Rush Limbaugh joins 'conservative' chorus attacking Karen Lewis following historically accurate comment on the class struggles in the USA

Conservative pundits are responding with characteristic sanctimonious ferocity to the latest candor form Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis. On the eve of Lewis's State of the Union address to the January 9, 2013 meeting of the union's House of Delegates, the Huffington Post is reporting the story below about the latest flap, which has brought the CTU to the attention of the frothings of Rush Limbaugh, among others.

By January 9, 2013 at noon, the story had also been reported (see below) at the Chicago Sun-Times and by ABC News Chicago.

Whenever the conditions of the masses of working people become intolerable, we organize. Although the conservative critics of recent labor history remarks by Karen Lewis continue to preach non-violence in the face of increasing exploitation and oppression by the Fat Cats, one of the ironies of current events is that many people, not only in the USA, are getting a version of the history that isn't taught in the schools through the lurid melodramas on TV. Above, a scene from "Spartacus," which is based on an organizing drive by workers during the Roman Empire.The issue, of course, is the daily fact that the "one percent" are depleting the world's riches and resources for their own plutocratic aggrandizement and greed, while the majority of the people on the planet are pushed further and further into poverty and the planet itself is in danger from their profit-at-all-costs policies.

In the latest iterations of the problem of class oppression in Chicago (and the USA), the nation's banks, which were bailed out at taxpayer expense, have gotten away paying pennies on the dollar for kicking millions of people out of their homes during the financial crisis, often with illegal paperwork or none at all.

And during the flu season, plutocratic medical enterprises, which substitute profit for the Hippocratic Oath, are killing children in Chicago during the worst outbreak of flu in years.

But those pundits and preachers in the pay of the plutocracy are preaching platitudes of peace to those who are "outcast and starving" as 2013 dawns. Pacifism must be preserved at all costs, they preach.

The chorus of pundits for the plutocracy preaching peace to a growing movement of militant workers across the world, from China through Greece to Spain and France, continued during the second week of January 2013. But the organized outrage grows on all continents. During the past year, mostly peaceful protests have raged from the factory cities of China through the streets below the Parthenon and across the entire Western Hemisphere, but the system refuses to change anything. There is still a pretense among some that the world created and rules by the "one percent" has the right to preach pacifism to everyone else, just as the millionaires and billionaire on the seven member Chicago Board of Education prepare to continue their program of destroying public education in America's third largest city.

The enormous bomb that went off on Wall Street outside the Morgan Bank on September 16, 1920, was still in evidence when the above photo was taken following the blast. Contrary to the sanitized version of U.S. History currently in fashion and the punditry of Rush Limbaugh and his ilk, when the plutocracy profits to the point where the misery of the working class has reached enormous levels, one result is massive violence from both sides. Chicago, San Francisco, and New York were three of the main cities that experienced such violence during the history of the USA and the expansion of greed of the "one percent."By late on January 8, 2012, CPS spokesman Becky Carroll joined Limbaugh in attacking Karen Lewis, according to the Huff Post report. Carroll's appointment as "Chief Communications Officer" of Chicago's public schools in 2011 came from the seven members of the Board of Education who had been appointed by millionaire Rahm Emanuel. Carroll's $165,000 per year salary, $65,000 per year more than her best known predecessor, was unreported in the press that criticizes Karen Lewis and repeats the talking point claim that CPS is in a "financial crisis."

Below here is the Huff Post report of January 8, 2013:

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis is no stranger to her outspokenness landing her in the headlines -- but many conservatives are particularly miffed by a comment she made during a labor event last month.

In the clip, recorded Dec. 2 during her keynote address of the Illinois Labor History Society's Union Hall of Honor dinner and posted on YouTube Monday, Lewis noted that an earlier generation of labor leaders resolved their differences with the rich with a very straightforward mantra: "Off with their heads."

"Do not think for a minute that the wealthy are ever going to allow you to legislate their riches away from them," Lewis told the audience at the event. "However, we are in a moment where the wealth disparity in this country is very reminiscent of the robber baron ages. The labor leaders of that time, though, were ready to kill. They were. They were just -- off with their heads. They were seriously talking about that."

The 1831 revolt of African American slaves against the plutocracy of slaveowners was led by Nat Turner, a Spartacus of the American working class. Depicted above, Nat Turner and his rebels enact a form of justice against slave owners and master in Virginia. The slave rebellions against America's "peculiar institution" were as central to the eventual end of slavery in the USA as the legal machinations depicted in films like 2012's "Lincoln" and were in fact the most serious challenges to the Fat Cats of the first half of the 19th Century in the United States."I don't think we're at that point," Lewis added. (The video clip has been embedded in the original Huffpost story).

The clip has already landed Lewis on an exponentially growing number of conservative blogs, plus on radio host Rush Limbaugh's Tuesday program.

"This is what we're up against. This, years ago, we'd laugh at it. I would sit here and think, boy, nobody's gonna believe," Limbaugh told his listeners. "I was wrong. People eat it up! They fall right in line."

The Haymarket bombing on May 4, 1886, killed several Chicago police officers and led to a massive crackdown against labor leaders in the city. A statue that once stood on the site of the Haymarket (now at the northeast corner of Randolph St. and the Kennedy Expressway had to be moved into the lobby of the old Chicago police headquarters at 11th and State during the tumultuous 1960s and 1970s. Chicago was the center of the movement for the "Eight Hour Day" and the site of the first May Day celebrations on May 1. Chicago Public Schools is also not taking Lewis's comment lightly. Becky Carroll, CPS chief communications officer, said in a statement that "this kind of rhetoric has no place in the work that must be done to address the issues facing our District," Fox Chicago reports.

In 2011, Lewis apologized after a video of her mocking U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan's lisp surfaced.

The Chicago Teachers Union also attracted some criticism last month over a web video, titled "The Fat Cats," that mocked education reformers and Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

By January 9, 2013, the Chicago Sun-Times, which is now partly owned by anti-union fat cat billionaire Bruce Rauner, weighed in with a Page Three report on the flap. The Sun-Times story includes a link to a video of Lewis's December 2, 2012 speech (the first time in our memory that the Sun-Times has bothered covering anything from the Illinois Labor History Society, historians should note...). The Sun-Times article follows below here:

Tape of CTU President Karen Lewis draws fire from right. By Lauren FitzPatrick Staff Reporter January 8, 2013 12:18PM. Updated: January 9, 2013 2:23AM

An “off with their heads” joke caught on videotape by the boisterous president of the Chicago Teachers Union referring to robber barons is sparking criticism from the right.

Chicago labor organizer Lucy Parsons lived into her 90s before dying in a Chicago house fire at the beginning of World War II (a war that many argue was caused by the imperial predations of the wealthy of the time). By 1886, however, Lucy Parsons and her husband Albert were leading the movement for an eight hour work day for workers in the USA. Part of that movement was a massive (100,000 people) march down Michigan Ave in Chicago on May 1, 1886, the day which became "May Day" across the world in the years that followed. Albert Parsons, one of the leaders of the Chicago working class at the time, was charged later with participating in the Haymarket bombing and executed by the State of Illinois for giving speechs, not based on any proof that he had been a participant in the bombing. Earlier, Albert and his wife has published a working peoples' newspaper in Texas, where they were driven out by the racists who kept the workers of the state divided by race and "union free." The marriage of Albert and Lucy Parsons was illegal under Texas law (and the laws of the majority of state of the United States) at the time Lucy Parsons became a widow.Karen Lewis, in a speech at the Illinois Labor History Society’s “Salute to Labor’s Historic Heroes from the History Makers of Today,” compared labor’s current situation with a more violent time.

"We are in a moment where the wealth disparity in this country is very reminiscent of the robber baron ages," Lewis said in the speech videotaped December 2. "The labor leaders of that time, though, were ready to kill. They were. They were just -- 'Off with their heads!' They were seriously talking about that.

Laughter rose up from the audience, then Lewis continued: "I don't think we're at that point. And that's scary to most people. But the key is that they think nothing of killing us. They think nothing of putting people in harm's way. They think nothing of lethal working conditions."

The speech, aired locally Jan. 5, caught the attention this week of Fox News host Greta Ven Sustern and conservative writer Michelle Malkin, who called Lewis 'Chicago thuggery personified' on her blog.

The CTU has been attacking the rich in its ongoing campaign to stave the growth of charter schools while CPS is shuttering neighborhood schools.

In December, the union released a video of a satirical bedtime story portraying wealthy friends of Mayor Rahm Emanuel as 'Fat Cats,' accusing cronies of 'The Rahminator' of privatizing public education.

Lewis is known for speaking her mind. She's called Emanuel a 'liar' and a 'bully.'

In 2011, she had to apologize for mocking the lisp of Arne Duncan, the former CPS CEO: who's now U.S secretary of education, saying she was trying to lighten the mood during a speech.

Lewis could not be reached Tuesday for comment. CTU spokeswoman Stephanie Gadlin said Lewis' critics should read labor history.

"Karen was using rhetorical license to make a point about a dark part of labor history in the U.S. In fact, she prefaced her remarks by paraphrasing a quote from Lucy Parsons which stated: 'Never be deceived that the rich will permit you to vote away their wealth,' Gadlin said.

"When you close schools, put thousands of people out of work, or destabilize neighborhoods while raising taxes and fees it is perceived by some as a violent assault on people's lives. Parsons advocated violence against her perceived oppressors. Karen Lewis believes in education, research, litigation, direct action and reconciliation."

ABC News Chicago has begun red-baiting the leadership of the CTU on a regular basis. ABC TV Chicago reported the following at noon on January 9, 2013 and later in the afternoon hosted talking pundits who were nastily critical of Karen Lewis and the union:

January 9, 2013 (CHICAGO) (WLS) -- The president of the Chicago Teachers Union is under fire for a controversial comment she made during a labor event in Chicago last month.

Video of Karen Lewis' speech December 2 was posted online Monday. She was making a keynote address at the Illinois Labor History Society's Union Hall of Honor dinner. She commented how an earlier generation of labor leaders resolved their differences with the wealthy.

"The labor leaders of that time, though, were ready to kill. They were. They were just -- off with their heads," Lewis said.

Chicago Public Schools released a statement saying, "Our focus is on our students and their education. This kind of rhetoric has no place in the work that must be done to address the issues facing our district. We all must look for constructive ways to address and resolve these very serious issues in order to best support the academic success of our children."


January 9, 2013 at 3:56 PM

By: Michael J. Harrington

Why CTU will continue to speak out

Dear Colleagues,

This we know.

Our opposition would prefer that our members, and thus our union, were simply a peaceful and docile body. They wonder why we are not what too many other unions are - easy to order around and waiting to be pillaged yet again. Recall the words of Fraternal Order of Police President Mike Shields who said it best at Chicago's 2012 Labor Day rally. Speaking to City Hall, Shields observed, “We are public servants, not indentured servants.”

Our opposition cringes whenever individual union members speak up. They act surprised and cry foul when our union officers publicly call out corruption for what it is. They would prefer that Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis be like the Queen of England - a toothless and silent figurehead. Why, oh, why can’t she simply emerge (on rare occasion) from the shadows, dress in fine linens and elegant white gloves, and when she does open her mouth only speak cautiously, delicately, and in flowery tones?

Sorry, folks. Our color is JUNGLE RED.

Our supporters understand that a battle for the future of Chicago's children and our profession is underway. They are encouraged by and feel support from our leadership when we speak on key issues. Karen’s recent remarks to the Illinois Labor History Society, to the City Club luncheon, and at countless other events speak truth to power – this angers our opposition and refreshes our supporters. This we know. Whenever CTU speaks, three distinct constituencies are most interested in and welcome our message:

1. The CTU Members: They expect us to speak truth to power. The school professionals we serve demonstrate their support for this.

2. The CPS Students and Families: The parents understand that we will not abandon them, and instead, we are advocates on behalf of their children.

3. The Chicago Citizenry: Most are aware that OUR battle is related to THEIR battle against the powers that be who aim to take advantage of the rest of us.


Michael J. Harrington, Director of Union Operations, Office of the President, Chicago Teachers Union

January 9, 2013 at 10:09 PM

By: Jay Rehak

Wealth disparity needs to be addressed

While I am a firm believer in Doctor Martin Luther King's non-violent approach to social injustice, I believe it is well past time for reasonable people to sit down and discuss the income and wealth disparity in this country.

We all must continue to work towards a non-violent solution to the economic devastation that currently affects millions of Americans, even as a small number of people live in unimaginable wealth.

It seems clear that a more progressive income tax structure must be put in place. In the end, any peaceful movement towards economic justice is a move towards a more peaceful and just society.

January 11, 2013 at 2:32 PM

By: A Siegel

Crying "Wolf" is the Right-Wing's "M.O."

I saw Ms. Lewis on Democracy Now! around the time of the strike. I was so impressed by everything about her. I got the feeling that she values the trust that her fellow educators and the community have placed in her and that she is proud to be a union member!

Ms. Lewis has said nothing for which she need apologize. She used the power of words to express an historical fact. Perhaps not everyone has sufficient confidence in their verbal communication skills, which is why, as Bloomberg News reported on 12/01/2009, senior executives at Goldman Sachs began applying for firearms permits and buying guns and ammunition, saying they feared a populist uprising. (

Apparently, the rich are frightened, fragile people. Who knew?

Journalist Chrystia Freeland (Financial Times, Thomson Reuters) in her book about the 1% called, "Plutocrats: The Rise of the Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else", writes about the habits and personalities of some rich people. According to one of the people in her book, the rich are very sensitive. They don't even like people calling them "rich". It hurts their feelings. They have one or two preferred euphemisms, but I don't remember what they are. (Perhaps "Sir" or "Ma'am"? I'm kidding!)

Anyway, much like the Wall Street CEO's who still work for a living despite being millionaires because their job is to serve the 0.01%, Limbaugh's job is to serve the 0.01%. He does this by coming to their defense and denigrating anything which insults the (sensitive) monied individuals said to be responsible for creating jobs - in China.

My best wishes for the continued success of the CTU.


A. Siegel

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