An Urban Teacher Union Epic
Swerdlow, Marian http://solidarity-us.org/atc/194/revew-swerdlow/
Publisher: Against the Current
Date Written: 01/05/2018
Year Published: 2018
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX23313
Swerdlow reviews A Fight for the Soul of Public Education: The Story of the Chicago Teachers Strike. She suggests that the 2012 Chicago teachers strike can be used as a model to persuade the public that public employees and their labour organizations benefit society and lead to effetive change.
CORE had barely two years to prepare for the next contract. To succeed, it would have to change the union's top-down culture and reinvigorate a demoralized, frightened rank and file. Ashby and Bruno observe:
"(F)rom the moment they took office . . . the new CTU leadership and staff began the process of transforming the CTU by educating, organizing, and mobilizing the members. By September 2012, hundreds of inactive members had been transformed into activists and leaders, who then energized and united a membership capable of waging a successful nine-day strike."
CORE cut the salaries of leadership positions an average of 35% to align with rank-and-file workers' pay. Staff "perks" were eliminated. With the savings, organizers were hired, drawn from the membership. The essence of their method was face-to-face interaction, engagement with every single member. "Tens of thousands of conversations," one CORE leader recalled.
Recruitment and training of leaders was a constant. Every member was offered resources and expected to shoulder responsibilities. Polling tracked membership consciousness and readiness for action. Strongholds and weak links were identified, and the latter strengthened. Although CORE was far from inventing any of these methods, it applied them consciously and systematically.