At the end of a long day of citywide protests and picketing, the Chicago Teachers Union and a range of other labor groups rallied outside the governor’s downtown office to pressure him into funding education across Illinois.
The second teacher strike in four years began with the CTU — angry about budget cuts, unpaid furlough days and insufficient funding for schools. But it morphed into a larger labor demonstration.
Meanwhile, Chicago Public Schools, which sheltered about 7,000 of the 340,000 students affected by a strike it considered illegal, asked a state board to make the CTU pay for all damages, including legal costs the district incurred during the “Fight for Funding.”
Downtown turned into a sea of red as teachers and supporters from Fight for $15, public colleges and slashed healthcare services packed the plaza at Clark and Randolph streets, in front of the Thompson Center, following their own protests all around Chicago. They carried signs blasting Gov. Bruce Rauner and Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
“This is what happens when we stop fighting each other and know who our real enemies are,” CTU president Karen Lewis said, calling Rauner a “terrorist.”
“For every single working person in this entire state, somebody’s got to lead the way. It happened to fall to CTU,” Lewis said.
In a statement, Rauner called the strike “shameful” for making Chicago’s children “victims in this raw display of political power. … Walking out on kids in the classroom, leaving parents in the lurch and thumbing their nose at taxpayers — it’s the height of arrogance from those we’ve entrusted with our children’s futures.”
As the teachers union welcomed other labor groups and activists into the unprecedented one-day strike to “shut it down,” it contended with competing agendas of other participants, including the Black Young Project 100 — whose members wouldn’t quit marching until they had halted traffic on Lake Shore Drive and most major streets in the Loop at Friday rush hour.
Thousands of protesters filled Wacker Drive, Michigan Avenue and Monroe Street. The bulk of the teachers stopped at Grant Park, but some followed marchers from Black Youth Project 100 to Lake Shore Drive. A few hundred protesters halted traffic on that thoroughfare, but police quickly corralled them, hooking their bicycles together to shove people chanting on the expressway back onto the sidewalk.
Three were arrested at Monroe and Lake Shore; a fourth person was ticketed, Chicago Police said.
CPS continued to call the strike illegal, and Friday, the district filed a complaint with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board, seeking to have the strike declared not legal because it happened before a fact-finding process wraps up.
“There has to be accountability for blatantly breaking the law,” CPS CEO Forrest Claypool said Friday at a news conference. “…CTU leadership can’t at their own whim say we’re going to shut down the schools without following the law. We have to know and have an order going forward that, yes, this is not acceptable.”
Claypool wants the CTU to pay all damages incurred because of the strike, including the board’s legal fees. CPS also wants an order prohibiting all future strikes from happening unless fact-finding is done. Claypool didn’t have an estimate of how much the strike cost to CPS and other agencies.
The union and school district are scheduled to return to the bargaining table on Monday. The fact-finder’s report will go public on April 16. If CPS and CTU both agree with his recommendations, those recommendations will become the new contract. If not, the CTU could strike for real one month later.
CTU spokeswoman Stephanie Gadlin said the union disagreed with the complaint. “This was a one-day job action. Their charges were filed after the fact and they seek to enjoin us from doing something we have no intention of doing again,” Gadlin said.
The strike began with the union hitting picket lines early Friday morning outside CPS schools, saying the controversial strike is vital to draw attention to a lack of adequate funding.
Outside Amundsen High School, which was left open as a contingency site for students on the North Side, about 40 teachers picketed Friday morning. Several said they’d much prefer to be in their classrooms teaching, but that they were taking a bigger-picture view of the state of education in the city.
“I know it’s an inconvenience for the day, but you want these kids to come into schools that are funded,” said Sean Reidy, the orchestra director at Amundsen. “You don’t even want to know about strings for the instruments and how we keep that going.”
Another Amundsen teacher, Jim Doyiakos, said: “We’re trying to show the parents that in order for their kids to get the proper education, the schools have to be properly supported financially.”
A sampling of tweets from the strike: