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Are Stewart and Huberman in secret negotiations to announce a miracle and give Stewart a last-minute boost before June 11 CTU runoff election?

In what a growing number of Chicago Teachers Union members characterize as a shocking turn of events, Marilyn Stewart, President of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), declared in a June 2, 2010 letter sent to Operation PUSH President and Founder, Rev. Jesse Jackson Jr., that she was in "negotiations" with Chicago Public Schools. Stewart's letter, which appeared on June 3 on the CTU website (www.ctunet.com) cancelled a debate appearance between Stewart and her challenger, Karen Lewis. Lewis, a King High School chemistry teacher, is the presidential candidate of the Cacaus of Rank and File Educators (CORE). The debate had been previously scheduled and announced by Rev. Jackson the previous Saturday.

One year ago, on June 19, 2009, CTU President Marilyn Stewart tried to cover her face when Substance greeted her cheering for U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan at a breakfast sponsored by a corporate "school reform" group called "Advance Illinois." Stewart was seated adjacent to Ron Huberman's powerful new "Chief of Staff" Adam Case, along with union staffers including Marc Wigler. It was at the Advance Illinois event that Duncan announced that he would try and shut down 5,000 "failing" schools across the USA using the power he now has as U.S. Secretary of Education. One year before the Advance Illinois event, in July 2008, Stewart helped host the national convention of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), which promoted Stewart's cooperation with Arne Duncan during Duncan's years as CPS CEO. While Stewart and her colleagues were dining at Chicago's Regency Hyatt Hotel (above), Hyatt security were threatening to arrest protesters organized by CORE, who urged rejection of Duncan's plans for the U.S. Department of Education. The program that Duncan announced on June 19 became the infamous "Race To The Top." Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.The debate was scheduled to take place at the PUSH headquarters on Chicago's South Side at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, June 5, 2010 — less than a week before the June 11 runoff election. In her June 2 letter to Rev. Jackson, Stewart announced that she was in negotiations with the Board of Education despite there being two years left to the current contract.

With only seven days before one of the most important union elections in the CTU's 75-year history — an election that will have repercussions on educational and union policy throughout the country — Stewart decided to cancel the debate scheduled less than 48 hours before its 10:00 am Saturday scheduled time.

The debate, which was arranged by Rev. Jesse Jackson Jr. and would have been televised. It could have influenced the June 11, 2010 election for the leadership of a 30,000-member union. The Chicago Teachers Union is Local 1 of the American Federation of Teachers, the first teachers union organized into the labor movement in the USA.

In the letter canceling her appearance to debate at the Reverend Jesse Jackson's Operation PUSH Headquarters, Ms. Stewart made the following statements:

"...the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) is in the midst of negotiations to stop the CPS leadership from increasing class sizes and threatening the jobs and employment rights of our members.

Following these pressing negotiations, I would be honored to join you and other distinguished leaders as I have many times in the past to discuss public policy and educational concerns..."

[The complete text of Stewart's letter is in a previous article here at SubstanceNews. see www.substancenews.net/articles.php?page=1450§ion=Article If the hot link here doesn't work, you can copy and paste the address into your browser].

For six years, CTU President Marilyn Stewart has refused to answer any questions from Substance reporters. From September 2004 through May 2008, she claimed that she wouldn't talk to Substance because Substance editor George N. Schmidt had sued the union based on the contract he had to work through June 2005 after Stewart took over in August 2004 (Stewart fired Schmidt from his job as Director of School Security and Safety as soon as she took power in August 2004). After Schmidt won his lawsuit (and $160,000, which included $24,000 in statutory interest because Stewart and union attorneys dragged out the case) in May 2008, Stewart continued to hide her face from Substance cameras, avoid answering Substance questions, and order CTU staff never to talk to Substance. At times (for example, during the protests against the firing of Ted Dallas in 2008 and 2009) Stewart ordered CTU and Merchandise Mart security to arrest Substance staff if they tried to enter the union's offices, despite the fact that Substance staff were union members, and the threat happened during regular business hours. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. The June 2 Stewart letter to Rev. Jackson contradicted previous statements by Stewart about her posture towards the proposed cuts being made by Chicago Public Schools Chief Executive Officer Ron Huberman.

In fact, almost one month earlier — to the day! — Stewart had informed the union members that she would not be negotiating the current contract. It was highly unusual that the members learned of Stewart's shift not directly from Stewart, but by reading it in a letter to Rev. Jackson on the CTU website (if they went there).

One month earlier, in a May 6, 2010, speech to the CTU House of Delegates Ms. Stewart said the following:

"Naturally, I informed the Board in no uncertain terms that this union — under my leadership — has NO INTENTION of letting anyone destroy the advances we worked so hard to achieve for our members..." [Emphasis added].

Stewart's May 6 remarks were given during the speech she gave as one of five candidates for president of the CTU before the House of Delegates that afternoon. She was unequivocal about not "negotiating," as readers can learn by going to the May edition of SubstanceNews on line at http://www.substancenews.net/edit_article.php?page=1374§ion=Article [Again, if the hot link does not work, you can cut and paste the address into your browser and go to the speech, or you can simply browse down by going to "Back Issues" above and accessing May 2010].

The two statements are opposites one declaring no deals will be made, and then, a month later, it looks like Ms. Stewart is trying to make a deal with management. If there was no intention to allow management to make the union give concessions to the contract, what has changed now that she canceled a debate that would have been broadcast for the majority of the membership of the union she serves?

Substance has been trying to learn since the debate letter appeared at the CTU website and hopes that our readers will fill in the blanks on this mystery by sharing comments here.

In an email response to questions about Stewart's negotiations statements CTU publicist Rosemaria Genova wrote in “John: No negotiations. Just discussions.”Genova handles all media relations for the union.

A number of union officials who served in previous administrations note that the claim by Stewart is unprecedented.

Deborah Lynch, CTU President (July 2001 through July 2004) sent in the following email response to the question of negotions in the middle of a contract:

"Ms. Stewart is obviously afraid of debating Karen Lewis and is using the political advice not to give your opponent exposure if you are the incumbent," Lynch told Substance. "More worrisome is her statement about bargaining. Over 65 percent of the membership just gave her a vote of no confidence on May 21. She has no business representing them at the bargaining table now (and no — there were no negotiations between contracts and no surprise Saturday AM meetings under us)."

Lynch continued: "When the union bargains, the members need to be fully informed and have given the leadership it's marching orders. We just had a House of Delegates meeting [on June 2] and this 'bargaining' was not reported to the delegates. Who knows what she might be giving away?"

Howard Heath, who served as CTU Vice President during the administration of Deborah Lynch (July 2001 through July 2004) told Substance that he could not remember any time during his tenure any meetings with the Board on a Saturday morning — especially regarding negotiations. Deborah Lynch's negotiating team negotiated the contract that was finally ratified, on a second try, by the union's membership in December 2003. Lynch, Heath, and the majority of Lynch's PACT caucus lost the June 2004 runoff against Marilyn Stewart and the UPC.

According to former union officers and officials, negotiations in the past has always related to contract bargaining meetings between union representatives (usually, the elected officers) and the Board. Also included were at least one union attorney — who sat across the table from management representatives — and the Board's attorneys. Asked if it was possible that there was an emergency meeting called between the union and the Board to resolve some important issue Mr. Heath's response was "No!" As has been previously reported in Substance, Health is now a member of CORE.

Meetings — whether they are so-called "strategic bargaining" (monthly meetings to discuss any issues that arise during the course of the contract) — or contract negotiations they are always scheduled months in advance. Although CPS has the right to declare a fiscal emergency in order to trigger discussions during the current contract, the CTU would immediately get the right to demand a forensic audit of the CPS financial records (a process that is very clearly defined in law and which usually involves auditors trained by the federal government at a center in Quantico, Virginia). CPS can't simply claim, as it has, that it has "financial problems," offer a bunch of Power Point claims (as Ron Huberman has been doing since January 19, when he first announced the so-called "deficit" without providing clear revenue and expenses data) and then break the current CTU contract.

Former opponents of Marilyn Stewart are not the only ones who have reacted with surprise to Stewart's June 2 claim.

Ted Dallas (CTU Vice President, 2005-2010) recalled having some weekend meetings with the Board during contract negotiations for the current bargaining agreement — but only towards August 2007, when the contract was to be scheduled to be signed by the union officers and the start of the school year was approaching.

In early August 2007, CTU leaders hosted a House of Delegates meeting at which they told the delegates that CPS may be forcing the union into a strike. But on August 31, 2007, Marilyn Stewart convened a House of Delegates meeting at which she declared that she had brought in a contract that the delegates should support. Stewart railroaded the contract through a House vote that evening before full discussion of all the terms had been completed (she said the union couldn't meet later after she had arranged for a short time for the meeting with the Plumbers Union, where the meetings were then held) without counting the "No" votes. That decision led to a huge outbreak among the delegates, who interrupted a Stewart press conference with chants of "No! No! No!" until Stewart's media event was effectively nullified.

Ted Dallas told Substance he did not recall any emergency meetings or any others that called for the cancellation of a union-related event. Dallas said he recalled one negotiating meeting where Ms. Stewart stated she had to leave because the Geek Squad was coming to her home to do some work on her computer. "At that time she got up from the table and left the room filled with union and Board officials wondering what just happened," Dallas said.

When Substance asked Dallas what he thought of the possibility of negotiations one week before elections for union officers he was clear: "They have no right, only a few days away from a new group taking power, to be doing any negotiating, deal making and anything for that matter," he said emphatically. "It should wait until after the June 11 voting to see who is going to be the new people in charge. The majority of the membership has no confidence in these guys running the union, so they're not suppose to be doing any deals right now. The only thing I can think is going on, is some kind of surprise or trick of some kind that will hurt the membership in the long run, but will be used to influence the June 11 voting."

Ted Dallas was fired from his job as vice president of the CTU by Marilyn Stewart beginning in December 2007 (when she tried to strip him of his powers as an elected officer) and concluding a year later. Stewart got the union's executive board (then under her complete control) to ratify her action against Dallas less than one year after he had organized the May 2007 election campaign that swept her into office for a second two-year term.

At the time of this report the Law firm of Franczeck = Radelet, who handles collective bargaining for the Board, was contacted. As of the morning of June 5, they had not returned Substance phone calls. A phone message was left for comment on this story. An email sent to the law firm that was read at 9:22 pm but no response at the time of writing.

CPS Communications Chief Officer Monique Bond was also contacted by email regarding this story and the claim by Marilyn Stewart that she is "negotiating" this weekend. The Substance email to Bond was read at 4:47 pm on June 4, but no response had been received at the time of writing this article. 

Article posted in final version at 6:00 a.m. on Saturday June 5, 2010. Updates will be posted as separate articles if more information becomes available. Substance readers are welcome to comment on this and all other articles appearing in these Web pages.



Comments:

June 5, 2010 at 9:11 PM

By: Bob

Details

Details

It is a given that the movers and shakers, of wealth, and power want the UPC to stay

in office. So what do you do? Throw us a bone early next week. Here are some of the

thirty pieces of silver that cross my mind:

Lift the residency requirement. This would cost nothing and can be re-applied at leisure.

Put in a 5+5 to eliminate old teachers .

Stop the school closings this year.

I know there are more tricks, but these seem obvious. In any event the UPC will be in power

For the rest of this month, so it should be interesting

June 6, 2010 at 1:26 AM

By: Jose M.

class size

Marilyn stewart will announce on Wednesday or Thursday that she was able to convince Hubie that she can save the board budget by reducing class size to 33, or 32, or 31...and save jobs!!!!!!!! Teachers will eat it up and vote for her in droves! She wins again and can now sit back for another 3 years collecting her big bucks. Of course the deal was struck weeks ago, but she needed the fear factor to get the lambs to vote for her again. (Sometime in the summer she will give up 1% or 2% and furlough days by no pay for holidays, but we'll be happy to have jobs at all!)

June 6, 2010 at 8:34 AM

By: chgotchr

If teachers do what Jose says they will do

then they deserve everything they will get including the loss of more jobs (including their own which they won't believe until they actually are told they are done) and the possible end of CPS as a public school system. If teachers vote for UPC then I will move to a charter because in a couple of years I won't have a job anyway.

June 6, 2010 at 8:50 AM

By: Margaret Wilson

Maintain your Pride

I agree with chgotchr. If teachers want to maintain their professionalism and pride, they need to vote Marilyn and her crew out of office no matter what tricks she pulls and/or bones that she tosses them. If they don't they deserve what they get because they have seen what Marilyn does after elections more than once!!!!!!! If is unfortunate that others will suffer for their stupidity, like students, parents, retired teachers, and taxpayers none of whom can vote so have to accept whatever happens.

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