Monday, February 28, 2011
News Item: Midwestern teachers staged a massive protest, taking control of a central government building and demanding financial guarantees from the government.
This was not Madison, Wisconsin 2011, but rather, Chicago, Illinois 1933.
On April 27 of that year, Chicago Teachers staged a massive demonstration march which clogged streets in the Loop and culminated in a sit-in takeover of the Chicago City Hall and several downtown bank lobbies.
But unlike the Madison teachers today who are among the economic elite with salaries well above the median incomes in their districts and gilded health care and pension plans, the Chicago teachers hadn't been paid at all for nearly a year.
According to the left-wing NATION the situation was so bleak that teachers were taking loans from Chicago loan sharks just to buy groceries and one even committed suicide.
The Chicago Mayor of the era, Anton Cermak, had just been mistakenly assassinated in Florida while down there to confer with President-elect Roosevelt and beg for federal funds to pay Chicago's teachers.
According to Chicago native and Newsweek senior editor, Jonathan Alter in his sympathetic 2006 treatment of FDR's first 100 days, The Defining Moment,p.275, Roosevelt had no sympathy for the protestors.
"The past decade has seen a very large increase in teachers' salaries, and even if all the teachers were cut 15% like government employees, they will still be getting relatively more than a decade ago," Roosevelt said.
According to Alter (p.276), "Roosevelt was convinced he must keep his campaign promise and balance the budget... For the first time in memory, the country had a president who took on all the lobbyists and pressure groups angling for their slice of the pie and beat them decisively."
Sounds an awful lot like the stand being taken today by Wisconsin Governor, Scott Walker.
And the unionized Wisconsin teachers, awash in cash and worker benefits that most of the American workforce can only dream of, look like petty money-grubbers when compared to the genuinely hard-hit Chicago teachers of 1933.