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Strike for America: Chicago Teachers Against Austerity


4.07  ·  Rating details ·  152 ratings  ·  29 reviews
The Chicago Teachers Union strike was the most important domestic labor struggle so far this century—and perhaps for the last forty years—and the strongest challenge to the conservative agenda for restructuring education, which advocates for more charter schools and tying teacher salaries to standardized testing, among other changes.

The teachers took on the bipartisan, fre
Paperback, 128 pages
Published March 11th 2014 by Verso (first published January 1st 2014)
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4.07  · 
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 ·  152 ratings  ·  29 reviews

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Jun 16, 2018 rated it liked it
Almost a whole month on this book is embarrassing, but I had a lot going on and...I'm not going to lie, it was just hard to read about a strike with members that worked so hard together while also working with my union and feeling frustrated by my members.

I don't have a lot to say about this book other than Uetricht brings up great points about how you have to work together with the community and make those strong relationships in order to win the battle with a union. It's so frustrating how un
Jonas Liston
May 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Why you should read this book?

1) Well, they won some stuff, that's rare in itself at the moment.

2) They led a decade-long struggle to win leadership of their union based on democratic control, militant rank-and-file struggle and a different vision of education counter-posed to that of the neo-liberals and the TU bureaucrats.

3) Once they took leadership, they transformed it into a union rested upon working-class self-activity and a new, radical left-wing vision of society, not a top-down style
Mar 10, 2014 rated it liked it
“Strike for America” is as much about the fate of public education as it is a tract on the virtues and need for radical democratic unionism in the United States.

Michael Uetricht's account of a strike by Chicago teachers against the city school system and Mayor Rahm Emanuel's plan to close scores of schools as part of his reform is no even-handed monograph.

Before us is an unabashedly positive account of changes in the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), over a few years, that led to the installation o
Aug 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: labor, lefty
Good friend, former co-worker, and brilliant thinker/writer Micah Uetricht threw himself in the thick of the Chicago Teachers Union strike of 2012, an event that carries great significance for me as a labor organizer, son of a retired CTU steward, and first-time father of a daughter born on the strike’s first day.

As one of the most important labor events in recent years, the strike deserves much attention. Strike for America was written in a condensed time frame for a Jacobin magazine series of
Nov 15, 2015 rated it liked it
CORE's 2010 takeover of CTU and CTU's 2012 strike were amazing and inspiring actions that changed the trajectory of my own life. But what's happened politically in the three years since the strike should raise some doubts about the bold claims made (by Uetricht and others) in its immediate aftermath. I found some of the procedural details of this recent history useful but, with the advantage of greater hindsight, some of the analysis lacking.
Dec 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Micah Uetricht's lucid account of the now-iconic 2012 Chicago Teachers Union strike, and his research into the years of rank-and-file organizing that paved the way for it, are an invaluable contribution to a history that may well prove to be the watershed moment for class struggle in the United States during the neoliberal era.
Mar 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
How can teachers unions grow stronger? This right here is the plan. Essentially, don't just fight for contracts, but fight for the children, their families and better public education as well. Work with community organizations. Be vocal and public against standardized testing, austerity, privitization and poverty. Do it by becoming an activist union rather than a service or "business" union.

The book details how the Chicago teachers did it. The writing is occasionally repetative—it could have use
Mar 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Strike for America is an excellent account of the 2012 Chicago teacher's strike, one that succeeds in laying out a blueprint for the labour movement in the twenty first century. Using the teacher's strike as a case study, Uetricht argues for both rank-and-file unionism and for the necessity of situating workers struggles within a broader movement against the neoliberal agenda. This book is about the fundamentals of organizing social movement unionism as a fight for public services, and is rather ...more
Jan 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: teaching
This book came out five years ago but it feels prescient and wildly relevant given the recent wave of teachers strikes. The elements of an activist union are shown to develop out of difficult work done by average people that becomes contagious around key confrontations. You can sense the excitement that a fighting union can generate when it surprises with some wins. The analysis holds up after years of dramatic change on the American left and I can imagine rank-and-file educator groups reading t ...more
Colum Dillon
Jan 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
A breezy summary of the CTU’s historic strike for the schools of Chicago. I enjoyed this book, but found that I didn’t learn much from it, being a CTU member. For anyone outside of union teaching and outside of Chicago, I highly recommend to gain familiarity with the topic. But for those on the inside of the community, I don’t think you’ll learn anything you haven’t seen in local media and union politics in the last ten years.
Christian Robertson
Jul 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Nice to read a book about a labor union winning out over corporate neoliberalism, and knowing that it's actually non-fiction!
Apr 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Solid and quick read about the historic Chicago Teachers Union strike. Overall, slightly less-accessible than How to Jump-Start Your Union: Lessons from the Chicago Teachers but nonetheless a useful companion. Both books show that what CTU did took courage, yes, but also years'-long work organizing and developing members and leaders.
Mar 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book was recommended to me by a friend who works in labor negotiation, and I don’t regret a minute of the time I invested in reading it.
Shanice Mcbean
Jul 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant little book that every trade unionist will benefit from reading.

The book begins by describing the dismal history of conservative capitulation that mired the Chicago Teacher's Union for over a quarter of a century. Mired with the stale dregs of a conservative leadership, teachers in Chicago faced closure after dismissal after defeat as the neo-liberal project sought to turn education in Chicago away from learning and towards profit.

The book tracks the steady development and ultimate l
Rich F
Jun 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This has been on my to-read list for quite a bit, and I was happy to finally get around to buying and reading it after seeing it on a table at Lit Fest. Being that 2012 was my first full year teaching in CPS, I understood the basic struggle that led to striking but not the history behind it. This book did a fantastic job of giving me a more in-depth understanding of CORE and the steps leading up to the strike. It also contextualized some of my own experiences, from the fear of being shouted down ...more
Aug 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2014
Great, inspiring stuff. I knew very little about the Chicago teachers strike of 2012 before picking this up. After reading, I'm not only encouraged that perhaps broad-based, community-oriented worker action can actually start to turn the tide against our mad rush to dismantle and privatize all our public goods.

If you're a die-hard Gates Foundation fanboy or fangirl, this book probably isn't written to change your mind, though I'd hope that reading it would at least give you pause when you see ho
Jun 13, 2015 rated it liked it
Just because I'm in agreement with an author's bias doesn't mean it's necessarily enjoyable to read biased writing. I liked getting some additional information, the historical context, and the way the book put some of the smaller pieces from my memory into a "big picture." But the uneven and clearly biased writing (example: using the word "militant" at least once per page) means this might not be the greatest piece for convincing anyone who's on the fence about what the 2012 strike accomplished.
Dec 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
While at times overly polemical and triumphalist of CORE/CTU (what else would you expect of a Jacobin Publication) this work provides a brief and entertaining summary/analysis of recent union opposition to neoliberal reform in Chicago. An important read for anyone interested in US education reform, and particularly valuable for its breakdown of the key organizing strategies and tactics that allowed CORE to build real collective power against financially empowered opponents.
Jul 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: political-stuff
A great quick read about the Chicago Teachers strike in 2012 that has important lessons for everyone concerned about the labor movement, inequality, austerity, and racial justice. I don't agree with every bit of it, like it has that lefty hope that more union democracy will make the labor movement more militant, but the book as a whole is very compelling. It's not often we get to read an in-depth case study of how a political success came about.
Jan 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
One of the best modern accounts of a labor strike, providing detailed background and context of the Chicago Teachers Union, the rise of the community-oriented Caucus of Rank and File Educators (CORE), and the challenges from the neoliberal and pro-privatization administration of Mayor Rahm Emanuel. A great work from Verso's new Jacobin series
John Mason
This book shows that working people, particularly in the public sector, can fight back for their rights and the rights of people in their communities. This book further shows that the slide into plutocracy in this country, and the decline of Labor unions, is NOT inevitable, it CAN be fought.
Clear, concise analysis of the 2012 CTU strike and why it won the victories that it did - a model of organizing beyond a union's self-interest to win battles against neoliberalism for the good of an entire community
James Davisson
Dec 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Excellent history of the 2012 Chicago teachers' strike, as well as a guide to mobilizing workers, defending democracy, and pushing back against the neoliberal agenda.
So dry. Good account of what took place and why it matters but it's pretty dry and hard to get through in some spots without feeling bored.
May 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
Easy read and write up on the Chicago Teachers Union strike of 2012, giving important context of the larger push back on neoliberal education reform efforts.
Tim A.
Aug 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
Thoroughly enjoyed. Almost made me miss being a Chicago public school teacher. Almost.
Sep 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
Here’s the story of the Chicago Teachers Union strike of 2012. Informative and fast for educators, Chicagoans, and those interested in union history.
Jun 15, 2016 rated it liked it
Pointed examination of the CTU's resurgence between 2005-2014.
rated it really liked it
Jan 09, 2018
Taylor Jones
rated it it was amazing
Apr 20, 2014
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Micah Uetricht is an Assistant Editor at Jacobin and Contributing Editor at In These Times. He has written for the Nation, Al Jazeera America, Dissent, the American Prospect, the Chicago Reader, and Salon. He is a former labor organizer and lives in Chicago.

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