From Portside <[email protected]>
Subject How to Resolve the Chicago Teachers Strike? Tax the Rich.
Date October 18, 2019 1:56 AM
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[ The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) is bringing a holistic approach
to bargaining to benefit both their members and students. This means
bringing common good demands such as affordable housing and sanctuary
schools into the contract negotiations...] [[link removed]]

HOW TO RESOLVE THE CHICAGO TEACHERS STRIKE? TAX THE RICH.  
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Amisha Patel and Nathan Ryan
October 16, 2019
In These Times
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_ The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) is bringing a holistic approach to
bargaining to benefit both their members and students. This means
bringing common good demands such as affordable housing and sanctuary
schools into the contract negotiations... _

The Chicago teachers strike is a stark reminder that fully funding
public education requires progressive revenue., Photo by Jim
Vondruska/NurPhoto via Getty Images // In These Times

 

The past year of bold worker action in Chicago—which included the
nation’s first
[[link removed]] charter
school strikes—is now headed towards a crescendo as teachers and
support staff prepare to walk off the job on Thursday.

Despite the city’s attempt to box negotiations into being just about
salary, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) is bringing a holistic
approach to bargaining to benefit both their members and students.
This means bringing common good demands such as affordable housing and
sanctuary schools into the contract negotiations, because CTU knows
that the crises outside of the classroom directly affect student
learning.

This approach also means making demands about how the schools our
students deserve can be paid for, which is why community
organizations, labor unions such as CTU and elected officials have
worked together to put forward the #ReimagineChicago budget proposal
[[link removed]].
Our plan does not rely on increasing fines, fees, sales taxes, and
property taxes on the working poor and middle class—as has so often
been the norm in Chicago. Instead, we have laid out a package of
progressive revenue solutions to counter decades of disinvestment in
Black and Brown communities, and ensure that the wealthy and
corporations pay their fair share. 

This proposal amounts to a sharp break from how Chicago finances have
long been handled—and a fundamental shift in who is prioritized in
the budget. Nowhere is this clearer than in our fight for the
reinstatement of the corporate head tax.

A head tax is a city tax on corporations that scales to the size of
the company. Chicago previously had a head tax in place from 1973 to
2014, but it was eliminated by then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel, making clear
his economic priorities. Partly to help make up for the lost revenue
from eliminating the head tax, Emanuel closed half of the city’s
public mental health clinics, devastating thousands of patients, among
other cuts to vital city services. Our improved version of the head
tax would generate more than enough money to reopen all of the public
clinics, while helping expand affordable housing and creating jobs on
the South and West sides.  

As we wait to hear what Mayor Lori Lightfoot puts forward in her first
budget, we know that the mayor and city council have the power to act
on our proposals right now—which could generate $771 million in new
revenue. Other progressive taxation proposals would require
coordination with the state government, but they could bring in up to
$3.9 billion, totaling $4.6 billion in new revenue. These solutions
include a Real Estate Transfer Tax which would raise $150 million, a
Luxury Goods and Services Tax which would raise $300 million, and a
city income tax on incomes over $100,000, which would bring in a
whopping $1.4 billion. This funding could address Chicago’s growing
housing crisis, enable a full-time nurse in every school and create
racially equitable conditions that would allow all Chicagoans to
thrive.

The “bargaining for the common good
[[link removed]]” approach being taken
up by CTU represents a two-fisted strategy to win the schools and
neighborhoods that Chicago working families deserve. On one hand,
Chicago teachers are forcing the city and the school system to codify
commitments to improve Chicago schools by writing them into their
contract. On the other, unions are working with community groups to
win the money to pay for those improvements through progressive
revenue solutions that make the wealthy pay their fair share, instead
of regressive taxes and fines on working families.  

Mayor Lightfoot has resisted on both fronts, claiming CTU should only
bargain over salary and that the union’s demands to create equity in
the school system would drain city resources. She’s also resisted
committing to raising the revenue needed through our proposals. Yet
her newly appointed school board passed a spending increase
that nearly doubled
[[link removed]] the
amount of money spent on Chicago Police Department (CPD) officers in
the public schools, and for the first time put into writing a contract
between the school system and CPD that mandates more police access to
our schools without detailing where this new spending would come
from.  

Candidate Lightfoot ran on a progressive platform, especially around
education, but as mayor, she’s acting in opposition to that agenda
on a number of issues. Creating task forces instead of putting
affordable housing commitments in writing is not enough. Taking the
side of wealthy developers like Sterling Bay, and fighting
organizations like ours—Grassroots Collaborative
[[link removed]]—that are organizing to win
radical changes to the city’s broken Tax Increment Finance system
flies in the face of her progressive commitments. 

Taking on entrenched wealthy elites requires progressives in Chicago
to fight on multiple fronts. This teachers strike is about more than
just a contract—it’s about reimagining what is possible for our
city if we tax the wealthy and put those resources into the hands of
working people instead of the politically connected. As Chicago
teachers and support staff take bold worker action to win a just city
for all, we should rise to the moment and join them in the fight for a
more just future.  

_[Amisha Patel is the Executive Director of the Grassroots
Collaborative [[link removed]] and Grassroots
Illinois Action [[link removed]].
Nathan Ryan is Communications Director at Grassroots Collaborative
[[link removed]].]_

_Reprinted with permission from In These Times
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All rights reserved. _

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