Will Karen Lewis run against Rahm Emanuel? Should reparations be on the political agenda? That and more on this episode.
We’re happy to finally present the second episode of Jacobin Radio Chicago, hosted by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor and Micah Uetricht.
Featured in this episode is an interview with Chicago Teachers Union organizer Brandon Johnson on the union’s new political initiative, an “independent political organization,” recently announced as United Working Families.
Interviewed earlier this year, Johnson explains how the union, in partnership with a Service Employees International Union local and several community groups, decided that they needed to change the way unions and progressive groups engaged in electoral politics — due in part to frustration over issues like the recent spate of fifty school closures and the city’s unelected school board that the union thinks cannot be resolved without a significant change in the composition of the city’s elected officials.
The CTU has indicated a willingness to break from labor’s close and uncritical relationship to the Democratic Party in the past, opting to enter into combat with many conservative Democrats; the formation of UWF is the clearest indication of this stance yet. Johnson emphasizes that though the organization will prioritize taking on conservative Democrats in city council, state representative, and mayoral elections, and that there is “some stomach” for breaking with the Democrats in some races, the union will not be making a clean break with the Democratic Party any time soon.
Many on the Left have long clamored for unions to take on the Democratic Party and its long rightward drift. The UWF will be worth watching in the coming months and years as a potential model for how unions and community groups might do this.
Also discussed is the recent announcement that CTU President Karen Lewis is weighing a run against Rahm Emanuel for mayor, gun violence in the city, Ta-Nehisi Coates’s recent piece on reparations for African Americans and Chicago’s influence on his thinking, and the city council candidacy of socialist Jorge Mújica.