Chicago teachers join Manchester’s biggest May Day for years

Tara Stamps and Matt Luskin from the Chicago Teachers’ Union joined Manchester’s biggest International Workers’ Day festival for years. Ian Allinson reports.

Marchers and banners
Marchers and banners in Manchester, May Day festival 2016

Manchester TUC had organised a huge festival for May Day this year. Despite hail, rain and sun we marched into the city centre to Sackville Gardens and the Mechanics Institute (the birthplace of the TUC in 1868) for a series of events. Various organisations hosted meetings covering Palestine, Kobane and Latin America, through TTIP, migrant workers, James Connolly, the Spanish Civil War, CWU “frontline online”, the NHS, the Trade Union Bill and two sessions with Chicago teachers. There was also film, music, plays, food and drink.

The crowd at Manchester May Day rally 2016
The crowd at Manchester May Day rally 2016

rs21 interviewed Tara Stamps, one of the Chicago Teachers’ Union delegates brought over by the NUT.

 

Top table at the rally: Arthur Scargill, Mark Serwotka, Sheila Coleman, Megan Parsons, Annette Wright, Christine Blower, Matt Wrack, Hannah McCarthy, Lynn Collins
Top table at the rally: Arthur Scargill (NUM), Mark Serwotka (PCS), Sheila Coleman (Hillsborough Justice Campaign), Megan Parsons (BMA Junior Doctor), Annette Wright (chairing, Manchester TUC President), Christine Blower (NUT), Matt Wrack (FBU), Hannah McCarthy (NUS) and Lynn Collins (NWTUC).

The rally featured an impressive top table. Matt Wrack argued that the media storm around allegations of anti-semitism in the Labour Party was an attempt to undermine Jeremy Corbyn, and that our movement should take no lessons on anti-racism from the Daily Mail or Boris Johnson. Mark Serwotka talked about his time in hospital when he was fitted with the equipment to keep his heart going. The 13 weeks included Saturdays and Sundays, but the care never stopped. He also made the point that the NHS staff who treated him were from all over the world and condemned the treatment of people in Calais who had their own contribution to make. Several speakers attacked the scapegoating of migrants and argued for solidarity. Arthur Scargill argued for an “out” vote in the EU referendum. He argued that Jeremy Corbyn had made a mistake in going along with the Labour right in supporting the remain campaign. He praised the current Labour leadership for supporting the junior doctors, but said that shadow Health Secretary Heidi Alexander should have been sacked for her unsupportive remarks and that Corbyn should have called on all MPs to get down to picket lines.

Sheila Coleman from the Hillsborough Justice Campaign spoke about their victory this week and warned the Orgreave campaigners not to trust politicians even when they appeared supportive:

Almost every speaker stressed the importance of the junior doctors’ strike. Mark Serwotka was highly critical of the TUC General Council, which had rejected a proposal for a day of action in support of the junior doctors. He said that he and Matt Wrack had been attacked for even suggesting it. He made the general point that the unions had failed to deliver the level of resistance required in recent years, and that the blame for that lay with their leaderships. Everyone understood that we were stronger if we struck together, but the leaders had failed to deliver that.

Megan Parsons, a junior doctor from the BMA spoke powerfully about the current dispute:

The day was rounded off with a performance by Banner Theatre of their inspiring “Chicago: The Great Teachers’ Strike” which interspersed short video clips with words and music, explaining the Global Education Reform Movement (GERM) and the fight for quality education. At the end they posed for photos with Tara Stamps and Matt Luskin from the Chicago Teachers’ Union.

Banner Theatre with Chicago teachers after a performance of "Chicago: The Great Teachers' Strike" at Manchester May Day 2016
Banner Theatre with Chicago teachers after a performance of “Chicago: The Great Teachers’ Strike” at Manchester May Day 2016

For more on the Chicago teachers, see Academisation and the Chicago Teachers’ Strikes.