As the struggle for the future of public education continues in Philadelphia, this video presents the Chicago Teachers Union as an example of how to fight and win.
In September 2012, the Chicago Teachers Union led a successful seven-day strike that gathered widespread public support and a new vision of quality public education for all students. At the heart of the successes of Chicago teachers was the Caucus of Rank-and-File Educators, or CORE, a small group of teachers that organized with the community to build a broad base of support for public education.
Chicago is now debating massive school closings. In Philadelphia, the School Reform Commission will close 23 schools this year. Despite outrage and protests, Philly’s schools could soon see even more cuts as teachers are threatened with increased class sizes, no guarantee of teaching supplies, and reduced pay in their upcoming contract.
In Chicago, teachers won because they fought for a better education for their students and fought together with the community. As Debbie Pope of the Chicago Teachers Union points out in the video:
"We also knew that the media, our enemies, the board of education, and the people with the big bucks… would be painting a picture of us as greedy teachers… and we knew that the best way to answer them was not us standing there saying, 'Oh no, that’s not true,' but to be standing there arm in arm with our allies, showing whose side we were on and who were our friends, who were our supporters, and who were we fighting for."
Members of the Chicago Teachers Union point to this new model as social justice unionism, and see teachers and their union playing a vital role in building the type of power needed to secure equity in our education system.
In November, Teacher Action Group worked with the Labor Working Group to bring the Chicago teachers to Philadelphia and continue to organize for equity in public education. Inspired by the model, Anissa Weinraub, a member of TAG's Philadelphia chapter, remarked, "They say a student's learning conditions are our working conditions. ... What do students in our schools and our communities deserve … and how can we push and use our numbers to make sure that everyone on my hallway is a part of this at my school?"
Watch the full video produced by Media Mobilizing Project for perspectives and lessons from the Chicago Teachers Union and CORE during their visit to Philadelphia.
Milena Velis is the media educator/organizer at Media Mobilizing Project.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author.