Chicago Teachers Union Joins Demand for Rahm Emanuel, Anita Alvarez To Resign

Micah Uetricht January 6, 2016

The union also voted to call for a democratically elected police review board. (Scott Olson / Getty)

The Chica­go Teach­ers Union’s House of Del­e­gates, the union’s mem­ber-led gov­ern­ing body, vot­ed tonight to demand the res­ig­na­tions of May­or Rahm Emanuel and State’s Attor­ney Ani­ta Alvarez in the wake of the Laquan McDon­ald scan­dal, which has roiled the city for near­ly two months and led to the res­ig­na­tions of mul­ti­ple city offi­cials, includ­ing Chica­go police super­in­ten­dent Gar­ry McCarthy.

Both Cook Coun­ty State’s Attor­ney Ani­ta Alvarez and May­or Rahm Emanuel orches­trat­ed and inten­tion­al­ly delayed the release” of mul­ti­ple videos show­ing police killings of African Amer­i­cans, the state­ment reads, appar­ent­ly for their own polit­i­cal gains in order to secure vic­to­ry in their 2015 re-elec­tion bids. … The only way to restore this trust is with their resignations.”

The state­ment goes on: 

[T]he CTU support[s] demands that May­or Rahm Emanuel, and Cook Coun­ty State’s Attor­ney Ani­ta Alvarez resign imme­di­ate­ly from pub­lic office forthe uncon­scionable delay of their gov­ern­men­tal insti­tu­tions in address­ing Laquan McDon­ald’s killing and oth­er issues of exces­sive, unwar­rant­ed, unjus­ti­fied, and lethal police force in the City of Chicago.

The move is unprece­dent­ed: The CTU has nev­er before called for a sit­ting may­or to resign.

McDon­ald was a 17-year-old African-Amer­i­can boy who was shot 16 times by Chica­go Police Depart­ment (CPD) offi­cer Jason Van Dyke in Octo­ber 2014. CPD squad car dash cam­eras cap­tured footage of the shoot­ing which con­tra­dict­ed the depart­men­t’s ear­ly state­ments say­ing McDon­ald had been shot as he lunged at police with a knife, but the city fought to sup­press the footage for over a year as May­or Emanuel sought reelec­tion — lead­ing to accu­sa­tions that May­or Emanuel and the city had engaged in a cover-up.

In Decem­ber 2015, the CTU also passed a res­o­lu­tion call­ing to endorse a Civil­ian Police Account­abil­i­ty Coun­cil (CPAC), which would be made up of demo­c­ra­t­i­cal­ly elect­ed com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers to over­see com­plaints around police bru­tal­i­ty. The body cur­rent­ly tasked with such com­plaints, the Inde­pen­dent Police Review Author­i­ty, has been accused of col­lud­ing with the may­or’s office in its respons­es to police abuse allegations.

Sarah Cham­bers, a CPS spe­cial edu­ca­tion teacher and CTU exec­u­tive board mem­ber, says the union, which passed the res­ig­na­tion res­o­lu­tion unan­i­mous­ly, is call­ing for CPAC for the same rea­son it sup­ports an elect­ed rep­re­sen­ta­tive school board rather than a school board whose mem­bers are appoint­ed by the may­or. As teach­ers, we don’t trust any com­mit­tee Rahm appoints,” she says. With­out com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers on these boards, there’s corruption.There’s no account­abil­i­ty — they’re all appoint­ed by the may­or and just do what he says.”

Cham­bers says CPAC is nec­es­sary to estab­lish long-term account­abil­i­ty around police mis­con­duct no mat­ter who is may­or. Of course, we want Rahm to resign or be recalled. But we still could end up with anoth­er cor­rupt may­or. CPAC would be long­stand­ing, because no mat­ter who’s in office, there would be some­one review­ing what the police are doing.”

The union now offi­cial­ly joins pro­test­ers, a grow­ing num­ber of media out­lets, and, accord­ing to a poll tak­en last month, a slim major­i­ty of Chicagoans who believe May­or Emanuel should step down. 

In a Decem­ber 2015 inter­view with Chica­go mag­a­zine, CTU Vice Pres­i­dent Jesse Sharkey was asked whether the union endorsed the call for res­ig­na­tion. As a rep­re­sen­ta­tive for this union, we haven’t tak­en an offi­cial posi­tion on the protests,” he said, though he did allude to dis­cus­sions inter­nal­ly” about such a call.

While Sharkey’s response could have been inter­pret­ed as back­ing the union away from pro­test­ers’ demands, Cham­bers said the union’s mem­ber­ship had to debate a call for res­ig­na­tion inter­nal­ly before its lead­ers could weigh in. 

As [CTU Pres­i­dent] Karen [Lewis] always says, we the mem­bers are the union,” Cham­bers says. 

The call for Emanuel’s res­ig­na­tion also comes just weeks after a suc­cess­ful strike autho­riza­tion vote by the union, in what could be a repeat of the union’s 2012 strike that became the may­or’s first major set­back in office. A strike this year that puts racial jus­tice issues along­side a cam­paign for tax­ing the rich to pull the city out of its cur­rent finan­cial cri­sis could prove even more dam­ag­ing than the walkoff four years ago. 

Cham­bers says union mem­bers felt they had to weigh in on the issues of racism and police vio­lence in Chicago.

An over­whelm­ing major­i­ty of CPS stu­dents are black and brown chil­dren,” she says. Our stu­dents and their fam­i­ly mem­bers are the ones get­ting shot. So we can’t just sit back and ignore what’s happening.”

Mic­ah Uet­richt is the deputy edi­tor of Jacobin mag­a­zine and host of its pod­cast The Vast Major­i­ty. He is a con­tribut­ing edi­tor and for­mer asso­ciate edi­tor at In These Times. He is the author of Strike for Amer­i­ca: Chica­go Teach­ers Against Aus­ter­i­ty (Ver­so 2014), coau­thor of Big­ger Than Bernie: How We Go From the Sanders Cam­paign to Demo­c­ra­t­ic Social­ism (Ver­so 2020), and is cur­rent­ly at work on a book on New Left­ists who indus­tri­al­ized.” He pre­vi­ous­ly worked as a labor orga­niz­er. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @micahuetricht.

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