The members of the Graduate Employees Organization (GEO), Illinois Federation of Teachers Local 6300, AFL-CIO, stand in solidarity with the members of the Chicago Teachers Union, Illinois Federation of Teachers Local 1, Chicago Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, in their historic strike against the Chicago Public Schools.
GEO members applaud Chicago Teachers Union members’ courageous decision to stage a major strike in an election year, and pledge our support to their efforts to win a fair contract. The GEO calls on the Chicago Public Schools and Mayor Rahm Emanuel to end their shameful attacks on Chicago’s students, parents, and working teachers, and work in good faith toward a fair contract for Chicago Teachers.
The GEO agrees with Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis that the CTU struggle is for the “very soul of public education” in this country. The Chicago Teachers made the decision to strike as a demand that high quality public education be made accessible to all K-12 students in the Chicago Public Schools, regardless of racial, geographic, and/or economic circumstances.
Members of the GEO understand that witholding labor is vitally important as a tool in collective bargaining. It was only by authorizing and then carrying out one of the five largest work stoppages in the United States in 2009 that the GEO was able to secure any reasonable concessions from the University of Illinois Board of Trustees in our current 2009-2012 contract.
As leaders in the struggle for justice and equitable public higher education in the United States, we commend the CTU’s decision to withhold their labor for a contract that protects reasonable class sizes, ensures that all students have access to high quality instruction, protects teachers against discrimination, and promotes the recruitment, retention, and fair compensation of working teachers in Chicago.
Mayor Emanuel says that the Chicago Teachers have acted unreasonably, claiming the the strike is harmful to Chicago students’ education. Nothing can be farther from the truth: it is the Chicago Public School’s refusal to bargain fairly with the CTU that hurts students. We in the GEO know from experience that the decision to strike is never easy. But when other options have been exhausted, striking to protect the future of public education in Chicago and the United States is in the best interest of students, families, teachers, and other Chicago Public Schools employees. We see no greater evidence of this fact than the presence of working parents and students on the picket lines in solidarity with their teachers.
High quality public education only works when students, teachers, parents, and administrators work together for the future of our schools. We in the GEO applaud the CTU’s stand for their student’s futures, and condemn the efforts of the mayor of Chicago, and the Republican and Democratic Parties, to pit Chicago students and teachers against each other for their own political gain.
As teaching employees of a public research University, and as fellow members of the Illinois and American Federation of Teachers, we know that labor solidarity in education is necessary to protect the future of high quality and accessible public education at all levels. We join our sister union, the Graduate Employees Organization at the University of Illinois, Chicago, in urging the people of Chicago and Illinois to support the Chicago Teachers Union in any way that they can.
The Chicago Teachers Union strike is a bold stand for the future of public education and public employee unions not only in Chicago, but in the whole United States. The members of the GEO pledge our solidarity and support to the Chicago Teachers Union.
The members of the Graduate Employees Organization, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
The Graduate Employees Organization, AFT/IFT Local 6300, AFL-CIO, The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, represents approximately 2,700 Teaching and Graduate Assistants on the UIUC Campus. In November 2009, over 1,000 GEO members successfully went on strike to secure a fair contract for graduate employees and a more accessible UIUC. The GEO continues to work for justice and equity in public higher education in Illinois. For more information, please contact GEO Communications Officer Ryne Leuzinger at email@example.com.