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Chicago: This year’s Madison?

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Will Chicago, Illinois, be this year’s Madison, Wisconsin?

That’s the question at one workshop taking place Saturday afternoon as part of a huge national conference of labor activists [2] at the O’Hare Crowne Plaza.

A 2 p.m. workshop on Chicago labor asks: “Will Rahm Emanuel be this year’s Scott Walker? His game plan for public sector unions is right out of the austerity playbook, but a growing number of Chicago unions are standing up to Mayor 1%. Are we shaping up for a showdown?”

Panelists include leaders from unions representing teachers, city workers, letter carriers, and nurses, along with a community activist fighting mental health clinic closings.

It’s one of dozens of workshops that will be attended by 1,500 rank-and-file activists and leaders at the national conference of Labor Notes, a magazine that’s advocated labor democracy and militancy for over 30 years.

Topics cover a wide range, from broad political themes to nuts-and-bolts organizing.  International speakers will address European workers’ response to austerity, labor and the Egyptian democracy movement, and Japanese labor’s response to the Fukushima crisis.

Chicago activists are participating in a number of workshops of interest locally and beyond – particularly activists with the Chicago Teachers Union, which seems to be Emanuel’s top target.

On Saturday afternoon, local activists will participate in workshops on labor and the Occupy movement, community-labor alliances to protect public services, organizing along the food chain, organizing low-wage workers, and the logistics industry.

Later Saturday afternoon, teachers from across the country will gather for a workshop on “teaching against the odds.”

Sunday morning is a workshop on preparing for NATO.  Mischa Gaus of Labor Notes said a number of unions are planning on joining protests there in large numbers.

Here’s a conference schedule [3] (and a description of workshops [4]).  Journalists should contact  mischa@labornotes.org.