Chicago teachers strike: In ’31, school board just stopped paying teachers

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If the Chicago teachers strike, now in its second day, seems contentious, perhaps it’s worth looking back to the summer of 1931.

That’s when the school board stopped paying teachers in cash, defaulted on 24 payrolls and offered to pay teachers in scrip instead.

As Dominic A. Pacyga recounts in his 2009 book, Chicago: A Biography, businesses by September were giving Chicago’s 14,000 teachers only pennies on the dollar for their nearly worthless paper. Teachers passed out in classrooms due to a lack of food.

“Finally, the circuit court stopped the payment system after a lawsuit by the Chicago Teachers’ Federation,” Pacyga wrote. “Payless paydays followed.”

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