This has already gotten ugly, even by Chicago standards.
Fifty-four public schools in the Windy City are closing due to a $1 billion budget shortfall and the president of the Chicago Teachers Union is putting the blame squarely on Mayor Rahm Emanuel. (audio clip after page break)
Appearing today on Ed Schultz's radio show, Karen Lewis did her part to fan the flames, a generations-old tradition among Chicago agitators (audio) --
It's a neo-liberal agenda, it's the privatization piece and it's, let's do it in an area where people with no clout, no voice, and if anybody complains we can just dismiss it 'cause it will just be the greedy teachers. So, you know, I mean, I don't, I don't know what to tell you. I do not understand this man. I don't understand how he can continue to lie to the public and say, you know, we're doing this for the good of the kids, for the good of the kids. You know, he's the murder mayor and we have a serious murder problem 'cause we have a serious gang problem. And he has been completely delusional about how to solve that problem. He does not want to deal with the fact that we need a different approach. And, you know, the key is, if you keep bringing in people that tell you what you want to hear, you don't ever have to hear a competing vision.
So, his real problem is that he's in the middle of a murder epidemic, he is murdering schools now, he's been murdering middle class and working class jobs every chance he can get.
Schultz, who is keenly acquainted with toxic hyperbole, did not tell Lewis she had crossed the line, but one of the first callers to the show after the interview did. "While I'm not happy with him," said the caller, identifying herself as a teacher in Chicago, "that was very unprofessional for a person of her stature." That she is, a figure of immense stature.
Also missing from the interview was any mention of Chicago teachers ending a nine-day strike last September with a deal for an average 17.6 percent pay increase over four years and better benefits. (Alas, not the 30 percent base raise they sought). Teachers in Chicago were already making $76,000 annually on average, not counting what they can earn during those long summers off.
Back in January, Lewis waxed rhapsodic about the violent tactics of early union bosses. "The labor leaders of that time, though, were ready to kill," Lewis said. "They were. They were just ready, that's like, off with their heads," casually waving her hand for emphasis. "They were seriously talking about that."
Listening to Lewis, I had a vague sense of encountering her somewhere else. Then it dawned on me where it was -- the closing scene of Orwell's "Animal Farm."