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Grim Fairy Tale: June Is Bustin' Out All Over

Once upon a time it was June in the city of Chicago, still stuck in the sorry, scandal-ridden cheapskate state of Ill-A-Noise, and the hardworking membersheep of the CTEwe were trudging resolutely towards the finish line of the school year, except for those who toiled in year-round schools, where they had their own finish lines to cross, albeit on a less dramatic scale.

Ordinarily the membersheep would have been happy, but since many of them had no idea whether they would be baaack teaching in September, it was a time of doubt and major aaaangst. Sadly for the membersheep, the year ended as badly as it had begun.

Some taught at schools that could possibly be closed, or, since the Office of RE was still virulently operational, at schools which could be redesigned, reassigned, reassessed, repossessed, redirected, or, most miraculously, thoroughly repaired, repainted, rehabilitated and then reincarnated as Chaaarter schools.

Instead of feeling a sense of accomplishment, having successfully shepherded most of their students along the right path, the membersheep of the CTEwe felt lost and abaaandoned. There was nobody to help them deal with prince — and princessipals who were almost drunk with the power to fire anyone they chose. The current contraaact, which had only recently appeared in print (almost a year after it was approved), was vague, confusing, and ambiguous, and the ostensibly hard-working field drips were of little use as a first line of defense. Meanwhile, baaack at the opulent riverfront offices of the CTEwe, things were tense. One of the membersheep had somehow managed to infiltrate the ranks of the leadersheep, who were embroiled in a lengthy and debilitating family feud. In their collective efforts to do away with one another, the leadersheep had momentarily dropped their guard. Almost anyone who was expensively and appropriately coifed, manicured, clothed, shod and accessorized could just stroll into the inner saaanctum and obtain any document he or she wanted to peruse.

Which is how the X-Rated Contraaact for Field Drips was discovered. Once upon a time, “X” was a rating for wretched excess.

Despite repeated demands from the membersheep at House of Dull-A-Gates meetings, President Mumbles and her merry minions had refused to share any information regarding the budget for the officers and staff. Any questions that actually made it to the microphone were immediately ruled out of order, with an immediate follow-up to close debate.

Which is why our intrepid spy was so excited when she actually saw the desired document just sitting on a counter, in full view of everyone. It said “Agreement between the Chicago Cheaters Union, Local 1, AFL/AFL-CIO, and the Professional Staff Employees Union of Chicago Cheaters Union, a unit of the Health Care, Professional, Technical, Office, Warehouse and Mail Order Employees Union, Local 743, IBT”. It was dated July 1, 2007 to June 30, 2011.

“Ooh, ooh,” said Ewenice, who was still Toonice for her own good, “Does IBT stand for the International Brotherhood of Teachers? Is that a special kind of ewenion?”

“No,” sighed Millicent Militant, her long-time friend, also rumored to be the very spy who pilfered the papers. “It’s the Teamsters.”

“Ooooh,” said Ewenice. “Like, a real ewenion.”

“Exactly.”

“So what does it say?”

Everyone gathered around, coffee in hand, to view the details, which started with some slightly confusing health and dental insurance issues, basically giving them free dental insurance and a break in premium payments. Then they added 85% —

“You mean eight and a half percent, don’t you?” asked Les Izmore.

“No. It’s eighty-five percent — 85!! — of their car insurance costs, and all sorts of term life insurance, plus whatever benefits the drones receive, like income disability insurance, all included.” Everyone was very quiet, waiting to hear more.

“There is much more, but the section on paid holidays, expenses, and payment pensionability are undoubtedly the most fascinating,” said Millicent.

“And disgusting,” added Scott Skeptic, journalism teacher-in-exile, who had just dropped by for his regular visit.

“Ooh, look!!” exclaimed Ewenice, pointing at the next page. “They get 18 paid holidays, including Election Day and Natal Day.”

“Who’s Natal?” she asked, wide eyed with curiosity.

“That means one’s personal birthday, Ewenice. Remember that they get paid for their birthday AND there’s a nice three-pound box of Fannie May candy to go with it.”

“Wow,” said someone, quietly.

“And it gets better: according to the contraact,” Millicent read aloud, “When any of the above holidays fall on Sunday, the Monday following shall be considered such holiday. When any of the above holidays fall on a Saturday, each PSE (professional staff employee, she added parenthetically) shall receive a compensatory day that is mutually agreed upon by the PSE and the Employer.”

“Wow,” said someone else.

“Wow,” said Scott. “Don’t forget the vacation days.”

“Right. They get 2 vacation days a month in the beginning, which then grows to another five days at six-month intervals, until they reach five weeks. And they receive an extra week’s pay in lieu of a sixth week of vacation, payable before the holiday in December of each year.”

Just then Nancy Naive, darling of the Pee-Yu caucus, which controlled the CTEwe by hook and/or crook, came in. She was not amused, and immediately began to find excuses for the wretched excesses of the PSE contract.

“You know, they work year-round,” she began, to the sound of a few barely suppressed snorts. “Of course they are entitled to more holidays. And they have to use their cars, so why shouldn’t they get a little help with their insurance?”

“Gee, I dunno, “ said Clara Clark, the clerk. “I live very far from this school and I have to drive, because I have no choice. I don’t see anyone giving me any help.”

“So? Who cares about you?” said Nancy. “You haven’t dedicated your career to helping a bunch of dummies who are always getting themselves in trouble because they can’t follow the rules.”

Millicent cleared her throat. “As I was saying, they get 14 sick days, 3 personal days, and they get a generous amount of compensatory time if they work on Saturdays or Sundays.”

“Which explains why they don’t do any work during the week,” added Scott sarcastically.

“And then there is funeral leave. We are allowed 5 days off for the death of an immediate family member, which is a truly wonderful gift from the Big Baaad Bored. And,” she added with emphasis, “I am NOT being sarcastic about that. However, as I read on, the PSEs can have ten days for the funeral of almost anyone on the planet.”

“I thought it was for immediate family members only,” said Les.

“For teachers and PSRPs, yes. But if you’re in the right group, you also can take funeral leave for in-laws, domestic partners, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, legal guardians or ‘members of the immediate family’—”

“Who’s left after that?” asked Clara Clark, the clerk.

“Indeed,” said Scott.

“And then we come to Expense Accounts,” said Millicent. “First of all, their parking fees are paid. By us.”

“Oooh,” said Ewenice. “Then there is a vague reference to ‘reasonable business-related expenses’ for which they are reimbursed, if they manage to create some sort of a receipt, and evidently a thousand dollars per month for a car — it is a bit confusing here — and all other expenses, like gasoline, car washes, etc., to be reimbursed at that good old 85 percent, unless the car has more than 80,000 miles.”

“As if you’ll see them riding around in an old clunker.”

“What isn’t so vague,however, is this: the car allowance is pensionable.”

“You’re kidding, right?”

“Nope,” said Scott.

“And a cell phone allowance of $240 a month,” added Millicent. “AND — my personal favorite — the Employer shall pay an amount equal to 21 percent of the PSE staff members’ annual salary into a pension program established on their behalf.”

There was silence all around. Ewenice was still trying to add up the vacation days on her fingers, but kept losing count. No one looked happy.

“They get severance pay, too, in case you were wondering,” said Scott. “One week’s pay for each year or fraction thereof, up to twenty years. And their salary scale starts at about $100,000 a year.”

Once upon a time, everyone was very depressed. And the news about goings-on at the CTEwe headquarters did nothing to lighten the mood.

The atmosphere was rife with rumors. Missing money. Strange behavior. Dues increases. No-account accounting methods.

Ewenice could stand it no longer. “What is going on over there, anyway?”

“Besides the fact that our big-bucks field drips never answer the phone?”

“Maybe we should call on the weekends, for which they get comp time. Maybe then they would actually talk to us,” suggested Les.

Scott whipped out his handy-dandy little reporter’s notebook. “Let’s see,” he began. “There seems to be a considerable coverup about missing money —”

Nancy Naive jumped up angrily. “Enough of this baaad-mouthing our hard-working CTEwe officials!! You should be ashamed to spread such unfounded rumors.”

“Oh, they’re not unfounded,” smirked Scott. “Your leadersheep are simply hiding the facts from the membersheep.”

“Haaaah!” she said. “That shows how stupid you are. Everybody knows that Ted stole all the pertinent documents, and Her Royal Highness has too much respect for the members to just make things up.”

Everybody just sat there. In shock.

“What?” Millicent finally managed. “Did you say ‘Her Royal Highness’?”

Scott spoke up. “Why do you think Mumbles voted to increase the dues again?”

“To take better care of you ingrates,” snapped Nancy.

“Wrong. To increase the dues amounts going to the American Federation of Teachers and to the Illinois Federation of Teachers — aka the AFT and the IFT. It’s a sneaky way to buy their loyalty and to convince them to remain complicit on this matter.”

“So that’s why the accountant sent from Washington, D.C. found nothing wrong?” asked Ewenice, who looked crestfallen. “And he looked so honest and sincere, with his glasses and briefcase. I guess that it is really just a scam to make us pay more and more for less and less,” she concluded bitterly. “But I just read on the front page of CUD, the CTEwe newspaper, that the CTEwe might be going into ‘bankrupcy’ (sic-sick) because of money problems,” said Les. “Unfortunately, I had already tossed my copy in the garbage and had to wait for my neighbor, who’s retired, to receive her copy, which always comes a month late, because the CTEwe charges retirees an extra twenty dollars to mail it in a timely manner.”

“What’s your point?”snapped Nancy. “How come the CTEwe is millions in debt when they keep raising the dues? Shouldn’t they have enough money to run things without squeezing retirees?”

“It’s mostly Debbie’s fault,” said Nancy.

“Really?” said Millicent. “I know that her administration left the CTEwe with over $5 million in reserves, with no outstanding loans or obligations. So?”

“Who told you? Is that written down somewhere? Figures can lie,” baabbled Nancy, who was turning a lovely shade of fuchsia. “Oh, wait. I know. It was those other two leadersheep who caused the money problems. Jacqui Vaughn and Tom Reece. That’s it!” she concluded triumphantly.

“They are dead,” observed Ewenice. “They can’t defend themselves against those ridiculous and unsubstantiated charges.”

“I know,” said Nancy. ‘That’s why it’s so perfect.”

“Oh, I see,” said Scott, frowning.

“O.I.C.” 



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