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Experts say latest letter is a violation of both the First Amendment and federal labor law... Chicago Teachers Union President teams up with Chicago schools chief to suppress teachers' First Amendment rights (again)

The memo was a shock, even to many members of the Chicago Teachers Union who have come to expect that their union's president, Marilyn Stewart, would ape the boss even more than the boss himself. Two years after she first proclaimed herself the "Chief Executive Officer" of the 30,000-member union, CTU President Marilyn Stewart sent a memo to Chicago public schools principals ordering them to bar teachers from holding meetings about the upcoming CTU election in their schools.

Above, the letter Chicago Teachers Union President Marilyn Stewart blast faxes to all Chicago Public Schools principals on January 4, 2010. Earlier, Stewart had supported the restrictions on teacher rights promulgates by Chicago Public Schools Chief Executive Officer Ron Huberman. Teachers and leaders of the various caucuses in the CTU were discussing both legal and other actions as the second day of school for 2010 began. Marilyn Stewart sent to principals via blast-fax today a letter on Chicago Teachers Union stationery. The letter, dated January 4, 2010 reads:

“Dear Principal

"Please be aware that both the CTU Constitution & By Laws and the Union’s contractual agreement with the Chicago Board of Education allow for meetings to be held at the schools between the members of the Chicago Teachers Union and legitimate candidates for elective office.

"However, such meetings should be held ONLY after official slates of candidates have been determined, which will not be the case until candidates have filed their petitions for election and all the signatures, etc., have been verified. We anticipate that process will have been completed by sometime in late March 2010 in preparation for the May elections.

"At this time, therefore, meetings with potential candidates should not be taking place in the schools.

"I appreciate your help in assuring that all rules and regulations relating to Union elections are followed. They are designed to provide all legitimate candidates with an equal opportunity to share their messages with our members.

"Thank you, Marilyn Stewart”

"Actually, Marilyn’s interpretation flies in the face of federal law regarding union elections. No one needs Marilyn Stewart’s permission to be an 'official candidate. There is certainly no precedent in the Union’s history for such an interpretation," Taft High School delegate Danny van Over wrote in an e-mail to many delegates and other union members when word of Stewart's letter began to get out. "Federal labor law, which partly covers the CTU elections, makes it clear that a group of individual does not have to become an 'official' candidate before engaging in union election activities," van Over continued.

The law in question, the Landrum Griffin Act, cover the part of CTU elections in which CTU members elect delegates to the state and national conventions. Under federal law, what Marilyn Stewart just tried to do is illegal, and has been for more than 50 years. Candidates for office in labor unions do not have to have the permission of the incumbent officers of their unions to distribute literature and hold meetings about their candidacy.

Although it is easy enough for readers to search for information about the LMRDA (as the law is commonly known), one very good place to find the LMRDA is on the Web at:

www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/29/usc_sup_01_29_10_11.html

For the 51 years since the LMRDA has been federal law, the Chicago Teachers Union has been violating it on a technicality. Under the LMRDA, all union's are supposed to submit to an extensive reporting process which basically forces union offices and staff to be "transparent" with all of their financial activities. Virtually every other local in the American Federation of Teachers (AFT, the CTU's parent body) files an annual financial report as required by the LMRDA. Despite the fact that the AFT's Randi Weingarten is an attorney (and her routine support for Stewart from the union's national office), the national union has never advised the Chicago Teachers Union to follow the LMRDA (including the annual financial reporting requirements).

But the LMRDA has been detailed also in its outlining of the rights of union members, and a reading of the law makes clear that what Danny van Over reports is the case. What Stewart has been trying to do — in tandem with Ron Huberman, CEO of Chicago's public schools — is violate both the First Amendment rights of Chicago teachers, but specific laws, including the LMRDA.

Since September 2009, various declared candidates for the upcoming (May 2010) CTU election have been holding meetings at schools. And even though CORE (Caucus Of Rank-and-file Educators) has not yet slated its candidates for office in the election expected to take place on May 21, 2010 for CTU offices, CORE has been as active as any of the other caucuses.

School based meetings to help teachers get information on important elections are a routine thing in Chicago's schools, and are not limited to CTU elections, as Marilyn Stewart and Ron Huberman seem to believe. During the election campaign for trustees of the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund (CTPF), candidates brought their message to the voters at school meetings. Above, a meeting with Lincoln Park High School teachers on October 22, 2009, helped Whitney Young High School teacher Jay Rehak win an overwhelming victory in the October 31 CTPF trustee election. Rehak is now serving as one of six trustees representing Chicago's teachers on the $10 billion fund. Substance photo by Jenn Johnson.In October 2009, CORE members went citywide to more than 100 schools in support of two candidates for vacant seats on the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund (CTPF), Lois Ashford and Jay Rehak. Both defeated incumbents (Reina Otero and Nancy Williams) supported by Marilyn Stewart's United Progressive Caucus (UPC) despite some controversial moves by Stewart to utilize the union on behalf of her selected candidates. Although CORE has not been campaigning for union office yet (CORE will finalize its slate of candidates in a vote of its members on January 6, 2009 and announce the slate on January 9, 2009), CORE teachers and others have been as active as any faction since CORE was founded in April and May 2008.

Candidates on the slate of the "Caucus for a Strong Democratic Union" (CSDU) have met at more than 40 schools since the beginning of the 2009-2010 school year, according to members of their group. The CSDU slate, which was announced in June 2009, is headed by CTU Treasurer Linda Porter. The slating of Porter represents the first time in CTU history that a sitting officer challenged the incumbent President for the union's top job.

Former CTU vice president Ted Dallas, who was forced out of the union shortly after he engineered Marilyn Stewart's re-election as CTU President in May 2007, told Substance that members of CSDU have not intention of halting their school meetings and literature distribution. Dallas is now retired, having been forced out of his elected union post by Stewart and the union's lawyers, but he continues working with CSDU, a caucus he helped found, to elect Porter. Porter did not return Substance phone calls asking for further comment.

The Web site for the CSDU is currently found at:

www.thecsdu.org

Another CTU caucus that has been holding meetings in the schools to introduce the candidates to union members is PACT (Pro Active Chicago Teachers and school workers). The PACT slate is headed by former union President Deborah Lynch (2001 - 2004) who was unseated by Stewart and Porter in a hotly contested May - June CTU election. PACT sources told Substance that the PACT candidates have hosted meetings on the forthcoming election in more than 30 schools so far this school year.

PACT's Web site is at:

http://proactivechicagoteachers.com/home

A third caucus planning to challenge Marilyn Stewart for the CTU leadership, CORE (Caucus Of Rank and file Educators), is holding its nominating vote this Wednesday (January 6, 2010). The two candidates vying for the CORE endorsement for President of the union are King High School delegate and teacher Karen Lewis and Whitney Young High School delegate and teacher Jay Rehak. Lewis has been serving as co-chairman of CORE since the group's founding in April and May 2008. Rehak was recently one of two successful candidates slated by CORE for slots on the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund (CTPF) Board of Trustees.

The CORE Web site is at:

http://www.coreteachers.org/

Two other caucuses have announced that they will be contesting for leadership in the union in the May elections. The "Independent Caucus" is headed by Marcia Williams, an elementary teacher who was a candidate for union president in the controversial 2004 election that resulted in a runoff victory for Marilyn Stewart.

By far the most persistent and ruthless suppression of the rights of a teacher and union delegate came against Deborah Lynch, especially during the first couple of years after she was defeated by Marilyn Stewart in 2004 for the union presidency. Members of Stewart's United Progressive Caucus (UPC) heckled Lynch when she tried to speak during House of Delegates meetings, and instead of stopping them, Stewart encouraged the heckling. The most dramatic harassment of Lynch came at the June 8, 2005 meeting of the House of Delegates, one year after Lynch had returned to teaching at Gage Park High School following her term as union president. Someone from the CTU leadership called the police and had the police "arrest" Lynch, supposedly for disorderly conduct. Lynch was taken out of the union meeting and put into a squad car. Then a strange thing happened: The police couldn't find anyone in the CTU leadership to sign the police report as a complaining witness. During that time, Substance covered the event, including an interesting confrontation at the door of the union meeting hall (above) between Lynch's supporters Maureen Callaghan (left) and Lois Jones (right) and three union officials, Rick Perrote (left background), Ted Dallas (center) and Ted Hajiharis (second from right). The question at that point was who from the CTU had called the cops into the union meeting and had them take the union's former president into police custody. When asked by Substance who was going to sign the police complaint against Lynch, Dallas and the others refused. No one at the CTU would admit that any of them had called the police, and within a few minutes, the arresting officers let Lynch go. The harassment of Lynch was reported a little in the corporate media (a Tribune reporter wrote up a small piece) and extensively in Substance (both in print and on the Web at the "old" Substance site, www.substancenews.com). Some of those who were once Stewart's most avid supporters have since been purged by Stewart (for example, Dallas, above), while others have received promotions (Hajiharis is a field rep now). It was another two years before the opposition to Marilyn Stewart became well enough organized and principled enough to defend Lynch in the face of the ongoing harassment in the House of Delegates. No one has ever determined who tried to have Lynch arrested in June 2005. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.A group calling itself the "School Employees Alliance caucus" (SEA caucus) has been leafleting meetings of the union's House of Delegates and holding unannounced meetings to organize itself.

The Web site for the SEA caucus is at www.seacaucus.net

Members of the various caucuses opposing Marilyn Stewart began discussing how to respond to her latest attempts to restrict their rights in December 2009, when Stewart warned that union members meeting or distributing literature in the city's more than 600 public schools would be violating rules of the Board of Education. The latest members expect a direct challenge to Stewart's latest affront to democracy in the union is on January 13, when the union's House of Delegates will meet at the offices of Local 399 of the Operating Engineers union for their monthly meeting. It is possible, according to several sources, that the groups opposing Marilyn Stewart will meet for a join action before that.

After Stewart tried to suppress the distribution of literature at union meetings in September 2009, the groups (except for SEA caucus) worked together to ensure that their members could distribute materials to union delegates outside the doors of every union meeting. At the September meeting, Stewart ordered the union delegates distributing literature off the "property" of the Operating Engineers, and threatened to arrest this reporter for selling Substance. In October 2009, a join effort by more than 40 teachers and delegates ended the ban on selling or distributing literature at the House of Delegates meetings.

An earlier letter from Marilyn Stewart regarding the rights of teachers to distribute materials in their schools was reported on line by Substance at

http://www.substancenews.net/articles.php?page=1024

Stewart's latest foray into what her critics are calling "Anti-Constitutional Law" seems simply to expand the suppression of teachers' First Amendment rights that began shortly after her 2007 re-election and her refusal to count votes against her August 2007 contract proposal at a meeting of the House of Delegates.

Whether the current situation is resolved politically within the union (and at the Board if principals and Huberman try to enforce Stewart's version of teacher rights) remains to be seen as of this report (January 5, 2010). "Regardless of the legality of this action, it will have a chilling effect on campaign activity by opposition groups," van Over said in an e-mailed statement. "Along with Mr. Huberman’s letter restricting the distribution of campaign literature, delegates will be afraid of getting in trouble with their principals. We have a Union that reports its own members to the Board of Education for invented violations. A Union that turns you in instead of protecting you. That’s what the Chicago Teachers Union has become under the tyrant Marilyn Stewart." 



Comments:

January 5, 2010 at 9:07 PM

By: Stop violating our rights

Elect New CTU

Since when does CPS Grievance Dept. let CTU send faxes to schools telling principals what to do? This reason for this fax smells bad!

January 5, 2010 at 9:32 PM

By: kugler

Collusion to Influence an Election

it is called collusion and it is illegal.

John Kugler

kuglerjohn@comcast.net\r

January 5, 2010 at 10:01 PM

By: Jay Rehak

Stewart's Letter is Offensive to all CTU members

Inviting the employer to harrass members in an effort to suppress discussion and dissent is no way to lead. It suggests President Stewart will do anything to get elected, including throwing members under the bus.

Consider this scenerio: A member at a school invites an opposition candidate to speak at his/her school. The candidate shows up at the school, and the principal writes up the member who invited the candidate, citing President Stewart's letter. The Union would then be in a position of having to defend the member; but the Union President's letter would be used by the Board of Education to defend the action of the Principal. In short, our Union President has provided principals with yet another way to harrass members. Why in the world would Marilyn Stewart do this beyond her own selfish interest?

It's beyond politics and smacks of a partnership between President Stewart and Mr. Huberman.

January 5, 2010 at 10:34 PM

By: truth seeker

breach of fiduciary duty?

Is anyone asking whether President Stewart as a result of this letter is in breach of her fiduciary duty as President of the Chicago Teacher's Union?

January 5, 2010 at 11:24 PM

By: kugler

it is illegal

need i say more. we had this discussion already. do something about it!

I already took action by notifying huberman. rocks, stewart and mcguire of what constitutes a violation of federal labor law as it relates to union members rights to organize. I will file a complaint as soon as i get to my fax machine.

John Kugler

kuglerjohn@comcast.net

Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA) also known as the Landrum-Griffin Act

http://www.dol.gov/olms/regs/statutes/lmrda-act.htm

(2) Freedom of speech and assembly

Every member of any labor organization shall have the right to meet and assemble freely with other members; and to express any views, arguments, or opinions; and to express at meetings of the labor organization his views, upon candidates in an election of the labor organization or upon any business properly before the meeting, subject to the organization's established and reasonable rules pertaining to the conduct of meetings: Provided, That nothing herein shall be construed to impair the right of a labor organization to adopt and enforce reasonable rules as to the responsibility of every member toward the organization as an institution and to his refraining from conduct that would interfere with its performance of its legal or contractual obligations.

§4 12. Civil action for infringement of rights; jurisdiction

Any person whose rights secured by the provisions of this subchapter have been infringed by any violation of this subchapter may bring a civil action in a district court of the United States for such relief (including injunctions) as may be appropriate. Any such action against a labor organization shall be brought in the district court of the United States for the district where the alleged violation occurred, or where the principal office of such labor organization is located.

January 6, 2010 at 6:35 PM

By: stewart not in good standing with CTU by-laws

she should be removed now

with this letter and this documented proof of her anti-CTU activities, can't she be removed or at least censured by the membership?

January 8, 2010 at 8:19 PM

By: Wilfredo Santana

Let's be clear about the facts.

Hi Substance Readers!

I want to inform you that the SCHOOL EMPLOYEE ALLIANCE (S.E.A.)continues to organize and gather strength towards our goal of creating real change and solidarity for the CTU.

Our web site address is SEACAUCUS.NET. not the name and address reported in this article.

Isn't it strange that Substance could report on such basic facts erroneously? I hope conditions for Substance aren't so challenging they can't get information to their readers without misinforming, thus leaving some of their readership unable to reach every caucus vying for their understanding and support. The seriousness of the issues facing the teaching profession demands a higher standard of us all, if the CTU is to survive as an organization. I am sure we can all do better.

January 8, 2010 at 9:31 PM

By: to Mr. santnan

you are mistaken

who are you? You are way of base putting Sdown here. good for you being against Stewart, but you are out on the fringe here. Viewed your site--again, good luck, but you need to be working with a real caucus now.

January 8, 2010 at 10:04 PM

By: Danny

Let's be clear about the facts (2)

Hello Mr. Santana!

I had just visited your website earlier today and bookmarked it after doing a simple Google search for the URL. I didn't even notice Mr. Schmidt's little error (he used dot-org instead of dot-net for the domain name portion of your URL).

Still, the article did mention the SEA Caucus, rather than ignore you like some other media outlets have done.

It's not that I don't feel for you. I mean, I'm imperturbable, and yet most days George manages to perturb even me.

But, I must ask: Have you any outrage over the main story here? Is there any righteous indignation over the fact that Marilyn Stewart has colluded with school administrators to limit our ability to campaign for Union office?

Please tell me that your anger over Marilyn Stewart's dirty tactics to remove every shred of democracy from our union is greater than your annoyance over Substance getting three letters wrong in your web address.

January 9, 2010 at 9:30 AM

By: Margaret Wilson

Retired teacher/parent

Danny,

I have been impressed with your last two letters (fact sheets). Our anger needs to be focused on Marilyn if we are going to defeat her not on each other. I think most of us want the same thing. A return of a democratic union who cares about its members and will fight for each one. A union capable of uniting members to fight against unfair practices and a union that cares about their retired members who dedicated most of their lives to the children of this city and to the union. If we fight against each other, Marilyn will win and the union that I and others worked so hard to create will be destroyed.

January 18, 2010 at 11:51 AM

By: Wilfredo Santana

Let's be clear.

Hi Danny,

Thank you for visiting our website and I hope you continue to read our articles. Outrage doesn't begin to cover the way I feel about the blatant disregard for democratic principles by Ms. Stewart as Mr. Schmidt's article says. I agree, and have personally believed for some time, that Ms. Stewart has colluded, not only with school administrators but with the highest CPS officials against her fellow union members. Her treatment of delegates and total disregard for parliamentary procedure, except when it serves her purposes, are reminiscent of the same type of maneuvering some pricipals engage in when manipulating LSC's(secrecy about budgets, meetings "by ambush", claiming not to tolerate certain actions by the Board without specifying how). But the fraudulent "passing" of the current contract is for me Ms. Stewart's defining moment and act of treason.

When I wrote the "Let's be clear about the facts" I wanted to clarify information about S.E.A. in response to requests within our group that I do so. I do appreciate the validity of your question and hope I have answered it to your satisfaction. As the presidential campaign takes off I hope other groups will see the value of tactical alliances against ALL unprincipled attacks on our membership and democracy, from within and without our union.

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