Striking Chicago teachers, school workers win support

By Naomi Craine
November 11, 2019

CHICAGO — After two weeks on strike, 25,000 members of the Chicago Teachers Union are picketing and holding nearly daily rallies around the city.

They’ve won broad support in their fight for smaller class sizes and more support staff like nurses, social workers and librarians.

They’ve been joined from the beginning by 7,500 school support workers, members of Service Employees International Union Local 73. “We need to be with the students all the time and not get pulled out of our classrooms to cover for other teachers who are absent that day,” Laura Orellana, an SEIU member who works with students with special needs, told the Militant Oct. 26.

On Oct. 28 the SEIU announced a tentative contract with city officials. The proposed deal includes raises of at least 16% over a five-year contract and improvements in working conditions.

“The camaraderie on the picket line was great. We’re all in this together,” Sylvester Boston, a custodian with 27 years in city schools, told this worker-correspondent as he headed in to vote on the contract Oct. 29. He plans to stay out with the teachers as long as their strike lasts. The SEIU is encouraging its members to do so.

As of Oct. 30, the Chicago Teachers Union says issues still in dispute include guarantees for reduced class sizes and restoration of 30 minutes of preparation time in the morning taken away in the previous contract.