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Chicago Teachers Union Vows To 'Shut the City Down' During One-Day Strike

By Ted Cox | March 9, 2016 3:53pm | Updated on March 9, 2016 6:44pm
 The Chicago Teachers Union is pretty much calling for a general strike April 1.
The Chicago Teachers Union is pretty much calling for a general strike April 1.
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DNAinfo/Michelle Gavin

DOWNTOWN — The Chicago Teachers Union announced plans Wednesday for a day of action April 1 and basically called for a general strike, asking "all concerned Chicago citizens" to skip work and boycott classrooms.

The union posted a flyer on its website Wednesday asking Chicagoans to "join families, teachers, workers and all those who thirst for justice" to "shut it down."

For an explanation on what that "it" constituted, the union posted an event on its Facebook page asking "all concerned Chicago citizens" to "unite" in "withholding your labor, withholding your dollars, boycotting classrooms, boycotting the Magnificent Mile" and other actions, including protests against Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Gov. Bruce Rauner.

 Mayor Rahm Emanuel urged teachers and students to stay in school on the Chicago Teachers Union's
Mayor Rahm Emanuel urged teachers and students to stay in school on the Chicago Teachers Union's "day of action."
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

The union, however, would not characterize that as a "general strike."

Spokeswoman Stephanie Gadlin said the union "is calling for a day of action of its members and that will take a variety of forms, but we will encourage our members to engage in informational picketing as early as 6:30 a.m. We are waiting on guidance from our House of Delegates to determine the full nature and creativity of our action."

According to Gadlin, the day of action is meant to "bring attention to the fact that the governor, mayor and their other buddies [like billionaire] Ken Griffin are starving the city and state and feeding their millionaire and billionaire friends."

Gadlin urged protests to press government leaders on a state balanced budget and an elected Chicago school board, but also expanded the conflict to other statewide issues beyond teachers and CPS.

"Mayor Emanuel is tone deaf and blind to what is happening to the people of this city," Gadlin said. "On April 1 we expect to be joined by a number of sectors facing budget cuts, layoffs, social-service cuts, university closure and people seeing a reduction of health-care benefits for low-income, immigrant and working-class people. We intend to shut the city down on April 1 — and we are organizing to do so."

Union President Karen Lewis referred to it as a "showdown" last week.

The Service Employees International Union's Healthcare Illinois immediately lined up behind the teachers.

"SEIU Healthcare Illinois is proud to stand in solidarity with the Chicago Teachers Union and the April 1 day of action," said Executive Vice President Greg Kelley. "Just like the teachers, the tens of thousands of nursing-home workers, home health-care workers and child-care workers who we represent find themselves under attack at the bargaining table by Gov. Bruce Rauner and greedy nursing-home owners who refuse to honor their dignity.

"Workers from all industries, professions and trades need to stand together now to restore labor peace in Illinois and to continue to preserve the hard-fought rights that created the Illinois middle class," Kelley added.

Anders Lindall, spokesman for the AFSCME Council 31 public-service union in Chicago, said Wednesday that the Facebook post was the first he'd heard of the plans for the day of action, and he wasn't yet prepared to comment on it. "But we fully support the CTU, its members and their efforts to secure a fair contract, of course," he added.

Earlier in the day, Mayor Rahm Emanuel expressed little concern about the "day of action" and urged teachers and students to stay in school, saying a new contract between teachers and CPS was close at hand.

"I believe time in school is essential for our children, and adults need to be at the bargaining table," Emanuel said in a news conference at CTA Headquarters.

"We have a very, in my view, good agreement between the [union] leadership and Chicago Public Schools leadership," Emanuel said. "And we're still at the table working through an agreement I think is a win for Chicago teachers, a win for the taxpayers and most important a win for our kids," he said.

"I believe in staying at that table working through those issues, rolling up your sleeves and coming to an agreement," Emanuel added. "I believe kids belong in school learning."

CPS presented what even union officials called a "serious" offer in January, but the union's bargaining committee rejected it unanimously last month, saying the district couldn't be trusted.

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