Chicago Students Mass Action Backs AFT1600 Teachers
Strike Union Tops Worried About "Embarrassing Mayor"
I WENT TO THE STUDENT demonstration at City Hall Thurs. morning. There
were at least 3-400 students, and they were quite outspoken and loud in
demanding, "Fair contract! for our teachers" and "Education, not
intimidation". When I left about noon, there were 35-40 students
prepared to sit down in Daley's office with their own list of demands:
1. Fair contract for teachers. 2. Resume classes with that contract. 3.
No retribution against students for supporting the teachers. 4. Make up
all lost classwork.
Later on Thursday, I was told that they had indeed sat down and that CCC's
administration had called the Local 1600 president and offered to meet
and negotiate immediately IF they got the students to stop their sit
in. It appears that the administration and powers-that-be fear the
unwashed student masses far more than the teachers!
This pressure by CCC's administration found ready ears in Local 1600's
leadership. That leadership then pressured the students to give up their
sit-in at Daley's office ... in support of the strikers.
The reason given was: we don't want to embarrass the mayor. But the mayor
appointed the very people who demanded the cuts and continued unfair
treatment that triggered the strike!?! Duh. Push out your allies to embrace
your enemy. Might get a few extra brownie points with the boss, but it
undermines the very allies strikers need to stand against a ruthless
opponent. Short sighted? Oh, yes.
This reflects the continued hold of old, insider, politics; prioritizing the
connection with the rulers through the back door. This elitist politics
undermines and kills real unity with students and fellow workers. They
didn't want to 'embarrass the Mayor' so they withdrew their support for the
student sit in. That meant the students were at the mercy of the cops and
judges -hung out to dry so they had to leave. How can they stay if their
allies say, "Go. Don't embarrass the Boss man!" How discouraging is that for
those who see the need to fight together? It says, "We'll drop you when the
fight begins to embarrass the Boss." The whole point of fighting is to
weaken, to undermine your opponents and strengthen your side.
This 'insider politics' seen here places first priority on not upsetting the
very political source of our common problems- the Mayor and his corporate
backers who put the players in office and set their corporate path of
privatization, union busting, outsourcing, raising tuition, etc. Tryee and
Watson are part of that network; the mayor and his City Council appoint the
very Board that hires Chancellor Watson and oversees the demand for cuts
that causes the strike!
Local 1600's leadership sacrificing allies to appease our common enemy is
the slippery slope to defeat. This 'new' leadership is following the 'old
politics' that led to their withering away to about 1/2 of the credit
classes and their arrogant treatment of most CCC teachers and staff.
Until there is a break from such politics, AFT 1600 will be saddled with an
unbearable burden, and we will all be the weaker. There are 1600 members who
can grasp and act on this. We should give them all the support and
encouragement we can muster. We all share a major adversary. This old-boy,
insider politics hurts us all.
The intimidation in the students' chant refers to CCC administrators
pressuring students and threatening them with failing grades if the
don't show up in classes. This is similar to the threats we've all
received as workers in CCC from the administration. It's all part of a
corporate war plan to isolate and defeat the strikers. If they go down,
just imagine what's in store for the rest of us when our contracts come
due in the next 21 months.
The fact is that we can all walk the picket line with signs that
identify us as co-workers DURING LUNCH OR OUTSIDE WORKING HOURS. We
have a responsibility to make sure that all students know what the
strike issues are. According to union fliers and my conversations on
the picket line, the following are key:
Is it too corny to think of the three little pigs and the wolf here?
Let's build for the winter that CCC adminstration has in store for us.
The support we give them can be the mortar that makes the bricks into a
solid dwelling, one strong and large enough for us all. If we have
grudges against them and their union, we can let them know that on the
picket line. Maybe hearing our reality will help them to change their
behaviour and their union!
- Limit health care costs so they don't cause a net pay cut.
- Pay nursing instructors for all 12 hours they teach clinical
classes, not the current 6 hours.
- A sizeable pay raise for the part-time professional like tutors and
lab assistants who currently get between $7- $11.50/hr. The union wants
$3/hr; CCC offers $0.25/hr.
- Pay for all time worked.
Don't sit back during this battle; doing nothing lets the
administration isolate and demoralize them. If our strongest neighbor
goes down, will the bully then choose to ignore the weaker sisters, us?
Earl Silbar, adult educator, Truman College