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Stewart, CTU leaders warned to stop violating teachers' rights... PACT tells Stewart to rescind bans on meetings and literature distribution or face federal court action

The Pro-Active Chicago Teachers and school employees (PACT) caucus has delivered a two-page letter to Chicago Teachers Union President Marilyn Stewart warning Stewart that unless she rescinds two recent letters effectively banning union election activities that the CTU would face federal court action under the Landrum-Griffin Act ("Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act," or LMRDA).

"I am also writing to inform you that unless you immediately send corrected letters to union delegates and principals clarifying union members' rights in the upcoming election, PACT will seek to have the CTU's illegal policies enjoined by the federal courts," wrote PACT attorney Matthew J. Piers in a January 7, 2010 letter that was hand delivered to Stewart that day.

The letter, which PACT chairman and presidential candidate Deborah Lynch authorized the attorneys to deliver, reads as follows:

The first page of the letter delivered by PACT's attorneys on January 7, 2010 demanding that Marilyn Stewart rescind her December 14, 2009 letter (to delegates) and her January 4, 2010 letter (to principals). Hughes Socol Piers, Resnick & Dym Ltd.

Attorneys at Law

Three First National Plaza 70 W. Madison St.

Suite 4000

Chicago, IL 60602-4698

January 7, 2010

VIA HAND DELIVERY

Marilyn Stewart

Chicago Teachers Union

222 Merchandise Mart Plaza, Suite 400

Chicago, IL 60654

Dear Ms. Stewart:

This firm represents the ProActive Chicago Teachers and School Employees ("PACT"), a slate of candidates currently campaigning for office in the upcoming CTU/AFT elections. I am writing to notify you that the CTU policies outlined in your recent letters, dated December 14, 2009 to union delegates and dated January 4, 2010 to school principals, violate clear mandates of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act ("LMRDA"), 29 U.S.C. 401 et seq. I am also writing to inform you that unless you immediately send corected letters to union delegates and principals clarifying union members' rights in the upcoming election, PACT will seek to have the CTU's illegal policies enjoined by the federal courts.

1. December 14, 2009 Letter to Union Delegates

Your December 14, 2009 letter to union delegates, purporting to advise them about their duties under the CTU Constitution and By-Laws, states that "no political items [including campaign literature] should be distributed at the schools prior to the finalization of 'official' slates and/or candidates by the Union's Financial Office under the rules established by the Rules-Elections Committee." The letter also instructs union delegates that they are prohibited from organizing candidates meetings at the delegates' schools before the candidates are finalized by the Union's Financial Office. These instructions are in gross violation of the LMRDA.

The second page of the January 7, 2010 PACT letter to Marilyn Stewart.The LMRDA requires unions to distribute the campaign materials of any bona fide candidate for union office, regardless of whether he or she has been officially nominated by union members. See 29 U.S.C. 481(c); 29 C.F.R. 452.80 ("[A]ny qualified member seeking to be nominated and elected at a convention would be able to take advantage of the [campaign literature] distribution rights even before the convention meets and thus attempt to influence members to select delegates favorable to his candidacy or to persuade the delegates to support his candidacy."); Cotter v. Helmer, 692 F. Supp. 313 (S.D.N.Y. 1988); Yablonski v. United Mine Workers, 71 L.R.R.M. (BNA) 2606 (D.D.C. 1969). Your December 14, 2009 letter, informing delegates that they may only distribute campaign materials on behalf of "official" candidates, flies in the face of this authority and espouses an official union policy that plainly violated the LMRDA.

In addition, the LMRDA prohibits unions from interfering with union members' rights 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." See 29 U.S.C. 411(a) (2). It should go without saying that your reading of the CTU Constitution and By-Laws — interpreting them to mean that delegates are prohibited from distributing campaign materials and from organizing meetings of their fellow union members to discuss union matters — is untenable (not to mention unbecoming of a democratically elected union president) in light of the LMRDA's requirements. The union simply has not right to tell its members when and where they may discuss union-related issues.

2. January 4, 2010 Letter to Principals

Your January 4, 2010 letter to CPS principals similarly inhibits union members' free speech and assembly rights in violation of the LMRDA. 29 U.S.C. 411(a) (2). Union members have a fundamental right, under the LMRDA, to speak and assemble freely in order to participate in union elections, yet your January 4, 2010 letter encourages school principals to prohibit these essential union activities. Under federal law, neither you nor any school principal has the right to prevent union members from organizing meetings after school hours to discuss things as important as the election of members to union office, and you are wrong to suggest otherwise.

Unless you send corrected letters to union delegates and principals, clarifying candidates' and union members' rights under the LMRDA, PACT will have no choice but to seek equitable relief in federal court. Please contact me if you would like to further discuss these matters.

Sincerely,

Matthew J. Piers

cc: Randi Weingarten, AFT President

Both the December 14, 2009 letter and the January 4, 2010 letters drew angry comment and some protests from union members, but the timing of the letters, just before and immediately after the winter holidays, caught many union members at a time when they were not focused on the union elections, which will not take place until May 2010.

One of the many ironies noted by PACT was that Marilyn Stewart continued to try to use her own powers as union president to campaign in the schools even while she was trying to ban her growing number of opponents from distributing literature or holding meetings.

Deborah Lynch told Substance that shortly before Christmas, the CTU field rep for Stevenson Elementary School asked the school's union delegate, Kevin Condon, to schedule a meeting so that he (the field rep) could go over union business. To everyone's surprise, Lynch said, when the field rep showed up for the meeting he was accompanied by CTU President Marilyn Stewart and CTU Financial Secretary Mark Ochoa, who told Condon they happened to have some free time that morning.

Leaders of the three main caucuses vying for Stewart's seat and control of the union's executive board (CORE, CSDU, and PACT) have told Substance they expected to continue distributing their literature and holding meetings at schools no matter what Stewart claimed was the law. Both PACT and CSDU report that they have held more than 40 meetings in the schools since the 2009 - 2010 school year began.

The two other caucuses that have begun activities in opposition to Stewart, the "Independent Caucus" and the "School Employees Alliance" caucus, have been holding meetings but have not been as active in the schools as CORE, CSDU, and PACT, according to sources contacted by Substance and a review of the caucuses' Web sites. 



Comments:

January 9, 2010 at 10:34 AM

By: Albert Korach

retired teacher

My hats off to the caucuses that finally got attorneys involved to stop the CTU's ilegal activities.Trying to get the CTU leadership separated from their large salaries, large pensions, large insurance coverage, automobiles, and who knows what other perks will be a difficult task. The other major problem I forsee is the inability at this time to present a unified slate. I'm sure Stewart's UPC is counting on divide and conquer. The same tactics that won the two pension board seats will work again unless you have five caucuses splitting the vote.

January 9, 2010 at 1:59 PM

By: kugler

Good Work

this is one of the steps we need to take against the illicit activities if this union adaminstration.

Now we need to join our forces and concentrate on removing these crooks and criminals from office. I would rather do it now legally.

They have already planned to steal the election with huberman.

I have an unfair labor parctice claim filed.

Anyone who wants to join and give a signed affidavit against the activities of the union to rig the election should contact me.

John Kugler

kuglerjohn@comcast.net

January 9, 2010 at 4:25 PM

By: Congratulations PACT

shows how dumb the Huberteam is!

thank you PACT for doing this. Ron left CTA a mess and now he makes CTA a mess. Proof how ignorant the Huberteam is--allowing Stewart to fax this 'warning' to principals to enforce. HuberTeam has no interest in listening to or taking advice of those administrators who can set them straight. Once Stewart is out--the Huberteam has shown how much they want to keep her in--the new CTU deservedly should kick some..., but the new CTU will teach the Huberteam what it is like to be professional and honest.

January 9, 2010 at 4:28 PM

By: Ron Huberman should get the boot!

Are you that desperate Ron?

So did someone on Huberteam think it was a good idea to boot cars at Malcolm X today?

If someone on your team even thought this, shame on you and them. Next, are you going to send them in the school parking lots on school days when children are present?

January 9, 2010 at 6:28 PM

By: Danielle

Boots

What do you mean, are they going to boot in school parking lots when children are present? That happens like every 3 months at Robeson. That's not new.

January 9, 2010 at 9:38 PM

By: George N. Schmidt

Boot truck left when press began photographing

Dan and I went to the parking lot when the boot truck was announced. We took photographs of the truck and the driver, which I'll publish tomorrow. As soon as we began photographing the work, the truck left. We walked the lot and photographed cars with boots. By the time we got back to the street, the truck was coming back and I began taking photographs again. Instead of turning back into the parking lot, he left.

I waited 15 minutes, spoke with John Lewis as he left about how the boot and those $100 camera tickets you can't fight without getting addiiional charges were another rapacious tax on working people, and the truck didn't come back. So I returned to the events on the second floor.

Dan's calling the Department of Revenue to get the official version of why they decided today was a good day to go around and around at Malcolm X. We'll report what we found out.

This isn't the first story we've done quickly, which is why Substance staff get CPD press credentials. It's easier to answer the "Who the ___ are you?" questions.

If the city is booting cars in school parking lots, we could do a little story on it. How widespread it is? Who wants to SUBSART that story (with pictures, unless I have to recycle my "Department of Revenue" shots from this morning).

January 10, 2010 at 6:33 PM

By: Danny

Is Marilyn Capable of Doing the Right Thing?

Thanks to Substance News for helping to spread the word about this latest slap-in-our-collective-faces from Marilyn Stewart.

PACT has been active this week trying to combat this latest affront to our freedom to speak and assemble within our own Union.

We sent a copy of Marilyn's letter to principals to both Substance and the D299 blog. Debbie contacted our legal counsel and a group of us met with the lawyers mid-week. They drafted the letter, which was hand-delivered to Marilyn by the week's end. Over the weekend we sent a mailing to delegates, many who still do not know about the letter's existence.

Since the letter was sent by blast-fax to principals, I assume many copies were sent to the "circular file" unread. Other principals may have read the fax and assumed the Union had also notified delegates. It did not.

My principal thought it was a bad joke and let me know that I was free to conduct Union business at our school as I see fit. Unfortunately, there are probably schools where the relationship between principal and delegate is strained, at best, and this will only let the principal know that the CTU under Marilyn Stewart is not on the side of its dues-paying members.

One hopes the threat of legal action (especially where the law has so clearly been violated) is enough to obviate the need for actual legal action.

We're not so naive as to think Marilyn will do the right thing, however, and that's just sad. (I personally hope that sending copies to Randi Weingarten--an attorney herself who should be embarrassed by Marilyn's cozying up to principals--may get the AFT involved. Maybe Weingarten will do the right thing.)

At any rate, I hope that by this week's House of Delegates meeting, everyone will know about Marilyn's latest chicanery. Those delegates still claiming to be "independent" must choose whether they will continue to sit docilely and do nothing or join the opposition to demand their rights to organize in their own schools.

Maybe it's beside the point whether Marilyn will do the right thing or not. (She won't.) Will the Delegates stand up for their Union?

January 10, 2010 at 6:44 PM

By: Joy

The Boot

Booting cars at Olive Harvey College while students attend classes, happens all the time. Vist there on any given weekday and see for yourself. Shameful!

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