News & Commentary

October 18, 2019

More than 30,000 Chicago public school teachers and support staff walked out of classrooms yesterday, in the latest stage of teacher strikes since successful teachers strikes in West Virginia and Kentucky kicked off the #RedforEd movement early last year. CTU teachers are joined by more than 7,500 Chicago Public Schools classroom assistants for students with disabilities, custodians, and bus aides represented by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 73 who also went on strike yesterday. According to SEIU, the median income for CPS support staff workers is just $35,360—in a city where a worker would need at least $48,480 to afford a two-bedroom apartment. The city cancelled classes, closing the nation’s third-largest public school district, as teachers and support staff hit picket lines and polling shows that more Chicagoans and public school parents approve of the strike than don’t.

As Annie explained yesterday, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) announced that their goals include “for a 15% pay raise over three years, limits on class sizes, and more counselors and nurses in schools.” Teachers are also seeking an investment in affordable housing—at a time that over 16,000 Chicago students are homeless. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot promised in her campaign to invest in social workers, nurses, and support for students with disabilities—but, according to Vox, negotiations have faltered because teachers want the city to put those commitments in writing in their collective bargaining contract.

Chicago is just the latest example of teachers’ unions “bargaining for the common good,” an increasingly common approach to bargaining in which unions aim to use the bargaining process to support shared labor-community goals that advance worker and citizen power. At the American Prospect, education journalist Rachel M. Cohen explains how teachers unions have been pioneering bargaining for the common good—since Chicago teachers’ demanded more public services while on strike in 2012.

Los Angeles Times workers reached an agreement with management on Wednesday, after more than a year of negotiations. The proposed agreement provides immediate 5% for many newsroom employees, with some seeing larger pay increases, then steady 2.5% pay raises in the second and third years of the three-year agreement. According to the LA Times itself, the contract also includes parental leave, job protection, severance pay, and a requirement that management increase newsroom diversity by interviewing people from underrepresented groups. The agreement is especially notable as massive layoffs roil digital media—and because the LA Times “for generations was known as a bastion of anti-unionism.”

Crowdfunding-site Kickstarter has always branded itself as progressive, socially-responsible, and with the people. But the company’s outward-facing profile is at odds with the companies’ harsh union-busting, say organizers. Two union organizers, Clarissa Redwine and Taylor Moore, were fired last month in what they say was retaliation for organizing. Organizers say the majority of Kickstarter workers support a union, but management issued an anti-union letter to employees in September. While the union has not called for a Kickstarter boycott, some left-wing projects funding via Kickstarter have said they would support a boycott of the platform if organizers called for one in response to retaliation or intimidation of union organizers. 

In the Atlantic, Susannah Jacobs writes about how Democratic Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren was inspired by Frances Perkins, FDR’s pioneering Labor Secretary and the first woman to sit in the Cabinet.


Enjoy OnLabor’s fresh takes on the day’s labor news, right in your inbox.