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CTU President hired scab for $100,000 per year legislative lobbying job

What is a union? Is it collecting dues, going on strike, fighting management, getting a good contract, or protecting each individual member? It depends on whom you talk to and when you talk to them. Somebody with two years in the system has different needs than someone else with 32 years in the system. In the end, I do believe that the true nature of a union is solidarity among the brothers and sisters of the collective that empowers them to hold together and advocate for fair and safe working conditions for all. Regardless of internal strife, external restructurings, or global geopolitical shifts in philosophies and priorities, it is important for each member to understand the role he or she plays within the union. When I think of a union, I picture the coal workers fighting to be safe from collapses or the dock workers fighting for a living wage. That is exactly what I see, FIGHTING TOGETHER. Naturally as individuals and human beings, we union members tend to have different ideas and philosophies that create internal factions advocating for different solutions to current problems. But in the end, we need to join together on common interests and concerns, no matter what our political differences may be. Sticking together like this is the most important role of each union member especially when management is on the attack.

This article is hopefully the first of a series of investigative reports uncovering the divisions, corruption, and disrepute that some individuals bring into the Chicago Teachers Union. This first report concerns the strike of 1987 and allegations against a current top-level union official. The responsibilities of the official in question are of utmost importance to each and every individual that pays his or her hard-earned dues to get support and protection from government. The official is current CTU union lobbyist Traci Cobb-Evans. Allegedly she crossed the picket line in the 1987 strike while she was staffed at Kinzie School. Cobb-Evans was contacted for this story. The allegations were explained to her, and she was given a chance to refute, acknowledge, or conciliate them. She responded: “No comment.” The statement stands on its own merit for all union members to judge.

As a fledgling investigative reporter, I have been taught by my mentors the need for facts and the truth. I have substantiated these allegations that one of our currently highest-ranking CTU officials once crossed a picket line with a signed affidavit from an eyewitness to the strike. [On file @ Substance] One of the more disturbing aspects of this case is the excuse Cobb-Evans gave for crossing the picket line: “I have bills to pay.” Meanwhile her brothers and sisters were not getting paid because they were standing up for their rights and her rights to be treated fairly by the Board of Education. What does this old history from over 20 years ago have to do with the union now? A lot more than you might think at first. Traci Cobb-Evans is the face of the Chicago Teachers Union to government officials and businesses as part of her position as lobbyist. She is part of a power structure within the union that has seen the most school closings and restructuring of positions within the recent history of organized labor in Chicago.

The current CTU president, who helped Cobb-Evans secure her current and highly influential position, was also staffed at Kinzie School during the 1987 strike and evidently is close friends with her. What does this say about our president’s judgment? Is there a throwback here to back the old days of cronyism and corruption? It wouldn’t be so bad if this was just about some money or influence peddling, but the union has as our representative to protect our rights someone who crossed the picket line during a strike.

In addition, Cobb-Evans does not refute or dispute these facts in any way, let alone identify her past actions as wrong or putting the union and disrepute. Is the current CTU president truly looking out for that teacher in the classroom, who now typically has 38 students, half of whom come from closed-down schools? Does she have integrity and the capacity to truly protect our rights as brothers and sisters in the fight for fair and equitable working conditions? Who really is it running our union today?

[For the record I am teaching at Hyde Park Career Academy and am an up-to-date dues paying member of the UPC.] 



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