The tide is turning in Chicago. Although not reflected in the mainstream media, there is a growing resistance to Mayor Rahm Emanuel's policies -- a man who was elected by 22% of registered voters. People are tired of watching tax breaks go to corporations who don't create jobs and are tired of their schools being privatized to line the pockets of well-connected political players.
In less than a week, both a private corporation and a public school were occupied by taxpayers fed up with the status quo. Blacks, Latinos, Whites, and Asian Americans of all socioeconomic backgrounds linked arms and marched on Mayor 1%'s block to tell him to keep public schools public.
On Friday, February 17th parents, students, and community activists occupied the Brian Piccolo Elementary School building in Chicago demanding a meeting with the mayor. The Board of Education wants to hand the school over to the Academy for Urban School Leadership -- a non-profit once run by the President of the Chicago Board of Ed and the Chief Administrative officer. 90% of parents pulled did not agree that this kind of insider training should be used to run their school. The community has been working together for a year to change the school climate and has already shown positive results, but CPS prefers the idea of outsourcing management of its struggling schools.
Video of the Occupation Press Conference
The community camped out overnight. Police with assault rifles surrounded the building, but the brave parents and activists held tightly through the night. Police refused to allow food and water to be delivered to the occupiers. CPS security was allowed to order food and they taunted the protesters with it. Later in the afternoon of February 18th, the Board of Ed agreed to meet with the community.
On February 19th, A coalition of school activists organized a rally and march in Mayor Emanuel's northside neighborhood. They demanded community voice in school decisions. The Board of Education was to vote on closing, phasing out, and turning around 19 schools on February 22nd.
March and Rally for Public Education
The Board of Education, after months of protests and packed community meetings where taxpayers pleaded to keep their schools open, the Board voted unanimously to approve all "school actions."
Then on Thursday, February 23rd workers at Serious Materials, the former "Republic Windows" occupied their factory. These were the same workers who occupied their factory in late 2008 to keep their jobs. They were successful, but only around 75 of the 200 Republic workers were hired back by the new owners. The owners promised to hire all of them back, but actually started laying people off. The factory drew down to 38 workers.
Then early on February 23rd, workers were told that operations were to stop immediately. That afternoon, workers and organizers from their union UE held a sit-in. Dozens of supporters from other unions and Occupy Chicago arrived at the scene to show support.
Video of the Serious Materials Occupation
From Occupied Chicago Tribune:
Workers have ended the occupation, exiting the factory through the main doors around 1 a.m., with the company apparently having agreed to their demands. Writes UE’s Mark Meinster:
A deal has now been struck to try and save the jobs. Serious Energy has agreed to keep the plant operational and people on the job for another 90 days while the union workers and the company work together to find a way to keep the plant open with new ownership because the plant will no longer be part of Serious Energy’s business plan. After 9 hours the occupation has ended with a hopeful workforce.
A cold and soggy night concludes thusly, with the tactics of occupation appearing to be validated once again at a factory on North Hickory Avenue.