Almost 2,000 protesters, as the Chicago Police Department reportedly estimated, marched at Northeastern Illinois University Friday morning, and many more filled Loop streets in the afternoon as a coalition of unions, community organizations, and other groups joined together in the 01 April Day of Action.
This effort was a response, in part, to the failure of Illinois politicians to pass a budget, which, as WBEZ has been documenting, has been affecting many across the State. For example, our union asked us last week to sacrifice up to fourteen days of pay, which is about eight percent of our income, to assure students that the university will remain open throughout fall semester and to work as many as eight of these days for which we will be unpaid unless Illinois supplies a sufficient percentage of an appropriation, which it has withheld for the last nine months, in the next three. We’re being asked, in other words, to subsidize public education and even work without pay because Illinois politicians have failed to approve a budget.
As objectionable as these effects might seem, an equally, if not more, objectionable situation is the way a small group with “extraordinary wealth,” as described in a New York Times article last fall, has been influencing elections in an attempt, in this instance, to limit efforts that address economic inequality and other goals. Although the Times scooped the story, the Chicago Tribune nonetheless insisted that this Day of Action was a “Tantrum Day” by the Chicago Teachers Union instead of a show of solidarity from a coalition of unions, community groups, and others, such as the Fight for $15. In doing so, the Tribune serves those extraordinarily wealthy in a way that puts it across from the many and on the wrong side of the line.
Maybe, then, Friday will have been the start of something new in the State of Illinois. If people are going to shape the future, they must ensure, as Robert McChesney and John Nichols (216) suggest, that economic concerns become political issues (246). My fear is that our politicians, after all these sacrifices, will continue to do more of the same.
McChesney, Robert W., and John Nichols. 2016. People Get Ready: The Fight Against a Jobless Economy and a Citizenless Democracy. New York: Nation Books.