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Labor Groups Fall In Line Behind Teacher Union's Day Of Action

By Ted Cox | March 25, 2016 7:02pm
 The Chicago Teachers Union plans a one-day walkout April 1, but who will join in?
The Chicago Teachers Union plans a one-day walkout April 1, but who will join in?
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DNAinfo/Michelle Gavin

RIVER NORTH — Local labor groups are lining up behind the Chicago Teachers Union in its declared "day of action" next Friday.

SEIU Healthcare Illinois expressed its support Thursday, along with faculty and college staffers at Chicago State University, Northeastern Illinois University and the University of Illinois at Chicago's United Faculty. A union representing Chicago charter schools and the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 308, representing CTA employees, also lined up in support.

Most of those groups, however, were not committing to join teachers in a one-day strike April 1, but rather were supporting their aims in the day of action.

According to sources, some local college professors were planning to join the daylong Chicago Teachers Union strike, while others were planning to join in a union event Downtown later in the day.

"At NEIU we are taking a day of action and will be walking with and supporting CTU. We will not be on strike or on furlough that day," said Professor Sophia Mihic, the University Professionals of Illinois president at Northeastern. Yet she added that "the entire university" will be participating in a campus event at 10 a.m., running until 12:30 or 1 p.m. and leading to protesters boarding buses to a march downtown at the Thompson Center at 4.

"April 1 is not just about CTU," Mihic said. "It is a statewide day of action to bring attention to Gov. [Bruce] Rauner's refusal to fund vital public services including public universities and K-12 in Chicago."

"It's my understanding that a number of persons from CSU will go downtown for the CTU event," said Chicago State union President Bob Bionaz. "I don't have an exact count, but there should be at least 50-75 UPI members from CSU at the CTU day of action."

Unionized teachers at Chicago charter schools reacted similarly. "We are not asking our members to walk out, but we are have been working with the CTU and allies on how we will participate," said Chris Baehrend, vice president of a union local representing local charter teachers.

Baehrend expressed solidarity with the aims of the day of action. "The policies of the governor and mayor are putting our students' futures at risk," he said. "Our students are almost all low-income persons of color, and the injustices they face because of poverty and racism are exacerbated by cuts to services for the most needy. We need revenue solutions to this crisis. The wealthy need to pay their fair share!"

"Our union is in support of the union activities that are gonna take place on April 1," said Kenneth Franklin, president of the CTA union local, on Friday. "My members will not be striking. We will support our labor brothers and sisters with our presence at events and just in spirit."

Franklin called it "a very important event for labor, for solidarity," adding, "I just hope that the powers that be take notice of how serious this is."

Those groups were joined Friday by fast-food workers aligned with the Fight for $15 movement to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, and some of them were planning to engage in the walkout.

"I’m going on strike for the first time on April 1 because McDonald’s needs to pay their fair share to the economy," said Tatiana De La Cruz, a McDonald’s worker and a student at Wright College. “At $10 an hour, I shouldn't be on public assistance. There shouldn't be such a thing as ‘the working poor.'"

Fight for $15 claims more than half of all state fast-food workers are on some form of public assistance, at an annual cost of $368 million to the cash-strapped Illinois government. For that reason, it's joining the strike, which the Chicago Teachers Union insists is aimed at state funding and the crisis management at Mayor Rahm Emanuel's appointed Board of Education, not its own collective-bargaining agreement, which is still in negotiations.

Fight for $15 organizers said they don't yet have a sense of how many fast-food workers will take part in an actual walkout, but they expect it to be significant.

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