From RICK PERLSTEIN
I was awoken by honking car horns yesterday morning, and couldn’t have been happier for the fact. Chicago’s public schoolteachers are on strike against the city government and Mayor Rahm Emanuel. And while no one likes the budget crisis that forms the strike’s fiscal context, nor the fact that 350,000 students aren’t at school, much of Chicago is finding joy in the municipal impasse — which is why, anywhere within earshot of the schools where the Chicago Teachers Union’s 25,500 members are picketing in front of their workplaces, solidarity car horns are blasting away.
Since Rahm Emanuel’s election in the spring of 2011, Chicago’s teachers have been asked to eat shit by a mayor obsessed with displaying to the universe his “toughness” — toughness with the working-class people that make the city tick; toughness with the protesters standing up to say “no”; but never, ever toughness with the vested interests, including anti-union charter school advocates, who poured $12 million into his coffers to elect him mayor (his closet competitor raised $2.5 million). The roots of the strike began when Emanuel announced his signature education initiative: extending Chicago’s school day. Overwhelmingly, Chicago’s teachers support lengthening the day, which is the shortest of any major district in the country. Just not the way Rahm wanted to ram it down their throats: 20 percent more work; 2 percent more pay.
He had already canceled a previously negotiated 4 percent cost-of-living raise, and accused teachers who balked of not caring about their students. The teachers’ response to this abuse is something all of us should be paying attention to. If Chapter 1 of the American people’s modern grass-roots fight against the plutocracy was the demonstrations at the Wisconsin State Capitol in the spring of 2011, and Chapter 2 was the Occupy encampments of that summer, the Chicago Teachers Union’s stand against Emanuel