Earlier this week, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) proposed a 30% pay increase for their new contract. The Chicago Public Schools (CPS) board responded yesterday by unanimously voting to close or overhaul 17 under-performing schools, resulting in over 400 teacher layoffs and the displacement of more than 7,000 mostly low income black and Hispanic students.
CTU president Lewis called the move a betrayal of democracy, according to the Chicago Tribune, ostensibly because most of the board was appointed by mayor Emanuel or his predecessor Daley and not elected by the public. While this may be true, Emanuel and Daley were elected democratically, and Chicagoans knew what they were getting when they chose them.
If anything, the move underscores the fallacy that democracy somehow means “the people” have the power and make the decisions, rather than the right to vote for one’s own rulers who then make decisions in their own interests.
CTU’s real power lies in their ability to withhold their labor, something Lewis encouraged her members to do by taking a personal day off to attend the board meeting. Now that the board has ruled against their interests, it’s time to consider taking more personal days or initiating an outright strike. Clearly having hundreds of parents and teachers speak out against the closings was a waste of time.