On April 1, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) collaborated with numerous other education, labor, and activist organizations to carry out a citywide “Day of Action.” The CTU authorized the one-day strike in response to what CTU President Karen Lewis called “unacceptable labor conditions.”
The day of action began with picket lines at numerous CPS schools; at Ray Elementary in Hyde Park, CTU picketers were joined by members of the University of Chicago’s Graduate Students United, as well as by supportive undergraduates and faculty from the UofC.
“I think it’s so exciting that UofC people are out here to show support for public education,” said Gabriel Sheridan, a second-grade teacher at Ray who has been at the school for eighteen years. “That’s so powerful. There was a united movement back in the day that gained momentum, and it fizzled out, but now people have regrouped.”
“We’re fighting for fair funding above all,” said Chandra Garcia, who teaches third grade at Ray. “All kids should be able to receive the same resources. It’s that simple.” Garcia noted that Ray has “almost ninety-nine percent” union participation.
Pickets continued across the city throughout the morning before giving way to a series of protests, speak-outs, and teach-ins that addressed much more than just working conditions for teachers. The various actions on the South Side alone protested mass incarceration, low wages for fast food workers, tax-increment financing (TIF) allocation, cuts to higher education, the lack of a state budget, and layoffs at the Marquette Park Nabisco plant. The picket that began at Benito Juarez High School in Pilsen ended with a two-mile march to the Cook County Jail, where there was later a protest against the school-to-prison pipeline led by Enlace Chicago. The Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization (KOCO) led its own “Day of Action” events at Mount Carmel Baptist Church in Bronzeville. BYP100 led a two-hour teach-in at Chicago State University that was followed by a rally protesting the imminent closure of the school.
The day of action culminated in a rally at the Thompson Center, attended by thousands, with speeches by representatives from BYP 100, Assata’s Daughters, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), McDonald’s workers, and students at CPS, as well as Karen Lewis and Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr. Signs at the rally declared that CPS had gone “broke on purpose” and urged Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Governor Bruce Rauner, and CPS CEO Forrest Claypool not to disinvest in Chicago’s schools.
“I’m trying to send a message by being here: that I shouldn’t have to fight for what is mine,” said Bethany Pickens, a teacher in attendance at the rally. Pickens teaches at Kenwood Academy. “I’m a product of CPS, and a second-generation music education teacher at CPS. I can tell you, we need the opportunity to do our job to the fullest….We’re in front of the children, we know what they need.”
When the rally concluded, protesters marched east on Wacker Drive, before heading down Michigan Avenue, then onto Lake Shore Drive. The march continued into the evening.*