Marxist Ties of the Chicago Teachers Union Exposed

“What the CTU Strike Teaches Us about the Fight for a Better World” was a featured theme of last month’s Midwest Marxist Conference, held at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. (Document link was available here, but apparently the Chicago Socialists site is down. As of this posting, the document can be accessed here.)

The conference notice insisted, “Chicago teachers…refused to give in to Rahm Emanuel’s attack on labor and public education. Instead, they built solidarity with community activists against racism and inequality.”

We’ll recall that Mayor Emanuel struck a deal in August to hire nearly 500 more Chicago teachers in non-core subjects from a pool of laid off teachers to lengthen the school day (artificially) without adding hours to teachers’ work days. Never mind that the deal added some $50 million to the Chicago Public Schools’ (CPS) $665 million budget hole—not to mention the $338 million in pension back payments it still owes.

As for the mayor’s “attack” on “public” education, what he actually said was, “I will not accept our children continuing to get the shaft.”  Specifically, “Fifty percent of our kids graduate. Scores haven’t moved.”

The Marxist conference notice also states that the CTU’s “nine-day strike drove back the school privatization agenda & showed the way for a democratic, fighting union to take on the bosses and politicians of either party.”

Democratic? The average Chicago teacher earns $76,450, nearly a third more than the typical private sector worker in the surrounding Cook County. Teachers can retire at age 60 with an annual pension equal to 75 percent of their highest average salary.

In this proletariat gone mad, this means a teacher who retired in 2010 after 30 years of service receives a starting annual pension of $60,000 with continuous annual raises. Who pays for this generosity? Mostly private-sector workers for whom retirement at age 60 is a utopian pipe dream.

The Marixist conference notice concluded, “This public forum will feature teachers and activists and look at what the CTU struggle shows us about the power of working-class people to challenge the profit system and what it will take to rebuild a fighting workers’ movement capable of building a better world.

Remind me, wasn’t the CTU strike—as so many labor union strikes are—about money?

Mayor Emanuel decided to cancel a deal offering teachers 4 percent raises because in previous years they had already received two other negotiated raises. Teachers, he said, had already gotten a “gold mine.”  Further, “People in public life got labor peace. Can anybody explain to me what the children got? I know what everybody else got.”

And speaking of money, an express purpose of the Marxist conference was to raise funds for the Chicago Socialists (site down as of this posting). That may help explain why the event was held at a private university where capitalists spend tens of thousands of dollars each year so their children can get a degree. And, Haymarket Books set up shop to sell—not give away—revolutionary reading material.

Since the conference, CTU members have demurred about their participation and their connection with the International Socialist Organization (ISO), which has its national office in Chicago.

Living in a free society means individuals may choose their beliefs and affiliations. Individuals should have the courage of their convictions to state those beliefs and affiliations publicly, but that’s not required.

Individuals in a free society, however, are not entitled to the earnings of others—specifically, generous guaranteed government-sector wages and benefits paid for by private-sector workers. Overall, 13 percent of American workers are represented by unions (11 percent actually belong to unions). Public sector unionization is on the rise, increasing from 23 percent in 1973 to 37 percent in 2011. Meanwhile, private-sector unionization is at an historic low, dropping from 24 percent to just below 7 percent over the same period.

This means the many are subsidizing the generous benefits and pay of the few, including wage increases for Chicago teachers amounting to 19 to 46 percent in their previous five-year contract, depending on the number of years teaching. Over the same period, by the way, the cost of living increased 10 percent.

If the Chicago Socialists and their affiliates at the ISO get their way, they’ll be able to hitch their troika to this gravy train, too. As a bonus, they’ll have greater influence over some 405,000 students in Chicago Public Schools, meaning politicized activism will likely trump academics. (See, for example, here and here.)

The Revolution Will Not Be Standardized,” proclaimed CTU President Karen Lewis during the strike—a phrase that has become the rallying cry of the Marxist conference-goers and supporters. But a standardized revolutionary—and schooling—model is exactly what they want for Chicago and the rest of the country.



Vicki E, Alger is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute and Senior Fellow and Director of the Women for School Choice Project at the Independent Women’s Forum. She is the author of the Independent book, Failure: The Federal Misedukation of America’s Children.
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