In 2012, the Chicago Teachers Union waged a successful strike that revived the lessons of social justice unionism and taught educators around the country that it was possible to beat back the corporate education reform agenda. This strike was the opening salvo for much of the recent uprising around the country against the privatization of education, for the resources our schools need, and against the abuses of high-stakes testing.
When I heard that the Chicago Teacher’s Union (CTU) members started a social media campaign to explain why they were voting once again to authorize a strike, I knew I had to find Sarah Chambers’ video.
Sarah is special education teacher for Chicago Public Schools, and serves as the elementary functional VP for CTU executive board. She is an author who published an essay about the testing boycott she helped to lead in the anthology I edited, More Than a Score: The New Uprising Against High-Stakes Testing. She has been a tireless advocate for social justice education and a relentless defender of her students from the embattled Chicago Mayor, Rahm “The School Yard Bully” Emanuel.
I asked Sarah to explain to me the context of the strike vote and she told me,
Chicago Public Schools are trying to cut teachers pay by 12%, raise class sizes, cut 5,000 teachers, raise health care costs, removal of steps and lanes and cut teacher pensions. CTU is refusing to accept these proposals. CTU is demanding small class sizes, freeze on healthcare costs, reduction in standardized testing, removal of k-2nd testing, maintaining steps and lanes, restorative justice programs, etc. The strike authorization vote is Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. After the authorization is approved with over 75% of our membership voting yes, the CTU house of delegates votes on whether we go out on strike. According to Illinois law, we would probably not be striking until the end of March or April, which is testing season.
With the strike vote set to begin Wednesday, Sarah lays out why the Chicago teachers, once again, must be prepared to strike for the school that Chicago students and teachers deserve:
To Sarah and to all of the Chicago educators: We who believe in social justice stand with you. Solidarity!