Matthew Mata is a freshman communication studies major.
Chicago is the embodiment of the perils facing the country: gun violence, income inequality, drugs and underfunded public schools. Up until the end of the presidential primaries, both Clinton and Trump failed to properly recognize these struggles being the reason why so many Americans currently feel disaffected by the government. With the election less than three weeks away, both candidates are shifting their messages to include voters that prove crucial to a November victory: women, people of color and other minority groups. Clinton is now utilizing a long time friend — Mayor Rahm Emanuel — to ensure a certain voter demographic continues to align with her.
The black teachers of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) are one such group, who recently refused to be led under conservative union leadership. The CTU is now viewed as a union that understands how social and racial issues are incorporated into public education. Up until 2010, advocacy by the CTU was solely focused on its membership: Chicago educators. However, in 2008, a group of frustrated teachers founded the Caucus of Rank and file Educators (CORE), who sought to bring a more activist-type culture into a union that now closely aligns itself with community activism. Having over 25,000 union members, the CTU’s demographics are vital targets for politicians: teachers of color, millennials and women. The CTU continues to align itself with various community driven, grassroots organizations that have allowed them to broaden their support and allyship, becoming one of the most powerful unions in the country. With public support for Chicago teacher’s doubling that of Chicago’s mayor, Rahm Emanuel, the union is now in a position to secure a contract from Chicago Public Schools that does not cut teacher benefits and school budgets. It is up to Emanuel to create a positive relationship with the CTU in order to ensure its members support Secretary Clinton.
The CTU has been in contract talks with the Chicago Board of Education for a while now. As Chicago teachers near their 500th day without a contract, Chicago prepares itself for what could be the second teacher strike under Mayor Emanuel’s tenureship. On Sept. 28, CTU’s House of Delegates voted in favor of a strike that could have started as soon as Oct. 11. However, at the eleventh hour on Oct. 10, both Chicago public Schools (CPS) and CTU reached a tentative agreement. This temporarily averted a strike until the entire union membership votes on whether to accept or decline the contract later next week. With both parties appearing to be far from an agreement over the last couple months, this eleventh-hour deal to avert the strike clearly coincides with a presidential election that is just around the corner.
Both presidential candidates are guilty of using coded language intended to trigger voters’ anxiety, which then woos voters from much needed demographics: millennials, people of color and working-class voters. Clinton’s attempt to garner these demographics is now in the hands of Mayor Emanuel, whose support was quietly ignored by the campaign during the primaries because of the negative local and national coverage of his handling of a police dash-cam video. An alarming video that showed a Chicago Police officer shooting an unarmed African-American man 16 times was believed to have been withheld from the public until after the mayoral run-off elections. Along with dozens of school closings, questionable Tax Increment Financing (TIFs) spending, and rapid tax hikes, Mayor Emanuel is unfavorable amongst Chicagoans.
Prior to being Chicago’s mayor, Emanuel was a top Clinton advisor during the 2008 election, and later appointed as Obama’s Chief of Staff. However, after the Sanders campaign weighed in, criticizing Mayor Emanuel’s handling of the police dash-cam shooting video earlier this year, and connecting that to Clinton’s relationship with Emanuel, the Clinton-Emanuel relationship is now crucial to Clinton’s success.
Emanuel’s rhetoric and handling of the teacher’s contract and possible strike can attract pro-union, racially-diverse communities, groups the Clinton campaign desperately needs. If a teacher’s strike does come to fruition, there is no doubt that both presidential candidates will be asked about the fourth largest school district’s latest strike. Clinton is then likely to acknowledge her relationship with Mayor Emanuel, affirming her confidence in him. An affirmation that can restore Emanuel’s trust amongst voters.
With the election weeks away, it is now clear as to why Mayor Emanuel avoided the publicity of a strike and settled the contract, since the votes are so crucial for Clinton. If this strike were to make national news, like it did in 2012, Clinton may lose a crucial constituency. It now validates Mayor Emanuel desire to negotiate and settle a teacher’s contract with the intention to secure votes for Clinton.