CTU Preparing Massive Fight Against Cuts... July 2 Executive Board meeting begins plans for CTU actions

The newly elected leadership of the Chicago Teachers Union called an emergency Executive Board meeting on Friday to unveil a plan to fight the massive layoffs and other teacher and classroom concessions the Board of Education is demanding as a result of its estimated $500 million deficit.

Chicago Teachers Union vice president Jesse Sharkey gives the thumbs up during the press conference at King High School on June 12, 2010 following the CORE victory in the CTU runoff election. Substance photo by Sharon Schmidt.The emergency meeting was called to present an organizing plan that will inform and call to action teachers, parents, students, public officials and other community groups to fully fund the schools and prevent a projected 1,200 layoffs after Chicago Schools chief Ron Huberman announced earlier that class sizes will stay the same in the elementary schools and rise to 33 students per class in the high schools as opposed to the original 35 students in a class.

The plan includes hosting open houses in the schools in four areas of the city and inviting parents and community into the classrooms to see how 33 students or more in a class will hurt their education, organizing education town hall meetings and visits with aldermen, canvassing summer festivals and set up tables with literature and petitions about the school cuts, writing letters to the local press to combat teacher bashing, and testifying at the CPS budget hearings in August.

"We're either looking at massive layoffs or mobilizing to fight the layoffs," CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey told about 23 newly elected Executive Board members at the Merchandise Mart.

A bargaining committee will be formed with 60 members and training provided after the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Convention in Seattle next week. CTU President Karen Lewis said AFT President Randi Weingarten will provide trainers for the bargaining process.

Newly elected Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis (above at podium) reads from her acceptance speech following the CORE victory in the June 11 CTU runoff election. Standing behind Lewis are many of those who made her election possible, including representatives of the three caucuses whose support was crucial to the runoff victory that followed the five-way race of May 21, 2010. Substance photo by Sharon Schmidt."If we are only bargaining over salaries we will get killed by the press as greedy teachers, so we need to go to the community," said Executive Board member Christel Williams from Hyde Park High School.

Newly elected Executive Board trustee Eric Skalinder said it is important to invite members from all the caucuses and those not affiliated with any caucus to participate on the bargaining team for the next contract.

Schurz teacher and high school vice president Lois Jones made a motion to demand a repeal section 4.5 of the Illinois Labor Relations Act which has stripped all bargaining rights except that of salary.

Hammond Elementary School teacher Jim Vail (left) and Kelly High School teacher Eric Skalinder (right) are now members of the Chicago Teachers Union's Executive Board, while Ted Hajiharis (center) is back to work as a CTU field rep after his unsuccessful run for union president on the SEA caucus ticket. Hajiharis was one of three unsuccessful CTU candidates whose support in the June 11 runoff guaranteed the landslide CORE victory. Above, the three were seen conferring during the June 12 CORE press conference at King High School. Substance photo by Sharon Schmidt."Restoring our ability to negotiate class size is negotiating for more jobs," part of the motion read. "Educators need to be in charge of decisions concerning class size, class schedules, academic calander, hours and places of instruction."

Newly elected CTU Trustee Carol Caref said they should not make any concessions, Sharkey said it may not be legal to include legislation in collective bargaining and others said the motion should be brought up a later date so that more members understand the Amendatory Act passed in 1995 that took away many teacher rights, including charter school teachers not being able to join the Chicago Teachers Union.

Another part of the community organizing plan will be reaching out to the Churches throughout the city.

"We have to make sure the general public in addition to our members understand what we are fighting for and against," CTU President Lewis said in conclusion. 


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