Gov. Pat Quinn was briefly confronted by striking Chicago Public Schools teachers today as he attended a memorial honoring Illinois soldiers who have died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The governor stopped to wish the teachers “good luck” as he entered a Southwest Side library where the memorial is on display. Once inside, he tried to deflect reporters' questions about the strike, saying the day should be dedicated to remembering the lives lost in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Quinn largely stayed on point, arguing that the right to protest is one of several freedoms military men and women have died for.
“I think it is healthy that people, when they have a grievance and they feel strongly about a subject, they express themselves,” Quinn said. “That’s what liberty is all about, and that’s what our country is all about.”
“It’s collective bargaining, and that’s one of the rights that’s hard-fought in our country,” Quinn added. “I think it’s important that when you are at the bargaining table that there be an opportunity for both sides to speak to each other and to negotiate and bargain to reach a good contract that is fair to all.”
As Quinn left, he stopped to encourage the teachers to visit the memorial. He noted that one of the fallen soldiers honored was Omar Torres, whose mother, Doris Torres, works for Chicago Public Schools and attended the event with Quinn wearing red in support of the striking teachers.
The exchange was rather low key, in contrast to Quinn’s appearance at the state fair last month, where hundreds of unionized state workers followed the governor around the grounds angrily chanting and shouting at him. State workers are opposed to his efforts to change retirement benefits and close several prisons – the latter of which is now on hold following a lawsuit by the state’s largest employee union.
Quinn thanked the teachers for coming out and told them they were “special” for their work educating young people. He also noted that he is working to get more funding for education from lawmakers.
Adam Heenan, a social studies teacher at Curie Metro High School, said he appreciated Quinn’s efforts in Springfield but was left wanting more.
“We were hoping he would come out and advocate for an end to the teachers strike that is dignifiable for teachers and learned, all students and teachers and all communities and parents,” said Heenan, who argued tax dollars used to provide breaks to businesses should be diverted to schools.
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