Chicago Teachers Union rank-and-file leaders join to protest November 20 referendum irregularities

More than two weeks after the members of the Chicago Teachers Union voted in the city's more than 600 public schools on three major changes in the union's governance supported by union president Marilyn Stewart and her "United Progressive Caucus," the leaders of four of the five caucuses which have been organizing in opposition to Stewart and her policies have dispatched a letter to Stewart questioning the manner and reported outcome of the voting.

By December 8, 2009, when the letter was in final form, the Chicago Teachers Union had reported three separate "official" vote counts on the referendum questions (three different propositions were voted on at the same time). As delegates worked in their schools preparing to go to the December 9 meeting of the CTU House of Delegates, the Stewart faction which has controlled the union since 2004 was preparing once again to stonewall against the increasing evidence that it had conducted the voting either incompetently or fraudulently.

The letter signed by the leaders of the Caucus for a Strong Democratic Union (CSDU), Caucus Of Rank and File Educators (CORE), Independent Caucus, and ProActive Chicago Teachers and school workers (PACT) was dispatched to Stewart on December 8, one day before the union meeting. Currently, there are six caucuses organizing within the Chicago Teachers Union in preparation for the May 2010 election when Marilyn Stewart has to run for re-election.

Two of the signers of the letter are current or former officers of the union. Linda Porter (of CSCU) is still serving as treasurer of the 31,000-member union. Deborah Lynch served as President of the union from July 1, 2001 until July 2004, when she was unseated by Marilyn Stewart in a controversial vote. The other signer are delegates elected from their schools who are also leaders of the caucuses which have been organizing in opposition to Stewart and her policies.

Of the opposition groups, only the "School Employee Alliance" caucus (SEAcaucus) did not join in the letter. The group does not have a phone number to facilitate contact at this time.

Although members of Marilyn Stewart's United Progressive Caucus (UPC) are still trying to remain united behind Stewart in the face of growing evidence of corruption, a number are talking with Substance and others in private about how to salvage what is left of the union and its reputation.

It was also sent to the heads of the American Federation of Teachers, Illinois Federation of Teachers, and the Chicago Federation of Labor.

The letter is reprinted here in full:

Irregularities Cited in Referendum Voting by CTU Groups

December 8, 2009

Dear President Stewart:

We, the undersigned, have come together to raise our collective voices in protest at the disregard for democracy that culminated in the gross mismanagement of the recent November 20, 2009 Referendum Voting and subsequent vote count.

There was one obvious departure from union democracy and transparency that lead to the inconsistencies and vote irregularities: the Rules and Procedures Governing the Conduction of the Referendum were not presented or discussed by the House of Delegates in preparation for the referendum vote. In addition, in another departure from precedent and past practice under all previous CTU presidents, the House had absolutely no say on the referendum questions themselves.

The Canvassing Committee, which is responsible for checking ballot boxes with discrepancies between the number of signatures and actual ballots cast, was composed solely of members of Marilyn Stewart’s political party. Watchers present at the ballot count claim that most of the ballots thrown out by the committee, a practice highly questionable in and of itself, were ballots cast against the amendment giving the president the right to take away the membership of another elected officer without a vote of the membership.

Schools also reported getting dozens of additional ballots (e.g. one elementary school reported 60 extra ballots; one high school, 65) and that the membership lists provided them by CTU were grossly out of date.

After more than ten days' delay in the release of the school-by-school vote counts the breakdowns showed many inconsistencies and omissions in the official school-by-school referendum results: it also appears that 21 high schools and 63 elementary schools had their vote totals omitted.

1. Kenzo Shibata, Delegate at Hancock High School voted himself and so did other members in his school and votes submitted to the union to be counted. (Votes Not Counted in Original CTU Report)

2. Danielle Ciesielski, Delegate at Robeson High School voted herself and so did other members in her school and votes submitted to the union to be counted. (Votes Not Counted in Original CTU Report)

3. Jim Vail, Delegate at Hammond Elementary states that the vote totals were flipped at his school — all members voted no on all 3 items, but it shows yes for all 3.

4. Deborah Lynch, Delegate at Gage Park High School reports that the official union tally numbers are completely wrong and do not match the school tallies.

5. Kevin Condon, Delegate at Stevenson Elementary reports no votes were flipped to yes votes.

6. Brian Grauer, Delegate at Ogden Elementary reports a discrepancy in his posted results.

There are a total of three official vote totals posted by the current leadership of the union.

Original Posted Numbers CTU website -11/21/09

Item #1 – 10,079 Yes; 6,060 No; Item #2 – 8,746 Yes; 7,397 No; Item #3 – 8,502 Yes; 7,168 No

Numbers from official school-by-school CTU posted pdf files -11/30/09

Item #1 – 9172 Yes; 5500 No; Item #2 – 7950 Yes; 6703 No; Item #3 – 8122 Yes; 6513 No

New Numbers after "counting mistake" CTU Facebook - 12/5/06

Item #1 - 9,573 Yes; 5,774 No; Item #2 - 8,340 Yes; 6,997 No; Item #3 - 8,528 Yes; 6,821 No

We seek the following redress from you:

• A complete and full report to the Union membership of the inconsistencies of the voting procedures and results.

• A complete recount of all the referendum ballots cast in a setting where any union member can be present.

• Immediately place representatives of all union caucuses on the Rules and Election Committee.

• A reputable independent outside agency (e.g. American Arbitration Association) conduct and tabulate the results of the Union Elections in May 2010.

Concerned Union Members,

Marcia Williams, Independent Caucus

Deborah Lynch, PACT

Linda Porter and Jack Moran, CSDU

Jackson Potter and Karen Lewis, CORE

Cc: Randi Weingarten, AFT President and AFT Executive Council

Ed Geppert, IFT President

Dennis Gannon, CFL President


December 9, 2009 at 6:10 PM

By: Al Korach

Retired Delegate (former VP teachers pension fund)

So --- The various caucuses are sending Marilyn a letter. I'm sure she is now shaking in her boots. The only thing that will cause any change is a combined effort by the caucuses working together to obtain a mailed paper ballot by an independent firm. I also feel that it's time for the caucuses to get together and form some type of unity slate for the coming May CTU election. TIME IS RUNNING OUT. GET TOGETHER.

December 10, 2009 at 2:56 AM

By: Patricia A. Breckenridge

Accurate Election Procedure and Results

Accurate election procedures and results are imperative as paying veteran Union members no longer receive the benefits of their dues as they are displaced, terminated, etc. because of weak Union representation and not protecting our state right to tenure. It is worth it to have an independent and reputable firm objectively count and report the results. Our union representation appears to be less democratic and supportive with every contract, strategic bargaining, negotiation, referendum, etc.

December 10, 2009 at 4:23 AM

By: hs vet

history domed to repeat

UPC under marilyn or anyone else doesn't know how not to cheat.. If these caucuses think writing Winegarten a letter will help, just remember she's the one who ignored the evidence of fraud in 2004 which got marylin in to begin with.

all these caucuses running will give marylin or any other UPCer the keys to CTU forever.

Al is absolutely right, but being right doesn't mean and honorable has nothing to do with the crooks at CTU

what happened at the union meeting?

December 10, 2009 at 1:24 PM

By: Margaret Wilson

Retired teacher

Marilyn is not going to react to a letter but if we can keep her busy with letters, lawsuits, etc. then maybe she'll give up and resign or start doing things the right way.

I'm skeptical anything will help until she is removed from office.

December 15, 2009 at 8:17 PM

By: Danny

What happened to the other 2 candidates?

Sorry--didn't know what thread to ask this question:

At last week's HOD meeting, we listened to 14 candidate speeches, but the election results show only 12 candidates with votes.

Did 2 people get no votes? Withdraw at the last moment?

December 16, 2009 at 3:13 AM

By: George N. Schmidt

Don't know the answer -- to many questions

Thanks for asking. At this point, I don't know the answer to that question, and I'm hoping another Substance reporter will compile a major story summarizing the mess at the December House of Delegates meeting.

One of my major questions was why "Citywide" delegates were allowed to vote for Elementary Functional VPs. Now I learn that more than a dozen Executive Board members were also allowed to vote for the elementary VPs.

There was no list of eligible voters when the elementary delegates began voting. In the past, only the delegates from the functional group were eligible to vote -- not "Citywide" and certainly not "Executive Board" members who were not delegates from the schools. Despite the fact that one former progressive claimed otherwise, it's not true. Calling for "Citywide" and then allowing EB members to vote was another example of how corrupt the CTU voting processes now are.

And I am no longer tolerant, as an editor or 40-year veteran union member, of people who try to say this is just "bumbling." All the bumbles are increasing the centralized power of Marilyn Stewart, and that is not an accident.

December 16, 2009 at 4:15 AM

By: kugler

Getting Tired

too many teachers and union members are allowing not only this union corruption to continue but also cps corruption in central office and schools. i am getting to the opinion that teachers liked getting screwed over and are actually complicit in the crimes they do not report.

out of 50,000 cps employees and retires are you telling me there are only less than 100 that are willing to put their names on articles, reports and complaints. that is just bullshit. sorry. when you do not say something when there is criminal activity happening including corruption you are too a criminal.

where is the core, csdu, pact leadership?

John Kugler

December 16, 2009 at 8:42 AM

By: bernie


Unless the opposing caucuses unite, the last House election is firm prediction of the May election

Elected, with total number of votes selected, were Patti Walsh, 138 votes; John Cusick, 125 votes; and Wendy Pattis, 121 votes. Other candidates in the race were Albert Ramirez, 57 votes; Mary Edmonds, 49 votes; Kevin Condon, 45 votes; Michael Brunson, 41 votes; John Moran, 36 votes; Lisa Dimberg, 33 votes; and David Hicks, 33 votes.

December 17, 2009 at 9:13 AM

By: Margaret Wilson

Retired teacher

Bernie, you are right in saying that unless the opposing parties can find a way to unite-Marilyn will probably win again. This happens in elections all the time. The more candidates, the less chance any will be able to defeat the incombent. This is especially true because Marilyn has not run an honest election/vote in her entire time in office.

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