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THE FINAL PUBLICITY STUNT? Marilyn Stewart assembles Chicago media on June 7 for a media event announcing a lawsuit that might be filed on June 8 on a legal theory that is, at best, controversial

At 1:10 p.m. on Monday, June 7, 2010, after sending out a press release to all Chicago media touting a major announcement about the union's response to Chicago Public Schools CEO Ron Huberman's proposed changes in school staffing — particularly raising class sizes to 35 — Chicago Teachers Union President Marilyn Stewart, who filled the union's conference room with more than 25 fields reps and other assistants, hosted a press conference. The press conference, it turned out, was to announce that she intended to file a lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court on the morning of Tuesday, June 8, 2010. In it, according to Stewart, the union will be suing the Board of Education charging that increasing class size to 35 will endanger students under the Chicago building code and fire codes.

Chicago Teachers Union President Marilyn Stewart (above, center) orchestrated a media event at the union's Merchandise Mart headquarters on June 7, 2010, to announce that the union intended to file a fire safety lawsuit against the plans of the Chicago Board of Education to raise class sizes to 35. With Stewart are Mark Ochoa (CTU financial secretary, left) and Mary McGuire (CTU recording secretary, right). Ochoa is running for CTU vice president with Stewart (candidate for president) on the slate of the United Progressive Caucus (UPC) in the runoff election to he held June 11. McGuire has announced her retirement. As usual, Stewart excluded CTU treasurer Linda Porter from the event. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Stewart had nothing further to say about any discussions of negotiations between the Board and the union on the class size increases. The increases are already taking place across the city. School schedules are being established for next year and thousands of teachers have been notified that they will not be coming back to the schools where they are presently working (in June) when schools reopen (in September).

Few of the city's more than 60 public high schools, for example, have less than 20 cuts in staff positions, a total of more than 1,000 teachers cut in the high schools alone.

In answer to Substance questions, Stewart said that the union did not have the total figures of all the teachers who have received notice of cuts in the past week. Union officials provided members of the press with a statement by Stewart, but none of the legal documents CTU says it plans to file. Union staff and attorneys said that the complaints and legal documents would be provided after the lawsuit was filed, supposedly before 10:00 a.m. on June 8.

CTU attorney Jennifer Poltrock, who spoke briefly at the press conference, acknowledged that the lawsuit would be filed before 10:00 a.m. on June 8 in circuit court. CTU officials said that they would send a copy of the complaint to Substance.

Stewart also told the press that she had first brought up the safety issue with Ron Huberman and the Board at the Board's April 28, 2010 meeting. In her remarks to the Board that day, Stewart warned that putting too many children in a room was a potential fire hazard. Since then she has repeatedly spoken about the Queen of Angels fire in Chicago as an example.

Following the first Substance report filed June 7 in the mid-afternoon about this story, a number of Substance staff and readers e-mailed and called. One summed it up succinctly: "It's OUR LADY OF THE ANGELS — not QUEEN OF ANGELS," wrote Substance reporter and retired CTU member Sarah Loftus. "...anyone alive in Chicago on Dec.1, 1958 has that burned into their brain. The images I saw as a 6 year old second grader still haunt me, although I was across the city in another grossly overcrowded school. (Stewart got it wrong in her letter too.)..."

Marilyn Stewart did not explain why she waited the second week of school in June — and four days before the June 11 union election — to announce that a lawsuit would be filed on June 8. She also said that the Board had informed CTU of its intention to raise class sizes to 35 last week, but refused to be specific in answer to reporters' questions about whether "negotiations" had been taking place.

Pressed by reporters to give some facts to bolster her claim that many classrooms would become overcrowded to the point of violating the Chicago fire codes, Stewart could give none. She had the same problem when asked to bolster her claim that the CPS budget "deficit" was not as real as Ron Huberman has insisted. The budget deficit is the reason why Huberman claims he has to — reluctantly, according to him — raise class size across the city.

Generally, the news media do not cover litigations before they are filed. One of the reasons for that policy is because it is impossible to get a quote from the other side (in this case, the Board) until the other side (in this case, the Board) knows what it's being sued about.

Did Marilyn Stewart's last publicity stunt backfire? Usually, reporters are told by editors not to run stories about lawsuits until the lawsuits are actually filed. Because she claimed that she had a "secret" story to reveal on June 7, 2010, Chicago Teachers Union President Marilyn Stewart was able to fill half the union's conference room with TV cameras and various reporters, who were then told that the union was going to file a controversial lawsuit the following day. A non-story? That depends on who picks it up, but a continuation of such actions, which included the "arrest" of Stewart at the May 25 City Hall demonstration, tends to undermine not only the credibility of Marilyn Stewart, but of the Chicago Teachers Union as well. Substance photo by Joshua Griffin Schmidt.Substance will cover the story in more detail after CTU provides Substance with the actual complaint.

John Kugler of Substance videotaped the entire press conference and should have it available today. 



Comments:

June 8, 2010 at 8:20 AM

By: Garth Liebhaber

The CTU President Who Cried Wolf?

The "arrest" and now this makes for two times. Or is this the third?

June 8, 2010 at 9:05 AM

By: George N. Schmidt

James Tyree -- Sun-Times owner, union buster

As soon as I read the page one story hyping Marilyn Stewart's lawsuit yesterday, I was back in time to the City Colleges strike. At the time, James Tyree was chairman of the City Colleges Board. Many part-time professors honored the picket lines, even though they were not union members. After the strike, Tyree had them fired, one-by-one, by a vote of the Board. Like the Chicago Board of Education, the City Colleges Board is stacked with flunkies for Mayor Richard M. Daley, as usual fully ranging across the "diversity" spectrum. Tyree was the most prominent among them. Unlike the Chicago Board of Education, not all of them were millionaires.

When Tyree purchased the Sun-Times (mostly, it appeared, with other people's money) it was after a New York investor reorganized the Sun-Times Board of Directors and forced the newspaper into bankruptcy, despite the fact that the only major debt of the Sun-Times corporation was to the Internal Revenue Service as a result of the mismanagement of the paper's former owner, Conrad Black and Hollinger International.

The Sun-Times bankruptcy wiped out Sun-Times stockholders (at the time), including many Sun-Times staff members — and me. Once the Sun-Times was in bankruptcy, arrangements were made to sell it to James Tyree.

The rest, as they say, is history, right down to today's Page One story touting Marilyn Stewart three days before the June 11, 2010 CTU runoff election. Anyone who still believes that Chicago's daily newspapers are "independent" in the corporate battles raging around us is too naive for a discussion. The decision by the Sun-Times to hype what amounts to a pre-election publicity stung by Marilyn Stewart is typical, and can be saved for later reference and as an example of what we've long talked about at Substance.

The press in the USA is "free" — if you own them.

June 8, 2010 at 8:15 PM

By: Garth Liebhaber

Marilyn Stewart Invites You to a Tele-Conference...

This just in:

7:10 pm, an automated message from the CTU invited me to participate in a tele-conference discussion with Marilyn Stewart on Wednesday June 9th on the topic of "class size." The discussion will be from 6pm until 7pm, finished "just in time so that "you can enjoy the Blackhawks game."

The number to dial is 1-888-409-5381

Another publicity stunt?

June 9, 2010 at 4:05 AM

By: Sarah Loftus

Simple Choice

The choice is simple:

CORE – Karen Lewis

They have a record of bringing awareness of CPS destructive tactics to the forefront. Their presence at BOE meetings is expected and has been effective.

UPC – Marilyn Stewart

They have a proven record of ineffectiveness. They got us in the dire situation we are in now with absolutely no job protections. If allowed to remain in office, I fear their incompetence.

Here’s the choice:

go with a proven failure, Stewart,

or take a chance on Lewis.

At this point you’ve got nothing to lose by taking a chance and voting for CORE, because with UPC you’ll have nothing left to lose.

Vote for Karen Lewis and CORE.

June 9, 2010 at 11:06 PM

By: Rich Martin

Teacher

You complained when Marilyn got a 5 year contract,,, You wanted a three year contract but I don't hear anyone complaining now! Sure teachers are losing their jobs, This is also happening in all the schools across the country. I feel for all the teachers. Blame the politicians that have caused this mess with the bankers!

Vote out the politicians!

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