Inspired by her father Sam's experience striking with the United Mine Workers and the National Miners' Union in 1931, Florence Reece asked her other workers - by way of singing - “Which Side Are You On?” The more things change, it appears, the more they stay the same.
On Monday, the Chicago Teachers' Union (CTU) went on strike and made its demands for Chicago Public Schools (CPS) known in a 46-page document titled, “The Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve,” which also has a one-page summary.
“Some of the main sticking points,” the Huffington Post explained, “are teachers' pay, health benefits and job security under a new performance evaluation system.” That “performance evaluation system” is none other than President Obama's “Race to the Top.”
The third biggest school district in the United States, some 29,000 CPS teachers and school workers, have formed a picket line in a move reverberating around the country and the world. The strike will likely become major election season fodder, since Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is Obama's former Chief-of-Staff and a major Super PAC fundraiser for Obama's 2012 campaign, a task he's temporarily halted in the wake of the CTU strike.
So which side has the Chicago-based Heartland Institute taken in this struggle?
The Heartland Institute's is best known for its climate change denial agenda, well documented here on DeSmog as part of “Heartland Exposed.” Heartland is also heavily invested, literally and figuratively, in developing a curriculum for K-12 schools that presents climate science as “a major scientific controversy,” as revealed by Think Progress.
What's most important to remember is that the Heartland Institute is heavily bankrolled by the right-wing Bradley Foundation. Along with funding from the “Bradley Empire” comes an agenda extending above and beyond climate change denial.
“Mayor Rahm Emanuel has an opportunity for a heroic moment, standing up for the city’s overburdened taxpayers the way President Reagan did against the air traffic controllers’ union shortly after taking office,” Heartland's Director of Research, S.T. Karnick stated in a press release. “Whether Emanuel has the nerve and strength of principle to do the right thing may well determine whether the city recovers from the economic downturn or goes the way of dying places such as Detroit and Cleveland.”
Republican Party candidate for President Mitt Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan have also applauded Emanuel's anti-teacher, anti-union stance.
“I am disappointed by the decision of the Chicago Teachers Union to turn its back on not only a city negotiating in good faith but also the hundreds of thousands of children relying on the city’s public schools to provide them a safe place to receive a strong education,” Romney stated in a press release. “Teachers unions have too often made plain that their interests conflict with those of our children, and today we are seeing one of the clearest examples yet.”
“Rahm and I have not agreed on every issue or on a lot of issues, but Mayor Emanuel is right today in saying that this teacher's union strike is unnecessary and wrong,” Ryan said in a speech. “We know that Rahm is not going to support our campaign, but on this issue and this day we stand with Mayor Rahm Emanuel.”
The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board has also applauded Emanuel, who Chicago activists refer to as “Mayor 1%,” with a net worth of over $11 million. The Journal went so far to pose the question, “Has Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel met Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker?”
“If he hasn't, we'd be glad to mediate a call,” wrote The Journal. “Mr. Emanuel can help the cause of education reform nationwide if he shows some Walker-like gumption.”
All Emanuel needs, wrote The Journal - a newspaper owned by News Corporation, which, like Fox News, is owned by Rupert Murdoch (of Murdoch-gate fame) - is some courage of the scale displayed by Walker during the union-busting Act 10 days. Act 10 is the bill that inspired an Uprising and an eventual recall election.
John Matthews, President of Madison Teachers, Inc., one of the key unions involved in the Wisconsin Uprising against Walker's Act 10, sees the battle against Emanuel's education policies and the battle against Walker's education policies as the same side of the same coin.
“Their fight is really our fight,” he told the Wisconsin State Journal. “Whether we're talking about Scott Walker or Rahm Emmanuel, it's the same thing.”
Who Will Obama Side With?
Will Obama join the picket line with the 28,000 CTU teachers? Or will he side with Heartland and Bradley?
“And understand this: If American workers are being denied their right to organize and collectively bargain when I'm in the White House, I'll put on a comfortable pair of shoes myself, I will walk on that picket line with you as President of the United States of America,” he orated at a campaign stump speech in 2007. “Because workers deserve to know that somebody is standing in their corner.”
Furthermore, one of the most important funding streams for the Democratic Party since the age of former President Bill Clinton has run through the corporate-subsidized Democratic Leadership Council (DLC). The DLC is heavily funded by the Bradley Foundation via its think-tank wing, the Progressive Policy Institute (PPI). Bradley has also heavily funded the Third Way Foundation, which oversees both the DLC and PPI. The “third way” ideology has been embraced by Obama, just as it was by Clinton.
The answer to Reece's age-old question as it applies to Obama, then, is an obvious one: follow his policy agenda thus far and don't forget to follow the money.
Perhaps this is why the CTU feels as if there's nowhere else to turn but the picket line to redress its grievances and show the world which side it is on.