Teachers, workers strike on May Day in Chicago

CHICAGO (WLS) -- City Colleges of Chicago workers and Chicago High School for the Arts teachers walked the picket lines on Wednesday for May Day, which is synonymous with the labor movement which started in Chicago.

About 450 clerical workers at all 7 city colleges walked off the job on Wednesday after working without a contract for 3 years.

"We have 66% of our members are black/brown women who are single households whose wages are less than the Chicago minimum wage," said Delores Withers-President, of FCCTP Local 1708.

Norma Mejia is admissions clerk at Harold Washington College making less than $35,000 a year. She joined dozens of her colleagues on the picket line and a march through the Loop.

"I can barely make my rent in one check and after I make my rent it's budgeting to feed myself, to cloth myself and hoping there is not giant emergency," Mejia said.

City Colleges administration said it is committed to reaching a contract that recognizes the work of its clerical and technical staff.

Union members are hoping a strike will give them some leverage.

ChiArts High School teachers also took to the pick lines. They are the third CPS teachers union to strike.

While the labor movement has taken some hits in recent years, on this May Day, unions say they are united more than ever and have no plans of standing down.

"When you take on one of us, you take us on all," said Bob Reuter, of the Chicago Federation of Labor.

May Day has deep roots here in Chicago because of the Haymarket riot of 1886 when several people were killed after a bomb was thrown during a labor rally. From that, an international movement was born.

On Wednesday, dozens of public and private sector local unions gathered at the downtown memorial dedicated to the Haymarket affair.

"All around the world this holiday is celebrated because of the struggle in Chicago," said Larry Spivack, the AFSCME regional director.
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