Message of support for Chicago teachers

Teachers in Chicago, the 3rd largest city in the US, are on strike against attacks on their terms & conditions and detrimental changes to the city’s education system.

Our Branch Secretary has sent the following message of support:

Dear Sisters & Brothers of the Chicago Teachers’ Union,
I am writing in solidarity with your union’s bold fight against the attacks on teachers’ conditions of service and the reactionary ‘reforms’ pursued by Mayor Rahm Emmanuel’s administration in Chicago. Congratulations and well done to Chicago’s teachers for taking a stand even against the background of a presidential election year. I am writing both as a union activist here in London and on behalf of more than 3,000 members of the Camden branch (local) of UNISON, Britain’s largest public sector union. Our national union’s membership includes tens of thousands of school support staff.
To see an all-out, indefinite strike by more than 25,000 teachers and education support workers in America’s third largest city is both impressive and inspiring. While due to the continued existence of the National Health Service (albeit very much under threat), teachers and other workers in Britain do not need to battle over occupational healthcare benefits, in other respects the factors that have provoked your battle are all too familiar:
• Evaluation processes arbitrarily linked to the results of standardised testing
• The threat of backdoor privatisation – Charter schools in the US; Academies and so-called Free Schools here in Britain, and
• A generalised offensive against basic pay and conditions for teachers and other public service workers.
As you may be aware members of the two largest teaching unions in Britain (the NUT and NAS-UWT) are about to embark from 26 September on a joint programme in England and Wales of industrial action short of a strike, while there is at least a possibility of co-ordinated strike action by UNISON and other public sector unions in the next few months in opposition to the absolute freeze on public sector pay – in reality a significant erosion in real wages – which is hitting the vast majority of our members ever harder.
Needless to say, many trade union activists in Britain will be keenly watching the outcome of your battle. Please try and let me know if there is anything practical we can do on this side of the Atlantic to raise the profile of the strike and hasten a much need win for both teachers and the US labor movement.
In the meantime, please pass on our best wishes to striking teachers for a swift and comprehensive victory –
In solidarity,
George Binette
Camden UNISON Branch Secretary

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