CTU, Marilyn Stewart refuse to publish referendum results.... Another cover-up of widespread cheating?

One week after she finished spending more than $100,000 to promote her position in three controversial referenda that she said would save money for the 31,000-member Chicago Teachers Union, CTU President Marilyn Stewart was still refusing to publish the school-by-school results of the voting at the union's Web site — even though one of the issues before the voters was publication of such information on line at the CTU Web site (!

Chicago Teachers Union President Marilyn Stewart (above, on the TV monitor at the Board of Education meeting of October 28, 2009) is still refusing to publish the school-by-school results of the November 20 CTU referendum. Without the publication of the school-by-school results, as required by the CTU By-Laws, the union's members have no way to verify that Stewat's claimed of a victory on the three questions that were voted on by the union's active duty members are valid. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.The referenda, which were voted on in all public schools on November 20, 2009, supposedly eliminated the union's fifth officer (the treasurer), eliminated the publication of CTU election results in the pages of the Chicago Union Teacher (the results are now supposed to be published on line), and gave Stewart expanded powers to purge the union's members and officers — via her rubber stamp "Executive Board" — for activities which she alleges bring the union into disrepute. Stewart refused to allow more than 3,000 union members — retired members — to participate in the referendum.

Although Stewart was quick to post a victory proclamation at the union's Web site, she has refused for one week to provide the union's members with any additional information. By Sunday, November 22, the CTU Web site led with the following statement from Stewart:

Message from the president


A most sincere “thank you” to the CTU membership for supporting your elected officials in passing the three referendum items on the ballot on Friday, November 20. The results were as follows.

Referendum Item #1 – Posting election results on website … 10,079 Yes; 6,060 No

Referendum Item #2 – Eliminating position of Treasurer … 8,746 Yes; 7,397 No

Referendum Item #3 – Removal of office-holders if they lose Union membership … 8,502 Yes; 7,168 No

A lot of misinformation was distributed before the voting, but that is behind us now. You, the members, have spoken and I respect your position. You have taken the courageous stand of supporting our efforts to bring more accountability, more fiscal responsibility, and more efficiency to our Union. Reform does not come easy, but you have helped to assure that it indeed does come about.

Over the past two years since I first initiated reform within our Union ranks, our fiscal condition has improved dramatically. We have moved from a deficit of more than $600,000 to a surplus of more than $2 million. Your help in passing this referendum means that we will be able to save even more in the future.

Of course, we need those funds for the battles we must wage with the Board of Education over its policies that hurt our members. It’s time for us to STOP fighting with one another and intensify our work to hold the Board accountable.

Less than three weeks before his suspicious death (which took place on the morning of November 16, 2009), Chicago Board of Education President Michael Scott at the Board's October 28, 2009 meeting (above) tried to discuss the issues that CTU President Marilyn Stewart was bringing before the Board. Failing to charm Stewart, Scott signaled an abrupt "time" call on Stewart's speaking time, which many found unusual. For the second meeting out of the past three, Scott also ended public participation at the October 28 meeting while dozens of people waited to speak. Prior to Scott's death, many observers noticed that he was becoming more and more impatient at Board meetings with those who disagreed with him and with Board policies. Despite his claim that he would look into every issue brought before the Board, Scott had chosen to cut off public participation abruptly, badger speakers, and sometimes rudely disagree with those who disagreed with him or the policies the Board routinely approves on behalf of Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, who appoints the Board members and the CEO of the school system. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. No mention was made that Stewart had an obligation under the union's existing procedures to publish the school-by-school results of the referenda for all the members. The results were available by midnight on November 20, and could easily have been published by the same day Stewart issued her "Thank You."

The school-by-school results of the referenda are not the only basic information that Stewart is withholding from the membership.

Despite both a requirement and a 35-year tradition of publishing the CTU Delegates Directory both in print and on the Web, Stewart has simply ignored the requirement for the past four years. In the past, union delegates were able to get a complete and up-to-date list of all delegates, with home phone numbers, as part of the fulfillment of the requirements of the union. Delegates were surveyed at least once a year, and they had the right to ask that their home phone numbers not be published, but all other information was published. Since she took office, Stewart has simply ignored the requirement that she publish a Delegates Directory. Stewart's refusal to publish a Delegates Directory is also troubling to a growing number of union members because it means that nobody in the CTU knows who the members of the Executive Board are. The Delegates Directory used to include the names of the union's Executive Board members, including those appointed by Stewart.

November 20 referendum results raise suspicions

In addition to the fact that Stewart has once again returned CTU voting to the 19th Century paper ballot method which was proved to be an open invitation to corruption prior to the election of Deborah Lynch as CTU President in 2001, Stewart has also resorted to packing all of the union's committees with her stalwarts while purging the committees of other union members.

Stewart's purge and pack policy has a doubly negative impact on the union's members and on union democracy.

On the one hand, standing committee chairmen are appointed by Stewart and are also voting members of the CTU Executive Board. As a result, the ability to appoint committee heads without resorting to any consultation with the committees' members gives Stewart additional power over the Executive Board, which has increased in power since Stewart first invoked its power to supersede that of the House of Delegates during the time she devoted to firing union President Ted Dallas in 2008. The fact that Stewart has refused to allow union members to attend Executive Board meetings — even threatening those who attempt to do so with arrest — has added to the problem.

In the case of the powerful Rules-Elections Committee, which oversees election rules and activities such as the November 20 referendum, the subordination of the committees to Stewart poses even greater problems for the union's membership.

Between 2001 and 2004, the Lynch administration opened up all of the union's standing committees to any union member willing to attend meetings and work on the committee. The result was a flowering of union democracy. At the time this reporter served at secretary of the Rules-Elections Committee (2002 - 2004), the committee included members of Deborah Lynch's PACT caucus, several members of the United Progressive Caucus, as well as a number of independents. Retired members were also welcome on the committees, where they shared their expertise and expterience. 

Final edited version of this article posted at November 27, 2009, 5:00 p.m. CDT. If you choose to reproduce this article in whole or in part, or any of the graphical material included with it, please give full credit to SubstanceNews as follows: Copyright © 2009 Substance, Inc., Please provide Substance with a copy of any reproductions of this material and we will let you know our terms — or you can take out a subscription to Substance (see red button to the right) and make a donation. We are asking all of our readers to either subscribe to the print edition of Substance (a bargain at $16 per year) or make a donation. Both options are available on the right side of our Home Page. For further information, feel free to call us at our office at 773-725-7502.


November 27, 2009 at 11:30 AM

By: John Moran


First, I want to say thank you very much to all the CTU Members who voted against the three referendum issues on November 20th. The Coalition For A Strong Democratic Union (CSDU) deeply appreciates your support in the process to regain control of our union and bring true democracy and transparency back to our great union. You sent a strong message to the CTU President that it is a time for a change.

Against the tremendous resources of the CTU, we nearly defeated those unfair referenda. Nearly 17,000 votes were cast for referendum items 2 and 3. These two referendum items each passed by a margin of less than 1,500 votes. That is a margin of less that 5% between the Yes and No votes.

In spite of the fact that many schools lacked CTU Delegates and the voting was conducted by CTU Field Representatives and CTU Administrators, we still we’re able to nearly defeat these referendum items. My questions are that since the CTU Field Representatives we’re able to find these schools, why didn’t they conduct delegate elections so that these schools would now be properly represented? Don’t all schools deserve to be represented by a CTU Delegate elected by their staff? Why are CTU Field Representatives thwarting schools in electing their own delegate?

Once again, thank you very much for your support. We worked well together in trying to prevent this obvious abuse of power by the current CTU President. We were almost successful in defeating these very unfair referenda. Let’s keep our eye on the prize and work together to improve the CTU permanently by voting in May and elect the CSDU Slate to reform our great union by bringing back true democracy and transparency.

November 27, 2009 at 6:03 PM

By: Jim Vail

Comment to Teacher

John - I guess on behalf of CSDU you've left out the most important recent defeat of the Marilyn machine - the election of CORE's two pension trustees Jay Rehak and Lois Ashford. Let's not quickly forget this most memorable victory via true grassroots organizing as me and many other CORE people fliered schools and sent the message out to elect people who will fight for our pensions. And I believe this was the first pension trustee election defeat for UPC.

November 27, 2009 at 6:24 PM

By: Jay Rehak

It's time to see the Referenda School by School vote count

I hope all of the various caucuses in the CTU collectively insist that the school by school vote counts be posted as soon as possible on the CTU website. By not posting the school by school vote counts, President Stewart and her group needlessly raise suspicions about the integrity of the vote. While I do not challenge the results, I question why the school by school vote counts are notreadily available to anyone who wishes to view them. What's the problem? It harms our image when full public accountings are not made. Just as the public feud between President Stewart and her former Vice President (CSDU leader) Ted Dallas has done a tremendous amount of damage to the CTU's public reputation, not publishing school by school vote counts hurts the entire membership. All CTU members are tainted when the public perception of our Union is that it is rife with corruption, be it underreported vote counts or possible overspending by officers. Again, I am not saying the vote count was not as was reported, but it is the appearance of impropriety which impugns the process and diminishes our collective strength.

November 27, 2009 at 6:45 PM

By: Bad Times Ahead

Union Reality

Teachers’ unions are being hammered across the country by the politicians as an easy scapegoat for the lack of student achievement. Politicians are lazy and if an opportunity presents itself that they can use with the public and not have to think about the actual problems, they will jump on it. Currently, the magic formula appears to be break the unions and let charter schools solve the problems.

There is a huge disconnect between teachers’ unions’ leadership and the membership. Most new teachers join the union because it is the thing to do. In years gone by we felt justified because we were fighting for pay increases and smaller class size. And sitting behind every membership card was the comforting existence of the union legal department there to protect you if you needed it. Having signed on the dotted line and participated in any strike, most teachers never paid attention to what the leadership was doing.

Imagine how much less the current generation of teachers thinks about the machinations of the union leadership when we haven’t had a strike in over 20 years.

The problem is that the politicians and the citizens assume that we all share in the decisions of union leadership. We can explain that we have no ability to rein them in until an election occurs, but we have to take the blame for our lack of engagement. There has to be more grassroots activism against the current union leadership because ethically we are responsible for what is done in our name.

That wake up call to union teachers has to be sounded often. Oh, and by the way new teachers, the union dues we pay for legal protection is a myth. The union is protecting no one.

November 27, 2009 at 8:27 PM

By: Danny

Democracy vs. Autocracy

John Moran asks “Don’t all schools deserve to be represented by a CTU Delegate elected by their staff?”

Why, yes, John. They do, indeed, and that is why the CTU Constitution and Bylaws provide several mechanisms for doing just that.

The Bylaws state [Article III; Sec. 5(b)]: “It shall be the duty of the District Supervisors to maintain and increase the Union membership and to see that Delegates are elected and that they function effectively in all of the schools within their respective districts.”

Among the duties of the three Area Vice-Presidents [Article VI; Sec. 3(c) and (d)] are “to direct the election of School Delegates and members of the House of Delegates through the District Supervisors” and “to provide for the election of new Delegates where vacancies occur.”

In a democratic union envisioned by the Constitution and Bylaws, the District Supervisors would keep in regular contact with the delegates at the schools in their district (as they are paid stipends to do). That way, they would know when a vacancy occurred.

In case of a vacancy, the Area Vice-President, as an officer of the Union, might contact the school’s principal to set up a Union meeting at the school for the purpose of taking nominations for the delegate position. Before the meeting takes place, the AVP and DS might call a sampling of teachers in the school to see who has the leadership ability and respect of the faculty to serve as a delegate. They might even contact the people whose names came up most often to tell them that and encourage them to run for the position. The AVP and DS would conduct the school union meeting to explain the duties of a school delegate, take nominations, then discuss the procedures for the vote and set a time and date for that. The AVP might even solicit volunteers to serve as clerks of election to assist her/him in conducting the ballot.

The Chicago Teachers Union under Marilyn Stewart is not, however, a democratic union. Autocracy is more her style.

That is why she added this plank into the 2007-2012 Agreement (Article 1-20): “In the event a school does not elect a school delegate, the Union President shall designate a school delegate pro tem at the school.”

It’s a rather odd article because it has nothing to do with the Labor-Management relationship. It’s an internal matter to the union how delegates are selected. That’s why there is nothing in the contract about delegate elections.

Adding this out-of-place article to the Agreement violates the CTU Constitution which states [Article X; Sec 1(b)] “In the event no Delegate is elected, the chairperson of the Membership Committee shall, after sufficient notice to members involved, submit to the Executive Board the name of a Union teacher member from the school who will serve as a non-voting Delegate.” (The Financial Secretary serves as chairman of the Membership Committee.)

Now it’s hardly the first time that Marilyn Stewart has ignored the Constitution and Bylaws (I’ve joked before that Marilyn just doesn’t KNOW we have a Constitution and Bylaws), but why is she so rapacious for power that she has taken a duty of another officer for herself? It isn’t as if when Marilyn says “Jump” that Mark Ochoa doesn’t ask “How high?” It’s just the nature of autocrats to seize all the power they can.

How many delegates has Marilyn Stewart appointed to schools? It’s also not in her nature to tell us such details. But this violation of the CTU Constitution and Bylaws, this usurpation of power, must be in the tyrant’s best interest. It’s just one more advantage the incumbent officers have going in to this election.

We must change things when we take back our Union next May.

November 29, 2009 at 7:24 AM

By: Frustrated and retired

Still frustrated

While there has been at least one victory which is substantial(Pension Board),I'm concerned about the vote Nov. 20 (I think it was rigged) and creates the possibility of future "rigged" elections. I'm also upset that events that seem outrageous are becoming commonplace and "nothing out of the ordinary." I want to do something to help but can't right now.

November 29, 2009 at 10:59 AM

By: George N. Schmidt

What to do to help right now...

Thanks for the comment, 'Frustrated.' There are actually several things you can do to 'help' right now, one of which costs nothing (since you have e-mail) and the other of which you can do whether you subscribe to Substance or not.

First, demand that the CTU publish the school-by-school totals from the November 20 referendum. As of this writing (November 29) it's been nine days since the vote, and Marilyn Stewart is still holding back on putting the school-by-school results (as required by both the old and new policies) on the CTU Web site (

Second, subscribe to the print edition of Substance (it's what enables us to publish here and in print, our only source of revenue since we don't barrage you with ads for outfits like Hooters here) or, if you're already subscribing, send a gift subscription to your ten best friends. You can either send us the $16 check per subscription by mail to Substance, 5132 W. Berteau, Chicago, IL 60641 or use the on-line buttons at the right.

November 29, 2009 at 12:16 PM

By: Karen Lewis

Where are the results?

I went to the CTU website to see the school-by-school results and of course, they're not there. In addition to this being a violation of the constitution, do not think for one minute that the UPC isn't studying them right now to make sure they can use those data to their advantage. The Constitution states that the union shall not promote one organization over another. So can we use the officer recall provision to address the abuse of the Constitution?

November 29, 2009 at 11:05 PM

By: kugler


Where are the city wide election results?

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