Chicago: Unions rally for pro-labor mayoral candidate

Special to Workers World

Bulletin: Brandon Johnson was elected mayor of Chicago April 4, defeating pro-cop, pro-gentrification candidate Paul Vallas.

A vigorous rally was held on the campus of the University of Illinois Chicago on March 29 to encourage the April 4 vote for Brandon Johnson for mayor. Johnson is a progressive Black candidate and a former public school teacher, who is running in a heated race against pro-cop and anti-union Democrat Paul Vallas.

The event, a “Rally with Bernie and Brandon Johnson,” included many important guests, speakers and entertainers. Among the speakers were Martin Luther King III, son of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.; American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten; and Senator Bernie Sanders. Vic Mensa gave a hip-hop performance.

One notable guest in the audience was the Rev. Jesse Jackson. Sanders pointed out to the multinational, multigendered and multigenerational crowd that Jackson’s presidential campaigns in the 1980s were very similar to Johnson’s mayoral campaign today.

Unions, including the Chicago Teachers Union, United Electrical Workers and the National Nurses Organizing Committee, had a strong presence at the event. Members of NNOC were particularly visible, wearing red scrubs with their union’s logo and holding signs that read, “Nurses for Brandon Johnson.” Members of progressive and left groups attended, including Students for a Democratic Society and Freedom Road Socialist Organization.

Martin Luther King III addresses Chicago rally March 29.

What’s at stake

Vallas is supported by corporate Democrats, in addition to Chicago’s notoriously corrupt and brutal police department. He takes personal credit for replacing public schools in New Orleans with for-profit charter schools in 2011, when he ran the Recovery School District.

The AFT released an article on March 30 that exposes former President Donald Trump’s Secretary of Education, Betsey DeVos, as a large donor to Vallas’ campaign. According to the report, Vallas has “received tens of thousands of dollars from the Illinois Federation for Children,” a super PAC founded by DeVos.

Vallas has made it clear that he has a personal vendetta against unionized workers, especially teachers. This reporter overheard Vallas openly tell reporters, “I’m not running against Brandon Johnson. I’m running against the Chicago Teachers Union leadership.”

Vallas poses a threat to the material interests of workers and oppressed people of Chicago. Brandon Johnson’s mayoral campaign, on the other hand, gives hope to the struggle against racism and for union security. 

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