In Defense of Public Education
A coalition of community groups and labor unions kicked off a campaign to defend public education on December 9, with more than 100 events in 36 states. Thousands of parents, teachers, school support staff and students participated in what was the largest coordinated protest on behalf of public education in recent memory. In New York City, the United Federation of Teachers and several allied community groups gathered 500 students, parents and educators to celebrate the end of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s term in office.
Participants in the Dec. 9 actions called for reinvestment in public school systems that have been devastated by budget cuts in recent years and for an end to the overemphasis on standardized testing. The protests were mentioned in more than 120 local and national press outlets.
“We know that the market-based ideologies of privatization, austerity, division and competition are failing our children,” the Reclaim the Promise of Public Education coalition said on its website. “We want to reclaim our schools and improve public education for all.”
Reclaim the Promise is backed by the American Federation of Teachers (the PSC’s national affiliate), the National Education Association (NEA), Service Employees International Union (SEIU), as well as a number of grassroots civic groups. The coalition has vowed to follow up on the December 9 day of action with multi-city and multi-state campaigns and larger actions in the spring.
Seattle City Council Member: Fire Your Bosses
When machinists at a giant Boeing aircraft manufacturing plant in Everett, Washington, recently rejected company demands for massive give-backs by a 2-1 margin. Boeing threatened to move production to a non-union locale with lower wages. At a machinists rally days later in downtown Seattle, newly elected socialist City Councilmember Kshama Sawant described Boeing’s threat as “economic terrorism” and suggested that workers be ready to act if Boeing should try to follow through on its threat.
“The only response we can have if Boeing executives do not agree to keep the plant here is for the machinists to say, ‘The machines are here, the workers are here. We will do the job, we don’t need the executives,’” Sawant said. “The executives don’t do the work, the machinists do. The workers should take over the factories and shut down Boeing’s profit-making machine.”
Machinists at the rally responded with enthusiastic applause.
Central Labor Council Kicks Democrats to the Curb in Ohio
When Democratic officials in Lorain, Ohio, broke an agreement that city contracts be 75% staffed by unionized, local workers, local labor leaders fumed. When Lorain’s new mayor personally participated as a scab in breaking a sanitation workers’ strike, it was the final straw in this heavily unionized corner of northeastern Ohio. Instead of endorsing Democrats, the Lorain County Central Labor Council ran its own slate of two dozen city council candidates in several area towns. All but two of the candidates on the Independent Labor Party ticket prevailed, Labor Notes reported.
“This is just a first step, but we will be taking many together in the future,” said Josh Thornsberry, a union teacher who defeated the president of the Lorain County Chamber of Commerce to win a council seat.
Strike Vote at UI Chicago
After 15 months of fruitless negotiations, faculty at the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) have voted to authorize a strike if contract talks remain at an impasse. Nearly 80% of union members participated in the vote with 95% voting to authorize a strike. Bargaining will continue into January with a federal mediator. The faculty are seeking better pay for non-tenure track professors and a shared governance role in the university’s decision-making process.