Last of its saloon keeper aldermen, Paddy Bowler, was right. “Chicago ain’t ready for reform.” For sure not under Emanuel and corrupt officials around him.


A Final Comment


Friday PM reports said CPS and CTU officials reached a tentative deal. Classes may resume Monday.


CTU attorney Robert Bloch said “talks today were very productive. We are still continuing to work out the details of the contract, but we are hopeful (to have) a complete agreement to present to the House of Delegates by Sunday.”


If approved, students and teachers will return Monday. Terms weren’t disclosed. Expect fine print details to reveal sellout. If Board of Delegates don’t balk, hopefully teachers will act on their own straightaway. It’s their only chance. Delay won’t help.


More ahead on contract terms when they’re known. Hold the cheers. Celebratory time isn’t now. Battle lines are more appropriate. This struggle has miles to go.


Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at [email protected]


His new book is titled “How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized Banking, Government Collusion and Class War”


Visit his blog site at and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

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About The Author

Stephen Lendman was born in 1934 in Boston, MA. In 1956, he received a BA from Harvard University. Two years of US Army service followed, then an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in 1960.   After working seven years as a marketing research analyst, he joined the Lendman Group family business in 1967, remaining there until retiring at year end 1999.   Supporting progressive causes and organizations, he began writing in summer 2005 on a broad range of issues. Topics regularly addressed include war and peace; social, economic and political equity; and justice for long-suffering peoples globally - notably, victims of America's imperial wars, Occupied Palestinians and Haitians. In early 2007, he began hosting his own radio program. Currently he hosts the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network. Airing three times weekly, it features distinguished guests discussing vital world and national issues in depth. Today perhaps more than ever, vital social, political and economic change is needed. What better way to spend retirement years than working for it. We owe at least that much to our loved ones, friends and humanity.

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