STRIKEWATCH: Will Rahm try to put out this fire with gasoline? Prattle to corporate media about 'illegal' strike could create 30,000 lawbreakers among the city's best educated public servants

By the end of the first week of the Chicago Teachers Strike of 2012, some in the corporate media were beginning to pick up the trivialization and nitpicking favored by Chicago Board of Education President David Vitale and his negotiating team and hint darkly that the strike is "illegal" because the teachers are talking about issues that the Board refuses to allow into the union contract, from class size to the right of veteran teachers to recall to air conditioning in classrooms that are forced to operate in Chicago summers as climate change increases its toll.

Rahm Emanuel, at the UNO 25th Anniversary celebration at Chicago's union station, gives his traditional salute to the audience on the big screen. Three months after this photo was taken, Emanuel won the Democratic primary for mayor with the help of millions of dollars from his Hollywood and one percent friends. Nine months later, he appointed the billionaires and millionaires Board of Education and declared war on Chicago teachers with the carefully orchestrated lies of the "Longer School Day" campaign. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Vitale — a petulant plutocrat and multi-millionaire whose experience has been as a corporate executive used to issuing orders like a Ruritirian Army general — has been visibly fraying as the contract talks continue and he continues to work in the point position for Mayor Rahm Emanuel because the mayor is afraid to put his hand-picked "Chief Executive Officer," former Rochester New York school chief Jean-Claude Brizard, into the public spotlight.

On a daily basis since just before midnight on September 9, 2012, Vitale has lost his temper with the press and with the negotiators for the Chicago Teachers Union, and collections of his petulant pronouncements are beginning to make the rounds in Chicago. But, in the opinion of many, at least Vitale doesn't sprinkle his orders with F Bombs, like Rahm Emanuel is proud of himself for doing. The unraveling of the leaders of the "one percent" is taking place in Chicago before the eyes of the world. Whether the unraveled is David Vitale on camera, Rahm Emanuel fulminating behind the scenes (and trying to pull media strings that have been cut), or Jean-Claude Brizard quietly collecting his enormous pay while being told to sit down and shut up off stage, the sight is not pretty.

As a result, Rahm Emanuel has his underlings exploring whether he can get the strike called "illegal" and somehow end it that way. But like many in his position since the days of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette long ago, Emanuel doesn't realize he can make what for him is a bad situation even worse.

By September 13, the fourth day of the strike, Emanuel's aides in the corporate media began issuing warnings — under the usual guise of "news" reports — that the Chicago Teachers Strike of 2012 is "illegal." One of the places that aired that report, in Spanish, was Univision TV.

But if Emanuel believes he can turn more than 26,000 of the best educated citizens (and public servants) in the nation's third largest city into criminals through the same bankrupt rhetorical technicalities that have undermined his credibility so far, his reputation as a loose cannon will go down even further into history within the next few days.

The reason is simple:

Virtually every teacher on strike, everyone working for the CTU (including this reporter, who is a consultant for the union), every union leader, and the leaders of all of the groups supporting the union is already ready for that possibility as well. Whether CTU President Karen Lewis is interested in going to jail for the cause she represents is not even a question. The fact is that she is willing to do so, and if she does thousands of people will be standing by to post her bail a hundred times over.

But Chicago's ruling class in 2012 is nothing if Donald Trump-blind to what is happening under their noses. And on September 13, that happening was a demonstration against the wealth of one of the most prominent of them: Penny Pritzker. More than 10,000 teachers and others marched on Thursday to the Regency Hyatt Hotel in Chicago, highlighting the obscene wealth of the "one percent" and their hypocrisy. The Pritzkers, owners of the Hyatt (in many cases, with their ownership buried Mitt Romney style in Bahamina trusts that mean the family doesn't pay USA taxes) have been behind the austerity agendas of Chicago's public schools since Jay Pritzker, the leader of the previous generation, orchestrated the creation of the Chicago School Finance Authority behind the scenes in 1979.

Veteran teachers remember that one. Board of Education workers didn't get paid at Christmas 1979, and held off striking until February 1980. What the majority didn't know at the time was that behind the scenes a Pritzker was making sure that taxes in Chicago were not raised to cover the "financial crisis" and that CPS was forced into a Shock Doctrine kind of austerity under the supervision of the "one percent" — a quarter century before Karen Lewis and the future leaders of the teachers union were reading "The Shock Doctrine" to learn how that kind of stuff was done.

Rahm Emanuel may be insecure and petulant enough to try and make the legal "illegal." If he chooses to do so, for whatever reasons of ideology, insecurity, and insanity, he will have turned what is already a national cause into an international one. Whether Emanuel's former boss can survive that kind of exposure (after all, what Emanuel has been doing in Chicago is only a continuation of what Arne Duncan began in Chicago long before "Race To The Top") will be decided with the whole world watching in November 2012. 


September 14, 2012 at 11:36 AM

By: Rod Estvan

SB7 is a big part of the problem here

The discussion that George raises in his article is an important one. SB7 in particular section 4.5 makes it illegal to strike over the very core issues that make unions functional. It doesn't however make it illegal to strike over the impact that changes to section 4.5 issues might have on CTU members. It is probably impossible to seperate one from the other in this context.

Both George and I were present at the unvailing of SB7 several years ago at a meeting of the Special House Committee on Education Reform held at the Illinois Math & Science Academy in Aurora, Illinois. It was to say the least an interesting show.

I opposed that law then and continue to do so today.

But here is what is even more interesting, the CPS and the City government raise the issue of the legality of this strike yet they have the audacity in one of their more rescent contract proposals to put in this provision:

III. Pending Litigation and Grievances

a. Layoff Litigation. All layoff litigation in which CTU is a party is withdrawn with

prejudice (includes all grievances).

b. 4% Litigation. All litigation over 4% is withdrawn.

c. ULP Filed with the IELRB on September5. Any and all litigation, charges or claims

arising out of the allegations in the ULP filed on September 5, 2012 with the

Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board is withdrawn with prejudice or

otherwise resolved and waived.

So not only does the Board make claims of illegality in relation to this strike they also tell teachers that part of the cost of getting a contract is for them to waive their legal rights to legally appeal actions from their employer. Sticking in provisions like that is a sure way to settle this strike.

Rod Estvan

September 14, 2012 at 11:43 AM

By: Larry MacDonald

SFA 1979 - 1980 the opening salvo.

Those of us who remember "Payless paydays", remember waiting an extra hour on that Friday before Xmas for a check that would not be there for another six weeks.

We also remember the proposed SFA bailout, a 20 million-dollar deal. Tax free bonds at 12% , announced with much trepidation as to the viability of those investment instruments.

The Union had a solution and said that if the Bonds were in, say, $5,000 increments that union members would finance the deal. No Dice! Too risky!

So with fear in their hearts(?) Saloman Brothers sold all the Bonds in a matter of minutes on the next Market opening. Too bad the digital revolution had not yet happened or it could have been done in nano-seconds.


Investment class 1 Students, Teachers,Parents 0

It ain't over until it's over, Be wary and Be Strong.

September 14, 2012 at 4:38 PM

By: Bob Busch

The speech that launched 30,000 Teachers.


I was a history teacher no surprise .And I take to heart the idea that history repeats itself throughout the ages events and phrases sometimes are alleged to alter the course of mans journey.

“...the face that launched 10,000 ships” — aka the Trojan War.

“..We the people” — aka The United States.

"Let them Eat Cake” — aka the French Revolution.

I would like to add some other examples which pertain to more recent events. “We deserve a Victory lap”.aka the Chicago Sun Times editorial after the pension rape in 2010.

"Fuckem we’ll Fightem” aka Chicago Gang Wars 1970’s anonymous student Simeon Vocational.

"They can’t strike” — aka Urban uprising 2012.

Who deserves the victory lap now?

September 14, 2012 at 8:20 PM

By: Anthony Smith

It is JUST to break an UNJUST law! And lets evaluate our politicans!

Dr. King showed us that standing up to bullies and injustice is the right thing to do, not to mention Gandhi, Suffragists, Thoreau, Cesar Chavez. not the boxer, and a whole host of others!

A lot of us discussed this on our marches and to a man and woman, we are prepared to go to jail if necessary. WOW! I was impressed, as we come from a variety of backgrounds and values.

What brings us together is the sense of wanting to be treated fairly and respectfully

and feeling as though we have not been.

What would the world think with nearly 30,000 teachers in jail! That would be awesome! AND add to that former students, current students, family members etc.

If they want a FIGHT we will be glad to give them one. They started this and continued it and continued it, so we will finish it.

And I believe a number of police, and if necessary the National Guard would actually be with us!

The Revolution will not be televised:

We don't see the real rallies, just small spinets of us marching around a school. Show the 50,000 of us! Come on, 4 helicopters and you can't show a panoramic shot???

What are you afraid of, oh yeah, the TRUTH!

And the media does not talk about the real numbers. They say thousands. They should report the truth and state tens of thousands.

And they want to make it personal between Rahm and Karen. It is personal. BUT it is not between Karen and Rahm! It is between Rahm and all of the teachers, all of the police, all of the firefighters, all of the cta, all of the streets and sanitation, all of the postal workers, all of the taxi drivers, and on and on, with a few exceptions of course.

But the Chicagoland media won't report on that. Why not? Afraid of the truth!? You betchya!

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, you have made a lot of us very very unhappy and very angry. And you have made us more militant. We will remember you in 2 1/2 years. Respectfully I would suggest you start looking for work elsewhere.

Speaking of politicians, how about term limits on mayors and alderman?

How about evaluations from us, the public, once a year, on-line. Earn a Satisfactory and you stay another year.

Earn an Unsatisfactory and you have 90 days to improve. After that you will be placed in a hack political job for 5 months. And then you will be replaced by a deputy mayor or the person who came in 2nd place to finish your term!

Besides being a bully, not playing well with others, not accepting responsibility for your actions, having a bad attitude, being disrespectful, disingenuous, divisive, etc.

we don't think you really care about the children or you would give the TIF money you control to help the children of Chicago and not to your rich friends like Penny. And didn't you appoint her to the Chicago Board of Education? And isn't that a conflict of interest?

I guess it depends on whose interest we speak of. Well, the public now knows that you don't really care about the children.

And they have been, are, and will continue to be with us, especially since the public does not trust our politicians. Hunh, go figure!

In Solidarity.

Standing Proud and Standing Strong!


September 14, 2012 at 8:46 PM

By: John Kierig

Support for striking teachers on the streets

Standing out on the corner of Cicero and Walton for the past 5 days has been both heartening and instructive.

The support we've received from passing cars runs about 500 to 1. The support we've received from cops, firefighters, streets and san, and buses has been phenomenal.

On tuesday, a CTA bus came to a dead stop opposite our corner, the driver leaned out the window and hollered, "We know we're next."

September 15, 2012 at 7:16 AM

By: Bob Busch

My note to Alexander Russo, a Brooklyn reporter.

Dear Mr. Russo

I can tell you were not in Chicago this week. Please do us all a favor and refrain from commenting on what has just occurred based on media accounts. Never was the old riddle more accurate than on the streets this week Chicago “ Was black and white and red all over”. This was not a teachers strike a better description would be a urban uprising.

In the face of 20,000 marching teachers, thousands of parents and cops and firemen the media — your only sources for information — worked desperately trying to keep the genie in the bottle. The talking heads and print scribes must have known the reports

were all one-sided, the numbers hilariously low balled, and none of them were able to convince anyone of the official line that this was about teacher greed.

This was about saving the damaged kids of Chicago, and the future of public education

in the entire country.

Take a ride up to the legendary Sleepy Hollow. But go quickly because in Chicago this week we rewrote the story.

Ichabod Crane and his red shirted buddies saved the soul of the Headless Horseman took the pumpkin and shoved it up the ass of Brom Bones all in sight of the fair Katrina. It was quite a week.

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