Chicago teachers versus Billionaires, future of education on the line

From the Huffington Post, by Kenzo Shibata

In a recently released video, Chicago Teachers Union shows the games played by wealthy elites to smear the Union in the midst of heated contract negotiations. Chicago Teachers Union has maintained that it will not bargain in the press over a fair contract, but associates of Mayor Rahm Emanuel have apparently used backroom deals in Springfield, paid protesters and even members of the Michigan Tea Party to distort the public’s image of the Union.

The video, “Astroturf Billionaires Vs. The Chicago Teachers Union” shows all of these tricks in graphic detail.

The video begins with footage Tea Party blogger Andrew Marcus boasting about how he worked with Mayor Rahm Emanuel “against the Unions in this town.” Marcus directed the film A Tale of Two Missions — an anti-public school video featuring a candid interview with Mayor Emanuel. Tale of Two Missions was produced by a Tea Party-backed group in Michigan called the Education Action Group.

The first half of the EAG video was essentially an infomercial for The Nobel Street Charter School Network while the second half was essentially a smear video against Chicago Teachers Union. In the video, Mayor Rahm Emanuel explains that charter schools seem to have a “secret sauce” to success.

It seemed strange that Emanuel, a longtime member and leader of the Democratic Party establishment would work with ultra-right wing Tea Party members to execute political goals.

The video also features a man admitting to being paid to protest at the 2012 Crane School closing hearing. The Chicago Tribune reported last February that Rahm Emanuel’s associate Greg Goldner’s firm Resolute Consulting, a firm that worked on Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s 2002 Congressional bid, allegedly paid people to protest at these hearings. The paid protesters largely blamed Chicago Teachers Union for problems in Chicago’s schools.

The video also shows Jonah Edelman, CEO of Stand for Children, the group behind “Senate Bill 7” – a “school reform” bill that did nothing to improve schools, but focused on squashing the bargaining rights of Chicago Teachers Union.

Senate Bill 7 was written specifically to take power away from the teachers union and set the stage for changes pushed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his appointed school board, most notably the longer school day and year.

In “Astroturf,” Edelman boasts that the hurdles of a 75 percent required strike vote and the issuance of a fact-finders report would make it impossible for Chicago teachers to strike. In the end, union members who voted in the strike authorization election voted 98 percent for the option to strike and the fact finder made a decision in favor of Chicago Teachers Union. In an especially candid moment in the video, CEO Edelman explains that he “made up” the statistic that Houston students receive four more years of education compared to Chicago, a claim that was repeated over the course of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s’ mayoral bid.

The video ends on a positive note showing CTU’s efforts to organize not only teachers and school staff – but parents and students to support them in their battle for a fair contract.

The video can be used as an educational piece showing the power of democracy even in the face of political tricks and backroom deals.

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