Commentary by Kobi Guillory |
April 3, 2023
Chicago, IL – On April 4, Chicago faces its most crucial mayoral election since Harold Washington ran in 1983. Brandon Johnson, Cook County commissioner, union organizer, and former public school teacher, won enough votes in the February 28 primary to move into the runoff election against Paul Vallas, an administrator with a record of privatizing school systems in Chicago, Philadelphia, New Orleans and Bridgeport. Unions, community organizations and other progressive groups have formed a coalition behind Brandon Johnson to ensure better working, living and organizing conditions for the next four years.
The mass nature of the progressive coalition has been seen in the groundwork, where thousands of volunteers have spent months knocking on doors or calling their neighbors to get out the vote for Brandon. It has also shown in events such as the “Chicago For All Of Us” rally attended by 4000 supporters on March 30, where a wide range of organizations in the movements for working and oppressed people were represented. Among the many people on stage with Johnson and former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders were newly elected police district councilors, union members and organizers with Little Village High School Fightback.
Members of the struggles for police accountability, immigrant rights, workers’ rights, women’s liberation, LGBTQ rights, youth advancement and many others are united behind Brandon Johnson. The high level of unity among progressive groups with different ideologies reflects the historic importance placed by working and oppressed people in electing Johnson and avoiding the danger of a Vallas administration.
Paul Vallas is running with the endorsement of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), an organization notorious for fighting against accountability for police who commit crimes against Black and brown people. In contradiction to the demands of the Black community for greater police accountability, the FOP fights against every policy that increases the ability of the people to determine how their communities are policed.
Brandon Johnson has worked with the newly-elected District Councilors who ran on a platform of holding the police accountable for what they do and don’t do, particularly on the predominantly Black and brown South and West Sides of Chicago. Johnson’s strategy of increasing public safety through investment in communities has proved more effective in cities throughout the U.S. than Vallas’ “tough on crime” approach, which beefs up police departments at the expense of public services such as healthcare, education and transportation.
Vallas’ record of destroying school districts through privatization has followed him to this mayoral election. Students at Little Village High School who held a walk out on March 30 commemorated those in their community who fought to establish the high school in 2001 when Vallas was CEO of Chicago Public Schools. A week earlier, the Chicago Teachers Union hosted a panel featuring Viola Curry with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, AFT Local 1776, and Dr. Ashonta Wyatt, a member of the United Teachers of New Orleans (UTNO). Both teachers spoke about the ways in which Vallas attacked their public school systems and the teachers unions to benefit corporate interests in education.
On April 4, Chicago faces a choice between a union organizer and a hitman for the ruling class. Progressive organizations have recognized the historic necessity of electing Brandon Johnson and overcoming the corporate money behind the Vallas campaign. With the runoff only a day away, the coalition urges everyone who cares about improving conditions for working and oppressed people to vote for Brandon Johnson if they have not done so already.