For two weeks last month, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) went on strike. Just as in 2012, the strike was widely acknowledged as a victory for the union. The successes for organized teachers are so numerous at this point that it is worth reflecting on exactly what the increased militance of educators and other workers means for US politics moving forward.
The CTU model of unionism — one that emphasizes internal democracy, a willingness to strike and take other militant actions, and bargaining for the needs of the community in which teachers teach — has been driving the upsurge of teacher militance in the United States over the past decade. It is almost impossible to overstate the importance of what the Caucus of Rank-and-File Educators (CORE) has done in making the CTU into an organization of warriors against neoliberalism and, as Eric Blanc has shown, serving as a model for organizing teachers across the country in 2018–19. Teachers in Chicago haven’t simply made an intellectual case against neoliberalism: as in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Arizona, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Denver, the CTU won many of their demands by taking the high-stakes action of walking off their jobs.