SEATTLE – Teachers unions in Seattle and Chicago are asking members to vote on a May 1 strike to coincide with a nationwide temper tantrum focused on President Donald Trump.
The Seattle Education Association is already counting ballots from teachers across the district who were asked this week to support a May 1 strike to protest state education funding, KING 5 reports.
According to Seattle Weekly:
If it happens, the strike will be partly because of Trump, partly because the state legislature still isn’t fully funding education, and part of a larger show of force by the activist Left across the country on that day.
Garfield teacher and union representative Jesse Hagopian says that a group of social justice educators put forward the resolution calling for a May 1 strike because, “the McCleary decision mandates that the state legislature fully fund education, and they have not made any ample progress toward the full funding of education,” he says. By failing to follow the state Supreme Court’s order to fully fund education, he says, the legislature is violating “not just any law but the ‘paramount duty’ in the state constitution, the highest law of the land…That’s a contradiction that educators just can’t abide by.”
Hagopian proudly pointed out to KING 5 that the May 1 strike would occur on the same day students are set to take advanced placement tests in Seattle Public Schools.
Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant encouraged educators to “strike while the iron is hot” by “shutting down airports, shutting down highways.” Sawant, along with Councilman Mike O’Brien, promised they “have their backs” if teachers walk out on their students.
“If there is any retaliation against the educators union from the administration or public school administration, then we will make sure we stand with them,” Sawant told KING 5.
Hagopian told Seattle Weekly he’s not sure if the union will meet the 75 percent approval threshold from members to authorize a strike, but the vote itself sends a signal to the legislature.
“We may or may not reach that (75 percent threshold), but regardless, the fact that the state legislature has provoked this vote sends a really powerful message to them,” he said.
The May Day protest in Seattle also involved the UAW Local 4121, which is also voting on a strike, as well as a vote from the Martin Luther King County Labor Council “supporting strikes and other direct actions on May Day in cooperation with organizers of the labor and immigrant marches,” Seattle Weekly reports.
It’s a similar situation in Chicago, where the Chicago Teachers Union is planning to hold a membership vote on April 5 to authorize a May 1 strike. Chicago school officials forced four furlough days this school year and announced plans to potentially cut nearly three weeks off the school year to resolve the district’s massive budget shortfall.
The district’s chronic financial problems are tied in large part to teacher pension payments, and CPS officials initially based the budget on a massive bailout from the state that didn’t materialize.
“If the board goes ahead with the threat of canceling three weeks of school, we would view their action as a massive violation of our contract, and that could provoke a strike,” CTU President Karen Lewis said, according to the World Socialist Web Site.
In the meantime, the CTU is using its influence in Springfield to push legislation that would broaden its ability to strike to include action over issues like the length of the school day, layoffs, class sizes, and other excuses, WBEZ reports.
Currently, CTU is restricted to strikes over financial issues only. The bill to expand on those provisions gained approval from a House committee on Wednesday, and faces stiff opposition from CPS.
“Its labor attorney, Joseph Moriarty, argues that the restrictions resulted in 20 years of labor peace and allowed Mayor Rahm Emanuel to lengthen the school day, once one of the shortest in the nation,” according to the news site.
The potential May 1 teachers strikes in Seattle and Chicago would be a show of solidarity with other militant unions and social justice warriors who plan to raise a ruckus across the country on that day.
David Huerta, president of a California chapter of the Service Employees International Union, told BuzzFeed tens of thousands of janitors, security officers, airport staff and others plan to protest instead of work on May 1.
“According to a coalition of groups leading the strike, more than 300,000 food chain workers and 40,000 unionized service workers have said they will walk off the job so far,” according to the news site.
The whole effort is aimed at countering perceived slights from President Trump.
“We are a workforce made up mostly of immigrants, women, African Americans, and indigenous people,” the Food Chain Workers Alliance wrote in a statement on the strike. “Without workers, who does Trump think will harvest the crops, craft the food, transport it to market, stock the shelves, cook in kitchens, and serve the meals?”