Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) took her 2020 campaign for the Democrat presidential nomination to Chicago on Tuesday, where she joined striking members of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) on the picket lines.
Warren said in a speech delivered to a crowd of teachers gathered on the picket lines in West Chicago:
I’m here to stand for America’s public schools. I’m here to stand with Chicago’s teachers. I’m here to stand with Chicago nurses. I’m here to stand with Chicago’s librarians. I’m here to stand with Chicago’s bus drivers. I’m here to stand with the low wage workers in the Chicago schools.
I also am here to stand with our unions. To stand with SEIU, to stand with CTU, and here’s why–because the unions are how we have a voice. The unions are how we have power.
“The unions are how we make sure that the needs of every one of our children are heard loud and clear,” she added.
The Chicago Tribune reported Warren’s appearance came “hours after union President Jesse Sharkey accused Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration of ‘vindictive actions’ for suggesting the union go back to work without a contract and saying there was no more money for teacher demands.”
The strike began on Thursday morning, and Tuesday is the fourth day that classes have been cancelled for the 361,000 students who attend the Chicago Public Schools.
In her speech, Warren made no mention of the dismal academic performance of those students when compared to the national average, or the role the striking teachers have in failing to improve that performance.
Earlier in her speech, Warren said, “everyone in America should support you in this strike. And the reason is because when you go out and fight, you don’t just fight for yourselves, you fight for the children of this city, and the children of this country,” adding:
I believe in public education, and I believe it is time in America to make a new investment in public education. And I got a plan for that.
America’s public schools need a partner in Washington.Not a partner who’s going to tell them what to do. Not a partner who’s going to do high stakes testing. Not a partner who’s going to pinch pennies. But a partner who’s going to be there, to back you up in the critically important work you do every day.
And for me, that start’s with an $800 billion investment in our public schools.
It starts with quadrupling our funding for title one schools. Let’s level the playing field.
It starts with full funding for IDEA for all of our children who are in special education.
And it starts with a grant to every single public school in this country so that that public school can decide how to spend the money that it needs to provide the first rate education for the children it has.
CTU President Jesse Sharkey made it clear on Tuesday he intends to play hard ball with Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Chicago Public Schools (CPS) to get more money for the 25,000 teachers in his union, as The Tribune reported:
In an email sent [to the Tribune] after midnight, Sharkey said, “Our bargaining team was beginning to see glimmers of progress on issues that matter to our members. (Monday) that progress stopped dead.
“It was clear from the mayor’s letter to the press demanding members go back to work without a contract and from the sudden atmosphere of stonewalling from the CPS team, that (Lightfoot) had pulled the plug on negotiations,” Sharkey continued.
“The mayor’s team said that there was no more money in the budget to address the many outstanding demands that are necessary to deliver justice for our school communities,” he said.
Tuesday’s rally was kicked off by Brandon Johnson, who declared he is “a proud member of the Chicago Teachers Union. I am also proud to be the Cook County Commissioner of the First District.”
This moment has been brought to you by the largest political resistance that we’ve seen in a generation. For those that have taken us for granted for the last 35 years, the Chicago Teachers Union and SEIU we’re saying enough is enough. We’re not going to turn back now.
“We are going to secure economic justice today,” he added,
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, the national union with which the CTU is affiliated, also addressed the crowd:
I feel like I have been in Chicago so much the last few weeks that I probably have to start paying property taxes. It shouldn’t have taken, as [CTU President] Jesse [Sharkey] said, to the brink of a strike in order to have real negotiations. There were more negotiations in the first two days of the strike than in the last ten months, that’s what’s wrong with this bargaining process.
You can see Warren’s full remarks here, in this YouTube video posted by the American Federation of Teachers: