Chicago Teachers Union, Fight For 15 to participate in Chicago strike Friday

Elena Sucharetza, Reporter

As Illinois enters its 10th month without a budget, the Chicago Teachers Union and Fight For 15 Chicago workers, among other labor organizations, will join forces Friday in a citywide “Day of Action,” protesting the shutdown of Chicago schools and lack of fair wages for fast food employees.

The strike will be organized into North Side and South Side actions, beginning the strikes across the city at CPS schools and ending at the James R. Thompson Center with stops in at places such as the Cook County Jail and Northeastern Illinois University, said CTU staff coordinator Jackson Potter.

“We are all talking about different pieces of our social fabric that have been disrupted and harmed because of a refusal by the elite and wealthy, and the politicians that bankroll them to fund our spaces and services,” said Potter, a six year member of the CTU and previous CPS student and teacher. “There are different arenas that are experiencing the same harms and fallout and pain and suffering.”

Communication junior Hale McSharry said he was hoping to attend a specific action hosted by Project NIA, an organization dedicated to ending youth incarceration. He said attending actions like these is important for students considering their proximity to the city.

“We would be remiss to not acknowledge the city’s many issues and do what we can to help fight back against systems of oppression working there, and when we have this chance through these actions,” McSharry said. “Why shouldn’t Northwestern students take those opportunities to show up and shut things down and show that we are not complicit in these systems that are going on right in our area?”

Officials such as Gov. Bruce Rauner, Chicago Public Schools CEO Forrest Claypool and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel have condemned the strike. CPS has formally named the strike illegal. However, CTU members questioned the validity of declarations that intimated the illegality of the action.

“Despite Claypool’s desire to be judge, jury and executioner, he has no such power and authority,” Potter said.

He said it was hypocritical of city and state officials to speak out against the strikes when CPS has already announced three furlough days this year, which take students out of the classrooms.

CPS could not be reached for comment.

29-year-old KFC fast food worker Solo Littlejohn said he is “honored” to participate in the strike, which he said will be a historical demonstration of CTU members, fast food workers and other laborers showing solidarity for common demands.

As a worker in the fast food industry, Littlejohn said he receives a wage of $8.25 an hour, while his rent is around $950 a month. He said the demands of workers include a starting $15 wage and the right to unionize, as well as respect on the job and fair hours. He said many fast food workers he knows are planning on striking.

“Don’t expect to get a cheeseburger tomorrow, let’s put it like that,” Littlejohn said. “We expect many places to be shut down because of this strike.”

Evidence of conditions needing to be changed includes the fact that 51 percent of fast food workers rely on public assistance and some workers report working only one day out of the seven day week, Littlejohn said.

Chicago Public School teachers and union members Ana Solis and Elizabeth Scalia said they disagree with the politics of the strike and questioned its efficacy in a Chicago Tribune article, but are still attending the action. CTU has said teachers who do not participate in the strike risk losing their membership in the union.

“What we value is having our students in front of us, that’s important to us,” Solis told The Daily. “Obviously tomorrow we are taking a day away from being with our students, and that is a big deal that we are concerned about.”

Potter said this walk-out strike is a demonstration of the fight for the investment in schools children deserve.

“We are taking a pay cut for a day in order to lift up a dire situation and shed light on what it takes to fix it, while (officials) sit back and allow school dollars to be given to wealthy friends at great cost to vulnerable black and Latino students in our state,” Potter said.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @elenasucharetza