Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis called Mayor Rahm Emanuel a "liar and a bully" during a massive Labor Day demonstration in Daley Plaza.
"The only way to beat a bully is to stand up to a bully," she told the hundreds -- if not thousands -- of people who made up the sea of red T-shirts outside City Hall. "We came together to stop the juggernaut that doesn't care about our children."
The CTU, embroiled in a major contract dispute with the Chicago Public Schools, has slated next Monday, Sept. 10, as the first day of their work stoppage. Wages, health benefits and job security are major sticking points. Both sides in July rejected an arbitrator's fact-finding report.
Teachers weren't the only ones making up the crowd Monday. Representatives from other unions, public and private, also turned out to lend their support.
"We are proud public servants. We are not indentured servants," said Mike Shields, the president of Chicago's Fraternal Order of Police.
And if teachers to, in fact, walk next week, they'll have the support of the religious community.
"If come next Monday the teachers have to walk, I invite the teachers from the four neighborhood schools around St. Andrews Church to consider St. Andrews Church to be their strike headquarters," said Father Tim Yeager.
Thousands of students head back to school on Tuesday, and talks continue between the parties in an attempt to avoid a strike.
"We honor the working men and women of our District not just today, but every day for the great work they do on behalf of our students. We hope to soon reach a fair agreement that recognizes them for their hard work and allows us to avoid any disruptions to our kids' school year just as they and their teachers are benefiting from the new Full School Day," CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard said in a written statement.
If teachers do take to the picket line, nearly 150 schools will remain open for half-days, Brizard said last week.