CHICAGO - Tuesday night, thousands of SEIU health care workers and Chicago school teachers gathered at the University of Illinois-Chicago Forum to "Take Back Chicago" from a mayor, they say, that is focused more on the rich and powerful that run their city than on Chicago's hard-working people.
Members of the Chicago Teachers Union still angry about last fall's confrontation with Mayor Emanuel and even more frustrated with Chicago school closings this fall, joined SEIU Healthcare workers that demand the state pay them more for their work in nursing homes, rehabilitation centers and medical centers.
Governor Pat Quinn was among the evening's speakers. He energized the crowd with promises to push for a $15 per hour minimum wage in Illinois, as well as a graduated state income tax.
Four other Democratic state lawmakers also attended, SEIU-funded Progress Illinois reports:
Chicago Democratic State Reps. Maria Antonia "Toni" Berrios, Ken Dunkin, Christian Mitchell and Derrick Smith attended the meeting. They all agreed that they would request a meeting with House Speaker Michael Madigan to advocate for the progressive income tax proposal,HJRCA33, to be put on the 2014 ballot for voters to consider. The representatives also said they would support and help advance a bill, HB 2793, calling for an elected Chicago Board of Education during the fall veto session, which starts October 22. The Chicago Board of Education is the only non-elected school board in Illinois, and it's ultimately up to the state legislature to change the current appointment system.
Class warfare and racial comments during the rally are stirring controversy:
Brandon Johnson, an organizer with the Chicago Teachers Union, fired up the rally crowd at the University of Illinois at Chicago Forum, saying the 35 union and neighborhood groups were there to send a message to “the mayor of this city and his corporate, greedy elitist friends that this city belongs to the people in this room. Black people, brown people, poor people, working-class people.”
The SEIU-Illinois website lists "Take Back Chicago" effort's "new, people-focused" agenda:
- Our tax money, which should be used to support our public school system and give our children the education they deserve, is instead being handed over to predatory banks and greedy downtown developers.
- Our wages are kept too low to support ourselves and our families, while business elites make record profits off of our hard day’s work.
- Our tax system is plagued by corporate loopholes and sweetheart deals for the super-rich. We need the rich to pay their fair share of taxes.
- Our city budget continues to cut funding for mental health clinics, libraries, hospitals, schools, parks, and the public services we need.
- Our homes are foreclosed upon by big banks, our rent continues to skyrocket, and our neighborhoods are made dangerous by vacancies. We need the city to create and preserve affordable housing as part of its five year plan.
The groups plan to ramp up their message and pressure the Illinois General Assembly on state issues, and Congress with federal policy changes. A Chicago Teacher's Union member says he is joining the protest to get "adequate funding" in the upcoming Chicago Budget to be released by the mayor on October 23.