In the midst of a staggering budget deficit and revenue crisis facing Illinois, Chicago, and Chicago Public Schools, and while facing unprecedented attacks on unions by the private equity firm Governor, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) and SEIU Healthcare Illinois-Indiana (HCII) have entered contract negotiations with Chicago’s Board of Education and the State of Illinois respectively. Rather than putting their heads down and just focusing on averting deep cuts in pay and benefits, the CTU and SEIU HCII are joining forces with community allies such as the Grassroots Collaborative to launch bold, transformational campaigns.
CTU and SEIU HCII are wedding their contract fight to a broader community-labor coalition that is demanding progressive revenue solutions at both the city and the state level. Groups across the state came together last week to hold a convening on progressive revenue solutions. There they laid out a Progressive Revenue Platform that includes reducing exorbitant bank fees, recovering money from toxic swap deals, passing a progressive income tax, closing corporate tax loopholes, and winning a LaSalle Street tax on financial transactions in Chicago’s exchanges, among other things.
Together the groups have held actions at bank branches, occupied the State Capitol with the Revenue Truth Squad, and gotten the State House of Representatives to pass a resolution calling for any cuts in services to be matched by equally proportionate cuts in bank fees. Last week, when the banks that were responsible for Chicago Public Schools’ toxic swap deals came to town for a Bond Buyer conference, the CTU and allies greeted them with a picket. The coalition is also leading the charge against the concerted effort to slash pensions using the trumped-up threat of municipal bankruptcy, which Saqib Bhatti from the Refund America Project at the Roosevelt Institute unravels here.
As part of their efforts to win a fair contract, the two major public-sector unions are bargaining to secure the public services that Chicago and Illinois residents deserve. CTU kicked off its contract negotiations with a massive rally calling for smaller class sizes, less standardized testing, funding for school libraries and art classes, increased staffing of all schools with counselors and clinicians, and the revenue solutions needed to fund these reforms. Chicago educators lay out a compelling vision for the schools that their students deserve in a new website titled “A Just Chicago”.
Simultaneously, the fifty thousand home care and home child care providers represented by SEIU HCII are fighting to expand child care and home care services in Illinois and save the programs threatened by Governor Rauner’s austerity agenda. SEIU HCII has launched a new DangerousCuts.org website and is now running TV ads calling on the Governor to make corporations pay their fair share instead of cutting services for seniors. Their collective bargaining demands also include the revenue measures mentioned above.
Unions and community groups in Illinois are demonstrating that they will not let the Mayor or the Governor pit them against each other and are instead offering an offensive plan to make banks, big corporations and the wealthy pay their fair share. To find out more about Common Good Bargaining campaigns around the country or to tell us what’s happening in your city or state, please email us at bargainingforthecommongood@