Building a Resilient Union
This chapter analyzes the history of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) during the quarter century from 1988 to the union’s recent strike in 2012. It shows the CTU’s slow but steady decline from a mighty union into a weak, unimaginative organization. It traces the steps that disillusioned teachers took to rebuild their union in order to beat one of the nation’s then most powerful mayors—Rahm Emanuel—who had set out to break the CTU in the context of a broader and bipartisan assault on public-sector unions. This chapter shows how quickly a union can go from decline to renewal. It illustrates the profound difference between a union leadership that enables the rank and file to fight and a leadership that uses professional staff as administrators of a top-down union, constraining the impulses of its own members.
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