Labor leaders supporting striking teachers invoke 9-11 terrorist attacks
BY LISA DONOVAN Staff Reporterfirstname.lastname@example.org September 11, 2012 7:50PM
CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 11: Randi Weingarten, president of the 1.5 million-member American Federation of Teachers, speaks following a rally in front of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) headquarters on September 11, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. More than 26,000 Chicago teachers and support staff walked off their jobs yesterday after the Chicago Teachers Union failed to reach an agreement with the city on compensation, benefits and job security. With about 350,000 students, the Chicago school district is the third largest in the United States. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Updated: September 11, 2012 10:10PM
Local and national labor leaders gathered in Chicago Tuesday in a show of support for striking teachers, invoking the Sept. 11th terrorist attacks as they argued on the teachers’ behalf.
“So, most of the time — even as a New Yorker — I love being in Chicago. I’m sorry that I’m in Chicago today,” Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, said as she addressed labor leaders and a smattering of teachers gathered outside the Chicago Public Schools headquarters in the Loop.
“I’m sorry because this city is better than having this struggle. Just like my home city of New York where 11 years ago today when there were buildings that were burning — public employees, firemen, firefighters, firewomen, cops, rushed in to the buildings. Nobody said, ‘are you a public service worker or not?’”
She went on to say: “Building trades did whatever they had to do on the pile and got sick for it to make sure that we looked to see whoever we could find that was still alive. And nobody asked whether they were union or not.”
Weingarten said it’s difficult to mark the anniversary of the terrorist attacks when there is such a divide in the city of Chicago.
“Eleven years ago today we in New York were a community, union and non union — parents and teachers,” she said. “Teachers making sure that the kids from the schools from around that area left those school safely. We were a community that was fighting for our communities.”
In a way, that’s what’s unfolding now, she says.
“And that’s essentially what the teachers and the parents in Chicago are doing right now. This is far more than a labor struggle, this is a struggle for the heart and the soul of public education for the kids of Chicago.”
Robert Kelly, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 308 representing CTA railworkers, also offered his union’s show of solidarity with striking teachers — and invoked the 9-11 attacks.
“Eleven years ago we witnessed on this day one of the greatest tragedies — it will be talked about and taught in school for years to come. The attack on our nation. Firemen, policemen — union brothers and sisters — rushed in to those burning buildings,” he said, adding “Teachers had to stop teaching to comfort and console kids who were frightened and scared, not knowing what was coming. Have we not learned anything in the last 11 years?
“Although our teachers are not in the classrooms today teaching — they stand here today, teaching all of us what is right when they fight for what is right. We should all stand to learn from them. Their fight is our fight.”
Mike Shields, president of the Chicago-based Fraternal Order of Police, blasted Mayor Rahm Emanuel for not understanding what a hero is on this day of honoring heroes.
“Today is Sept. 11th, and today is a day we celebrate heroes,” Shields told the assembled union leaders, teachers and reporters. “Chicago teachers teach over 400,000 students in the city of Chicago. To me those are heroes. I have a 4-year-old son that understands who heroes are. He understands that Chicago policemen are heroes, Chicago firemen are heroes, and Chicago teachers are heroes, but somehow our mayor cannot understand this and we need to send that message to him.”