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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:

  1. Limit health care costs so they don't cause a net pay cut.
  2. Pay nursing instructors for all  12 hours they teach clinical classes, not the current 6 hours.
  3. 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.
  4. Pay for all time worked.
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!

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?

in solidarity,

Earl Silbar, adult educator, Truman College

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