For nine days in September, Chicago belonged to the teachers, school paraprofessionals, and clinicians. On September 10, 2012, 26,000 members of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) went on strike. It was the first teachers’ strike in Chicago in twenty-five years. While public and private sector unions have taken concessions and capitulated to cuts in wages, benefits, seniority rights, job protections, and much of what was won by the labor movement in the twentieth century, the CTU stood up to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the Commercial Club of Chicago, and the billionaire hedge-fund managers who have set out to break teachers’ unions and dismantle public education.
Jammed into a thundering crowd of thousands of chanting people in Madison, Wisconsin, it looks like a dam has broken. The new Wisconsin Tea Party governor brazenly accelerated what has been a bipartisan agenda to undermine public education and weaken teacher and other public employee unions. His “budget repair bill”—an assault on public employee unions, schools, and low-income health care—was met with immediate, massive, determined resistance that began with a walkout by Madison public school teachers.… a sleeping giant is stirring. The broad U.S. working class has absorbed blow after blow, concessions and job losses one after the other, stagnating wages for thirty years, and two wars costing trillions of dollars.… But recent attempts at the state level to impose austerity measures may be just too much for people to take.