Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Strikes on Decline - The Chicago Teacher Strike

It is big news, the Chicago teacher strike.  There were times when strikes did not garner national attention.  Part of the reason for the story gaining such coverage may be due to the fact the strike is in Chicago, our nation's third largest city, and not in the 70-student strong Mitchell School district in rural North Central Oregon.  But, even so, teacher strikes are becoming rarer, and I think this contributes to the press coverage this event is receiving. 

You just don't see this anymore, and I'm not
talking about afros, beards, and reverse stitch
leisure wear
When I was a child, in the 1970's, teacher's strikes were a constant threat (if you were a parent; if you were a child they were a frequent tease).  Today, it is rare if you hear of a strike occurring.  When I lived in Paris in the 1990's, there were so many strikes that I remember a nurses' protest joining up with a theatre performers group on the Boulevard Raspail.  And, the day I left Paris, there was a baggage handlers strike, so I had to schlep my own bags, which I gladly did in the name of workers' rights (and I HATE schlepping baggage).  On many occasions, the RER, the Réseau Express Régional, or public transportation, would strike and everyone had to walk, which was like a bit of an adventure for me, with all the Parisians on the street.  It had become the norm for me again to experience strikes.  Since I returned to the U.S., I have not once been "inconvenienced" by strikes.  Can you think of one time that you were?  I hope they still "fait la grève" in Paris. 

First the strike, then the revolution, then change
Strikes and strikers are not evil.  Some people who advocated for and organized strikes include Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and César Chávez, and our own country's rebels protesting British rule.  They are a powerful tool for change and keep the majority from becoming serfs for the ultra-rich.  Teachers should be respected, and the American people should support the Chicago teachers' strike.  Frederick Douglass famously said, "Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.” and also "Without a struggle, there can be no progress".  In other words, we won't get anything without asking, and even then not.  Strikes keeps the power differential, if never truly balanced, at least not in the territory of master and slave.  If that is unAmerican, well, then, I guess I should retake my civics classes, because I thought it was. 


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