The Chicago Teachers Union is not just about looking out for its members’ interests. The union wants to fundamentally change America, too.
That shift occurred when the radical Karen Lewis was elected as its president two years ago. She’s best known for mocking U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s lisp and for taking on - and defeating - Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel in the district’s first teachers’ strike in a generation.
CTU leaders have been on a victory lap of sorts since the September strike, with union activists seeing themselves as protectors of union power during a time of membership decline and education reform at the state and local level.
Some union leaders have called for violence and other radical tactics to achieve social goals.
When Lewis appeared at the Illinois Labor History Society’s “Salute to Labor’s Historic Heroes from the History Makers of Today,” she didn’t disappoint the crowd. She threw gasoline onto the fire of class warfare, and even mentioned mob killings of wealthy Americans.
“… Do not think for a minute that the wealthy are ever going to allow you to legislate their riches away from them. Please understand that. However, we are in a moment where the wealth disparity in this country is very reminiscent of the robber baron ages. The labor leaders of that time, though, were ready to kill. They were. They were just – off with their heads. They were seriously talking about that.”
Some in the audience laughed and clapped at her remark.
“I don’t think we’re at that point,” Lewis laughingly replied, without specifying when “that point” might arrive. “And that’s scary to most people. But the key is they think nothing of killing us. They think nothing of putting our people in harm’s way. They think nothing of lethal working conditions.”
She then used schools without air conditioning as an example of “lethal working conditions.”