CTU mobilizing and energized following mayor's demagogic attacks on public school teachers....Rahm Emanuel his own worst enemy?

Is Chicago’s ambitious new mayor his own worst enemy? Fresh off his election win this year, Rahm Emanuel immediately attacked the Chicago Teachers Union by demanding teachers circumvent their collectively bargained contract for a longer work day. But cracks are starting to appear.

Even before his education "team" (all of whom came from outside Chicago's public schools) began its latest attack on the Chicago Teachers Union, Rahm Emanuel was showing signs of fatigue in the face of more and more public criticism of his carefully scripted and almost completely mendacious versions of reality in city affairs. During the budget hearings at Malcolm X College on August 31, 2011 (above), Emanuel lost control of the event and couldn't keep the actual audience from asking critical questions. By the middle of the two hour session, his temper had grown short and his famous fatigue was showing around the eyes (above). Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.The mayor wants to extend the school day by an extra 90 minutes, add on two more weeks, and pay the teachers less.

The mayor’s first edict against the CTU was to rescind the teachers’ 4 percent contracted pay raise for the year. His offer to the teachers who would vote for a waiver to teach a longer day includes a so-called 2 percent raise, which is still 2 percent less than what the teachers were supposed to be paid this year.

The extra time the mayor is demanding the teachers teach comes out to 10 full weeks, which equals the summer vacation time teachers and children are given.

That, boys and girls, comes directly from the top. Corporate America — which controls our two-party system and the news media which have been trying to hammer the CTU about this for months — has been demanding that the schools turn into a corporate environment where there are longer hours and no summer vacation time.

Make no doubt, the mayor is auditioning to be the next president of the United States. He was elected with lots of corporate cash to destroy the once mighty Chicago Teachers Union.

He is carpet bombing the media with press alerts on a daily basis, going from here to there to blow the corporate horn for more budget cuts, more job cuts, while quietly forking over contracts to his pay masters just like his predecessor.

At several points during the Malcolm X city budget hearings on August 31, Mayor Rahm Emanuel had to ask the booing crowd to allow he and his aides (Jean Claude Brizard is on the right in the above picture, Police Supt. Garry McCarthy seated beside Brizard) to answer questions. Despite Emanuel's claims that his administration had created more transparency in city government and was "reducing bureaucracy," members of the audience continue to point out that if $25,000 per year traffic aides were "bureacuracy," then George Orwell's 1984 was predicting Emanuel's and Brizard's claims. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.But now, a formidable enemy is rising in the city of big shoulders.

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis is not going along with the show and this has infuriated the mayor to the point where his colorful profanity has suddenly turned into a liability.

The mayor blew up and cursed out the union president when Lewis told him she wouldn’t go along with his longer day script behind closed doors. Suddenly his compliant corporate media outlets, such as the Sun Times, started asking uncomfortable questions, like what was that all about?

Before that he cut short a TV interview because the reporter did not follow the corporate script and dared ask the new mayor where he would send his children to school.

Emanuel seems to be doing what the previous mayor avoided – take center stage, and build up an enemy.

Mayor Daley wanted to extend the school day, but he didn’t. Instead, he took what he could get — control of the schools so he could start privatizing public education in Chicago.

Substance believes that one of the reasons former Chicago schools chief Arne Duncan is now leading the nation’s public school system because of the peaceful relationship he forged with former CTU president Marilyn Stewart.

The Chicago Teachers Union did little as the Board of Education started opening up non-union charter schools and closing public schools, thus destroying hundreds of union jobs.

In fact, Stewart told viewers on Channel 11 over a year ago that the current five-year contract she negotiated for the teachers was what the mayor wanted.

And she sold it to the delegates by saying that what the mayor really wanted was the longer school day (apparently the failed Olympics bid was more important).

A group of teacher activists then formed CORE (the Caucus of Rank and File Educators) to protest the unfair school closings, and won the union election with a mandate to fight.

So we have two formidable opponents. In the one corner is a revitalized teachers union made up in part — in Rahm's own words — of commies and Trotyskites. In the other corner the darling of the ruling class who helped engineer a revitalized Democratic Party that proved it could go even further than the republicans in attacking workers' rights.

Now there is talk of a strike, exactly what this mayor does not want.

Former CTU president Tom Reese said the only strike he wanted to see was in a bowling alley. Throughout the 1990s, he praised the Board of Education, mayoral control, and then schools chief Paul Vallas, once telling the Board (in February 1999 at a Board meeting) that Vallas and (Board President) Gery Chico were "the best Board the CTU ever worked with."

Reece and Mayor Daley got their wish. The last teachers' strike in Chicago was in 1987.

So what did the teachers get as a result of no more strikes — mayoral control and the 1995 Amendatory Act to allow the mayor to slowly destroy the union and public education.

But Rahm’s attacks on the teachers today appear to be contributing to a growing sense of solidarity in the schools.

The CTU announced on September 23, 2011, that teachers at 115 elementary schools voted down the longer school day waiver ballot proposed by the school board despite the enormous pressure from above. As of September 23, the number of schools that had voted in favor of the waiver was stalled at 13, despite the bribes being offered the teachers and the pressure from above.

“These results demonstrate that most union members clearly favor taking the appropriate time necessary to carefully plan for delivering the rich and broad curriculum that our students deserve,” Lewis said in a press release.

And school teachers are changing their attitudes toward a strike.

For example, a teacher in one north side school who asked to remain anonymous told me last year the new teachers said they could not afford to go on strike. But those same teachers are now saying they would welcome a strike, and are saving their money.

Rahm’s attacks are also helping to unify different factions in the teachers union. At the last House of Delegates meeting, everyone agreed that the union’s direction is correct — to fight against a longer school day that is not fairly compensated.

Even the old UPC guard, who lost a bitter election last year, sound more like the strong union people they once were, who fought for the rights teachers enjoy today, including better compensation, prep periods and pensions.

So is Chicago Mayor Emanuel his own worst enemy? Will his impressive winning streak continue, or will his testosterone-filled temper eventually sink him? All bets are on the table as the country watches this battle between the ruling class and Chicago's public school teachers take center stage. 


September 28, 2011 at 9:01 AM

By: John Smith

Rahm, digging his own political grave?


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