9/18/12, Bill Mullen

The ongoing strike by Chicago public school teachers and a Wisconsin judge’s decision Friday to overturn Scott Walker’s repeal of collective bargaining rights for public workers underscore the reasons a majority of Purdue students and many others remain opposed to the idea of Mitch Daniels as Purdue president.

In Chicago, the Chicago Teachers Union is on strike against attempts by the city and its democratic mayor, Rahm Emanuel, to reform public education by replacing public schools with charter schools, putting more taxpayer money into voucher programs to support private schools, and taking away the voice of teachers in unions fighting for better public schools.

These ideas have all been championed by Mitch Daniels as governor of Indiana. In February 2011, thousands of Indiana teachers packed the State House in Indianapolis to protest. Daniels responded by attacking teachers.

At a rally against Daniels on Sept. 11 on campus, many people wore Chicago Teachers Union T-shirts and expressed outrage that Daniels was trying to do in Indiana what teachers and the public in Chicago have now rejected. Indeed about exactly the same percentage of Purdue students oppose Daniels’ appointment (53 percent) as people in Chicago who support the Chicago teachers in their strike (55 percent; 66 percent among parents of public school children).

Also on Friday, a judge in Wisconsin overturned legislation passed by republican governor Scott Walker that stripped many public employees, including teachers, of collective bargaining rights. The judge ruled the law a violation of constitutional rights to free speech and assembly.

Walker’s law was inspired by and modeled in part on Daniels’ 2005 executive order – signed the day he took office as governor – taking away collective bargaining rights from state employees. Daniels later pushed through Right to Work legislation that undermined all unions in Indiana. More than 15,000 demonstrated against Right to Work in Indianapolis last March.

The fight against Mitch Daniels as governor and appointed Purdue president is the same fight against attacks on public education in Chicago and union rights in Wisconsin. And just as the tide in the fight against Scott Walker and Rahm Emanuel is now turning on behalf of teachers, students and workers, so can the tide turn against Mitch Daniels.

The rallying cry for concerned citizens, students and teachers at Purdue should be “We beat Rahm! We can beat Mitch!”

Only an organized campaign by ordinary workers, students and teachers fighting together can overturn attempts by elitist politicians to hijack public education and destroy the rights of working people.

Bill Mullen is a professor of English and American Studies and can be contacted at bvmullen@purdue.edu.

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