Attacking the Chicago Teachers' Union

August 19, 2016

What is hailed as another potential victory for Mayor Rahm Emmanuel in his fight against the Chicago teachers is of concern to the entire workers’ movement, as well as all of the students and adults in the country. 

The mayor of Chicago and the Chicago public school district have made another proposal to increase the expenses of the teachers. The proposal is a demand for contractual givebacks which slash district support for teachers’ pensions and demand teachers pay out of their wages to cover the difference. It would not only be a further intolerable deduction from the teacher’s wages but also a reversal of fortune for all teachers and workers across the country with an interest in defending guarantees for a retirement annuity to secure against the risks of old age. 

In Chicago, the plan for supporting the teachers’ pension works by means of the joint support of the state and the community. A portion of the teachers’ base pay is withdrawn and set aside as a contribution as well, to cover a part of the cost of the future retirement annuity. 

Pensions are a differential of teachers’ wages. They are itemized differently on each teacher’s paycheck to accommodate the fact that the teacher will not collect that part of his/her wage until certain agreed upon conditions as to age and length of service are met. 

Just like in the private sector, the employer is entrusted with these sums in the belief that the employer will not violate its contractual obligations in that regard. There is no real guarantee in either the public or private sector that they will do so – the agreement is taken in good faith and if violated the only recourse the workers have is to band together and withhold their labor until the employer is compelled to fulfill its end of the bargain. However, in the case of the executive branch, there is the additional fact that when the employer violates these contractual obligations it is violating not only its agreement with its employees, but also its fiduciary responsibility to keep the hands of its officials out of the cookie jar.

In order to give themselves a free hand to rob the pension funds of their employees the government bureaucrats are attacking the teachers’ union. Fraud is perpetrated against the teachers in the context of bad faith negotiations. The monopoly-owned media adds salt to the teachers’ wounds by carrying out a blockade of silence about the actual conditions of the schools. No mention is ever made of the conditions of understaffing and job instability. Not to mention the failure of the government at all levels to fulfill its minimum responsibility to provide adequate investment in public education. 

The teachers must build up the conscious and organized strength of their rank and file and appeal for support to the working class and people themselves.