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Teachers Union's Allies Join Plans For 'Day Of Action' Friday

By Ted Cox | March 31, 2016 11:53am | Updated on March 31, 2016 4:17pm
 A skeleton in graduation cap and gown bears a sign reading,
A skeleton in graduation cap and gown bears a sign reading, "Stop killing public education," at a Loop teacher protest earlier this year.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

DOWNTOWN — Unions, neighborhood groups, fast-food workers and fellow educators have set battle plans to join the Chicago Teachers Union's "day of action" Friday.

The teachers union set its plans earlier this week, and groups that had already expressed their solidarity began releasing their plans Thursday to team up at protest sites.

Teachers insist their so-called day of action is not aimed at getting a new contract with Chicago Public Schools, but rather is an attack on Gov. Bruce Rauner and his budget impasse with the General Assembly, as well as the overall lack of adequate education funding. That's why college educators, health-care workers and others affected by a cutoff in state funding brought on by the budget battle have joined Friday's protests.

 Gov. Bruce Rauner and the state budget impasse are prime targets of the Chicago Teachers Union's
Gov. Bruce Rauner and the state budget impasse are prime targets of the Chicago Teachers Union's "day of action."
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who is also a target of protests for the crisis management of his appointed Board of Education, actually expressed sympathy with the aims of the day of action Wednesday.

"I share those concerns," Emanuel said of inadequate state education funding. Yet he warned, "Do not take it out on our students" by striking and depriving them a day in class.

That fell on deaf ears at the teachers union, which distributed picket signs to members Wednesday afternoon shortly after Emanuel made those statements. Union President Karen Lewis set a Friday itinerary stating that she'd join the King High School picket line at 4445 S. Drexel Blvd. at 8:30 a.m., followed by joining Beasley Elementary School picketers at 5255 S. State St. at 9 a.m., then a Chicago State University rally at noon at 9501 S. King Drive.

Lewis will then lead a rally at the Thompson Center at 4 p.m., the focal point of the day's citywide protests, and an ensuing Downtown march intended to snarl Loop traffic and — in the teachers union's phrase — "shut it down."

CPS Chief Executive Officer Forrest Claypool repeated Thursday that students would be welcome at almost 300 "contingency sites" Friday, including more than 100 schools, 80 branch libraries, 80 Park District locations and 120 Safe Haven operations (open all day rather than just for afterschool care). Registration was suggested through the website CPS has set up, but Claypool said no student would be turned away.

"We've been through this before," said Park District Supt. Mike Kelly, referring to the 2012 teacher strike.

Children will be fed at the sites, and the library is relaxing its food policies for the day while having snacks delivered by the Chicago Food Depository.

The CTA will offer free rides to students from 5:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. while operating normal weekday service.

CPS has already determined Friday will not be a student attendance day, but Chief Education Officer Janice Jackson said, "We welcome teachers who want to work," at one of the 107 open schools, which otherwise will be staffed by employees from CPS' Central Offices. She said they would be paid, while striking teachers are not, but she added, "We will not seek mass discipline against the rank-and-file teachers."

Claypool called the day of action "illegal" and labeled it a "wildcat strike," but basically threw up his hands at halting it, stating that Lewis had already said the union would not obey an injunction even if the district got a judge to sign off on one.

Striking CPS teachers will be joined at the Thompson Center by charter teachers as well. The unionized Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff said Thursday charters face the same money crunch as schools directly under CPS control.

"The future of Chicago’s schoolchildren and their families are impacted due to the policies on the table that will continue to have drastic negative results at schools, decrease in funding and an increased cut to social service programs,” said Brian Harris, president of the local charter union. “Our students will not be able to reach their full potential and not have a real chance to seek higher levels of educational attainment after graduation because of these policies."

The state budget impasse has led to a cutoff of college funding at state schools, with Chicago State University and Northeastern Illinois University feeling the impact. Educators at those schools will join colleagues statewide in protests Friday.

"The consequences of Gov. Rauner’s failure to fund critical programs is extending into every corner of our state, and we’re standing up together this week to say enough is enough,” said John Miller, president of the University Professionals of Illinois and a professor at Western Illinois University. “What we see happening in Chicago is unfortunately not unique to the big city. The governor’s vetoes and irresponsible refusal to pass a budget until legislators give in to his political demands have created a serious crisis.

"We are proud to stand together on this day of action and send a strong message to Gov. Rauner," Miller added. "It’s time to fund our future, not reward the most wealthy while everyone else suffers."

 CPS CEO Forrest Claypool labeled the
CPS CEO Forrest Claypool labeled the "day of action" a "wildcat strike," but Chief Education Officer Janice Jackson (r.) said striking teachers would not be subjected to mass discipline.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

Northeastern plans a teach-in and a New Orleans-style funeral for higher education at 10 a.m. at 550 N. St. Louis Ave. Chicago State plans a noon rally with Black Youth Project 100 at the Student Union, 9501 S. King Drive. And the University of Illinois at Chicago holds a rally on the Quadrangle at 1200 W. Harrison St. City College teachers hold a rally at their union local, 208 W. Kinzie St., at 3 p.m. — all those events leading toward the rally Downtown at 4.

"When our students graduate, they deserve robust public universities, not closed colleges and massive layoffs,” said Chris Baehrend, vice president of the charter union. “Our students deserve quality, living wages of at least $15 per hour and the advantages a unionized workplace can provide."

Fight for $15, a group pushing for a $15 minimum wage, said it was rallying fast-food workers to observe a one-day strike Friday, and it planned to team up with teachers' protests on the North and South sides at high schools and universities.

On the North Side, Fight for $15 planned to join a 6:30 a.m. news conference at Roosevelt High School, 3426 W. Wilson Ave., with striking teachers and supportive Chicago Public Schools parents and students and nursing-home and airport workers, as well as state Rep. Jaime Andrade (D-Chicago).

They'll move on to a 9:30 a.m. protest at the North Park CTA Garage and a McDonald's at 3154 W. Foster Ave., followed by joining the Northeastern Illinois University protest at 10:30 a.m. at 5500 N. St. Louis Ave.

On the South Side, fast-food workers will join Chicago State University students and faculty and home-care and child-care workers at 6:30 a.m. at Harlan High School, 9652 S. Michigan Ave., before moving on to a McDonald's at 36 W. 95th St. at 9:30 a.m., followed by joining the Chicago State protest at the Student Union, 9501 S. King Drive, at 10 a.m.

SEIU Healthcare Illinois, a branch of the Service Employees International Union that says its members have been harmed by a state cutoff in home-care payments, announced Wednesday it would join a protest at the Illinois Department of Human Services, 401 S. Clinton Ave., at 3 p.m., followed by a trip to the Thompson Center.

The group also plans to join protests at Roosevelt, Harlan and Bogan high schools, as well as march from Montefiore Elementary, 1310 S. Ashland Ave., to Bank of America offices Downtown. Nursing-home workers will also rally at noon at Ambassador Nursing and Rehab, 4900 N. Bernard St.

Activist community groups are joining in too. The Logan Square Neighborhood Association plans to meet up with supportive elected officials at 2:15 p.m. at 2840 N. Milwaukee Ave. for a march to Logan Square's Centennial Monument at Milwaukee and Kedzie Avenue at 3 p.m. The group then plans to board the CTA Blue Line, as all protests lead toward a mass rally at 4 p.m. at the Thompson Center, 100 W. Randolph St., followed by the march to shut down Downtown.

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