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Public School Teachers Fighting Back – Monthly Review, June 2013

June 30th, 2013 · No Comments

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Monthly Review Volume 65, Number 2 (June 2013)*
Public School Teachers Fighting Back
The Editors
The U.S. working class was slow to respond to the hard times it faced
during and after the Great Recession. Finally, however, in February 2011,
workers in Wisconsin began the famous uprising that electrified the
country, revolting in large numbers against Governor Scott Walker’s efforts
to destroy the state’s public employee labor unions. A few months later,
the Occupy Wall Street movement spread from New York City to the rest of
the nation and the world. Then, in September 2012, Chicago’s public school
teachers struck, in defiance of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s attempt to destroy the
teachers’ union and put the city’s schools firmly on the path of neoliberal
austerity and privatization.… One thing that these three rebellions had in
common is the growing awareness that economic and political power in the
United States is firmly in the hands of a tiny minority of fantastically
wealthy individuals whose avarice knows no bounds. These titans of finance
want to eviscerate working men and women, making them as insecure as
possible and totally dependent on the dog-eat-dog logic of the marketplace,
while at the same time converting any and all aspects of life into
opportunities for capital accumulation.… |


*The Rebirth of the Chicago Teachers Union and Possibilities for a
Counter-Hegemonic Education

Eric (Rico) Gutstein *and
*Pauline Lipman

For nine days in September, Chicago belonged to the teachers, school
paraprofessionals, and clinicians. On September 10, 2012, 26,000 members of
the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) went on strike. It was the first teachers’
strike in Chicago in twenty-five years. While public and private sector
unions have taken concessions and capitulated to cuts in wages, benefits,
seniority rights, job protections, and much of what was won by the labor
movement in the twentieth century, the CTU stood up to Mayor Rahm Emanuel,
the Commercial Club of Chicago, and the billionaire hedge-fund managers who
have set out to break teachers’ unions and dismantle public education.… |

*Creating a New Model of a Social

*CORE and the Chicago Teachers Union*
Robert Barlett

The success of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) strike in September 2012
was a stunning rebuke to the forces of privatization and corporate
education reform.… Three years ago when the Caucus of Rank and File
Educators (CORE) ran for leadership of the CTU, few would have predicted
their ability to turn the union around from six years of do-little
leadership into a force capable of taking on a nationally funded,
bipartisan “education reform” movement that seemed likely to achieve its
goal of weakening and possibly destroying the largest remaining union
sector in the United States—public education unions. CORE and the CTU’s
success was not due to replacing a weak leadership with a militant one
willing to strike, but rather to the creation of a layer of union members
in the CTU who saw the struggle as one for what CTU president Karen Lewis
calls “the soul of public education.”… |

*Beating the Neoliberal Blame

*Teacher and Parent Solidarity and the 2012 Chicago Teachers’ Strike*
Rhoda Rae Gutierrez

As Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis made her Sunday late-night
announcement that the city’s teachers and paraprofessionals would stage
their first strike in twenty-five years, my husband and I were waiting to
be interviewed by a local television station to capture our live reaction.…
The reporter asked us what were going to do with our kids during the
strike. We said that we were bringing our children to our school’s strike
line the next day to support our teachers and to teach our children what it
means to stand up for yourself in a democracy. We criticized the mayor for
supporting test-based pay since tying teachers’ performance to high-stakes
tests forces them to narrow the curriculum and teach to the test. We also
trashed the mayor’s assertion that class size doesn’t matter and asked if
the mayor would want classes of thirty-five or more for his own children.…
The interview was absolutely nerve-racking, but when it was over, we were
happy that we were able to send that message. As soon as the camera was
turned off, the reporter got word from his producer that he “blew it.”
Apparently, we were supposed to portray the inconvenienced parents upset
with striking teachers. The news producer wanted us to blame the teachers
for this impasse in this contract fight, but we did not. We did not play by
the rules of their blame game.… |

*The Chicago Teachers’ Strike and

*Strategic Considerations*
David Kaplan

Last September’s Chicago teachers’ strike raises critical strategic
questions for all progressives and socialists seeking to resist the
relentless neoliberal austerity attacks against working people and their
communities.… [While in many ways it was a success,] it must be frankly
recognized that the CTU’s contract campaign, which culminated in the seven
day strike, fell short of achieving its ambitious goals at the contract
table. In particular, it was unable to: significantly slow the mayor’s
crusade to close scores of schools; halt district funding for mostly
non-union, privately run charter schools; stop the lengthening of the
school day and year without adequate employee compensation; or prevent the
establishment of a teacher evaluation system based to an important degree
on unreliable student scores on standardized tests. These less-than-optimal
results deserve serious analysis, especially in light of the local’s
herculean efforts to transform CTU from a classic, conservative business
union to a progressive, even radical, organizing union. Could the strike
have achieved more if other strategic choices had been made? Were some
demands simply unwinnable?… |

*When “Teachers Want What Children

*Reconciling Tensions in Teachers’ Work and Teacher Unionism*
Lois Weiner

“Teachers want what children need—or do they?” Questioning—and
rejecting—the slogan used by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) to
fight for collective bargaining in the 1960s, David K. Cohen, a contributor
to *Socialist Revolution*, in 1969 dismissed the progressive potential of
teachers’ unions. This article revisits the AFT’s slogan and Cohen’s
question, examining tensions between “what teachers want” and “what
children need.” The history of U.S. teacher unionism supports the argument
that when teachers’ unions adopt a “social movement” orientation and press
against the confines of the scope of bargaining embedded in
collective-bargaining agreements, the unions minimize tensions between
teachers’ rights to organize as workers in defense of their material
interests and the unique political and social responsibilities of their
work.… | more

*Marketizing Schools*
Doug Henwood
* and *Liza

Though the U.S. ruling class is divided on some issues—how quickly to
attack Iran, how much to cut Social Security and Medicare, whether
homosexuals should be tolerated or treated as the spawn of Satan—they are
united on one thing: the need to “reform” the public school system.
“Reform” means more tests, more market mechanisms, and fewer teachers’
unions.… The agenda has deep bipartisan roots.… |

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