Tenth Ward Alderman Susan Sadlowski Garza, Chicago’s first elected Chicago Teachers Union member of the Chicago City Council.
I can imagine that at this coming Thursday’s Thanksgiving dinner the topic of Chicago teachers might come up in somebody’s family conversation. On one side of the table young cousin Martha, a Chicago teacher herself, will be extolling the virtues and sacrifices of her colleagues and why the union’s bargaining position is fair.
Uncle Bill, an ardent supporter of the presidential aspirations and immigrant positions of Donald Trump, will sneer and say, “If your union bosses are all for the kids, why the hell are they asking for any money. Sweetie.”
Talk of current events at extended-family Thanksgiving dinner can often be a toxic combo.
Personally, that’s not true for me. There will only be union supporters sharing turkey at our dinner. Things may only turn south when the dessert dishes are cleared and we engage in what my brother calls full-contact Scrabble. It is only then that the gloves may come off.
One year we went head to head over the legitimacy of the word, clafouti.
Since the word included all seven tiles, the outcome of the debate was a game changer.
I only tell this story because it was my Scrabble word and I remember winning the game. Other members of the Klonsky family may remember it differently, of course.
Perhaps the spirit of unity that I saw at last night’s CTU rally will spread across the land on Thursday. Uncle Bill and cousin Martha will come together as folks did in Butler Field on a cold November evening on the Lakefront.
By the way, even most Chicagoans don’t know that the lawn in front of the Petrillo Band Shell is called Butler Field. I received many calls during the day yesterday asking, “Where the F is Butler Field.”
What the rally demonstrated to me was that this fight is more than a fight for money. Oh. Make no mistake, Uncle Bill. It’s about money.
Rahm and the board want money and they want to take it from the teachers, nurses, paraprofessionals, clinicians and others covered by the CTU contract, a contract, which President Karen Lewis reminded me, has already expired.
Yes, Uncle Bill. This is a contract fight in which the board wants to take money away from their employees.
Last night was a rare sight. Real diversity in a city that rarely has a chance to witness such such a thing. It was a show of support with Democrat State Representative Robert Martwick from the northwest side of Chicago sitting with young Black Lives Matter activists.
As an aside, Illinois Federation of Teachers President Dan Montgomery gave a rousing speech. Illinois Education Association Executive Director Audrey Soglin was announced but was a no-show.
Maybe the cold kept her car from starting.
No matter. My take-away is that if the teachers in Chicago walk, it will be for genuine fairness. Nor just for money.
And this is just some advice I give to Mayor Rahm and CEO Forrest Claypool. I give it for free. You should settle now and avoid a strike. It is much harder to settle when teachers walk out for fairness than it is to settle when they bargain for money.
It is harder to quantify fairness than it is to quantify money. Union members will know it when they see it.
Am I right cousin Martha?