A few weeks ago I attended the Illinois Education Association Representative Assembly as a delegate from the Bloomington Education Association. This is my report, with an eye for what our union and supporting community can do to defend teachers and other public sector workers from right-wing attack.
The attack against public sector workers, and specifically teachers, has gone into overdrive this year. Scott Walker's attack epitomized the struggle, and even though we lost there, public sector workers are fighting. At the IEA RA, the union struggle against these attack was front-and-center. Teachers are gearing up for a number of fights this year, including ---
1. Renewal, at the national level, of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), now known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB). This was only alluded to at the convention, without details provided, except that we need to be involved to influence the outcome. I suspect that the IEA leadership means phone calls and emails to representatives by "becoming involved," when what we need are mass protests. Obama's plan looks bad, with its proscription of school take-overs for the "lowest 5%" of schools, insuring that schools serving the poor and English language learners in the city will still be targeted.
2. The attack on teacher pensions will occur this year. Having failed in its contributions for many years, the state now wants workers to shoulder more of burden in contributing to the state pension system, amounting to a large pay cut. The IEA is planning on resisting the worst proposals.
3. The IEA has drawn up their own teacher accountability proposal to ward off the anti-union proposals coming from billionaire-backed organizations, the same organizations pushing for the destruction of unions in states across the country. In January these organizations tried to gut collective bargaining rights by making it illegal to bargain on many issues related to school conditions and making it illegal to strike. In short, they tried to turn Illinois into a "Right to Work" state. Any new info will be posted here.
4. Community organizers and unions are gearing up for a week of actions beginning April 4th, timed to commemorate MLK Jr.'s support of striking janitors in Memphis, but focusing on the fight-backs against the billionaire-back right-wing. Click here for the local event in Bloomington, and here for the overall website coordinating national events.
10 months ago