CTU leadership sits down for 'discussions' about this year's CPS cuts — bringing along a team of 40 teachers and other union members

Nearly 40 teachers and other members of the Chicago Teachers Union marched the short distance from the Merchandise Mart office of the CTU to the Holiday Inn Mart Plaza on the hot afternoon of July 23, 2010 for an unprecedented event: discussions with attorneys for the Chicago Board of Education which included a group of 30 rank-and-file teachers and other union members. Not "negotiations," exactly, but a harbinger of things to come.

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis (above at microphone) spoke to a small group of media people before going upstairs at the Holiday inn Mart Plaza for a brief meeting with Chicago Public Schools attorneys regarding the union's challenge to this summer's cuts. Flanking Karen Lewis (above) are the new officers of the union, Financial Secretary Kristine Mayle, Vice President Jesse Sharkey, Lewis, and Recording Secretary Michael Brunson (with briefcase). Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.It may not be the kind of event that makes major media news, especially in an era when monopoly corporate media are focusing hostility on unions and working people and endlessly repeating the official party line about everything, but on July 23, 2010, a significant event for Chicago took place as the four newly elected leaders of the Chicago Teachers Union brought 40 union members to sit down across a table from the lawyers for the Chicago Board of Education. The reason? CPS is claiming it has the right to cut as many teachers as it can this summer, based on the claim that CPS has a "deficit" of hundreds of millions of dollars that CPS insists it has no obligation to prove.

So on one of the hottest days of Chicago's very hot summer, a group of 36 Chicago Teachers Union leaders, members, and lawyers walked across Orleans Street from the Merchandise Mart to the Holiday Inn Mary Plaza, stopping for a brief press briefing on the way, and then went upstairs to sit down with CPS attorney James Franczek and his CPS team. The discussions — not "negotiations", union officials have stated — were supposed to be about CTU accepting the cuts that are being made from the ranks of teachers and other union members this summer.

Some of the members of the Chicago Teachers Union team show their militancy in the hall of the Merchandise Mart in Chicago prior to walking across the street to the first meeting with CPS labor attorney James Franczek and the Board's team. The group above includes teachers from all of the caucuses represented in the May 21, 2010, CTU election, which was won in a runoff on June 11 by Karen Lewis (red and grey outfit above) and her CORE caucus. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Instead, one of the most powerful management lawyers in the USA got a look at the future of Chicago's collective bargaining now that a new leadership is in power in the Chicago Teachers Union.

At the media event across the street from the Merchandise Mart, Karen Lewis read from a statement distributed by the union:

A Statement from the President of the Chicago Teachers Union, Karen Lewis

July 23rd, 2010 is a historic day for the children of the city of Chicago. Today, Chicago Teachers Union officers and 40 rank-and-file educators who represent the diversity of our school communities will focus fiercely on one goal: to improve student learning. No longer can the needs of adults hold sway over the needs of children. Improving student learning and the environments in which children learn is the Chicago Teachers Union’s single litmus test for all proposals placed on the table. We hope that Chicago Public Schools will commit to this basic proposition as well.

Members of the CTU team hoist copies of the current CTU contract, which does not expire until June 30, 2012. The Board of Education and Chicago's media are trying to force the new CTU leadership to accept cuts and major changes in the contract two years prior to its end. The new CTU leadership (Karen Lewis, Kristine Mayle, Jesse Sharkey and Michael Brunson are in the photograph above) refuses. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.To start, we must confront head-on an ugly reality: there is a dysfunctional relationship between the Chicago Board of Education and the Chicago Teachers Union that ultimately harms children. This needs to end now. Together, labor and management must hold each other in the highest level of mutual respect so that once and for all we can restore the joy of teaching and learning.

Second, we need to agree that a long-term view best serves our children, our schools and our communities.

Let’s end this annual ritual of crisis budgeting predicated on secret cuts, secret budget documents and secret negotiations. The citizens of Chicago deserve an all-inclusive, transparent accounting of all of the money that comes in and goes out of our state and city and, ultimately, our schools. We need to take a serious look at both sides – expenditures and revenues – with particular emphasis on the more than $1 billion in TIFs that rob our children of much needed resources.

James Franczek (foreground) arriving at the meeting room on July 23, 2010 with staff from his law firm and attorneys from the Chicago Board of Education's Law Department. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Today, the Board and the Union will set the ground rules for a series of talks. The CTU’s goal is to create a framework that leads to honesty, transparency and responsibility. The CTU will not participate in back room deals. That is why 40 rank-and-file members will observe these talks with the Board and provide strategic feedback to our officers sitting at the table. The 30,000 members of CTU stand ready to forge a positive relationship with the Board of Education so that, together, we can improve our city’s schools.

According to the union's media statement: "The Chicago Teachers Union represents 30,000 teachers and educational support personnel working in the Chicago Public Schools and, by extension, the students and families they serve. CTU, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Federation of Teachers, is the third largest union in the country and the largest local union in Illinois."

Karen Lewis gave final word about how the afternoon was to proceed priot to the arrival of the Board's team. When the sides took the table, Board attorneys told those present that the press had to leave and that no photographs or recording devices were to be used inside the room. Substance photo taken prior to the arrival of the Board's team by George N. Schmidt.Once the meeting began, reporters were barred from the room. Participants were told not to discuss what was discussed during the session, which lasted more than two hours. According to one participant who asked to remain anonymous because she was not permitted to talk about the content of the meeting, CPS lead labor attorney James Franczek told the group that photographs and recordings were allowed outside the meeting, but that inside had to be kept completely confidential.

At issue in mid-July is the fact that CPS is claiming that it has the right to lay off or fire hundreds of teachers in order to balance what it claims is a budget "deficit" that remains, it claims, more than $300 million. The day before the meeting, an editorial in the Chicago Sun-Times called on the teachers to give up a four percent pay raise scheduled for the 2010 - 2011 school year and also the four percent scheduled for the 2011-2012 school year. Karen Lewis and the CTU leadership has refused, telling the Board and the public that cost savings can be found in the current $7 billion CPS budget without cutting any more classroom teachers or direct services to student. The Board has conducted much of its campaign in the media, and the July 23 meeting was the first time representatives of the CTU and the Board had actually met to discuss the matters formally. According to union sources, there have been informal communications between the Lewis administration at CTU and CPS CEO Ron Huberman since Lewis took office July 1.

Newly appointed union staff member John Kugler (left) joined teachers Suzanne Dunn (Prescott Elementary), Jay Rehak (Whitney Young High School), Bernice Eshoo (Steinmetz High School) and Pam Touras (McPherson Elementary School) as part of the group at the July 23 event. Dunn, Rehak, Eshoo and Touras are part of the team that the CTU leadership brought to the event. The photo also shows some of the broad nature of the new CTU leadershipi strategy. Bernice Eshoo was a PACT member and supporter of Deborah Lynch prior to the May 21 CTU vote, and Pam Touras ran for Vice President on the SEA caucus ticket prior to May 21. Following the May 21 election, the losing caucuses and their leaders all supported the CORE slate, which won the June 11 runoff. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.[Full disclosure: This reporter has been working on budget analysis for more than 20 years, and during the past year has worked with a budget study committee that has included members of CORE, CSDU, PACT and outside experts. This reporters is also working with the CTU on budget analysis as part of the union's work on this summer's layoffs and firings].

Although the group adhered to their promise not to discuss the details of the meeting with Franczek and the Board's team, several characterized the tone of the Board's side as "arrogant" following the event, without providing details.

In an earlier statement [currently undated] to the union's members published on the CTU website (, Karen Lewis stated the following:

Important Message from the President, Dear CTU Members:

In Chicago, and across the nation, educators are under attack. In the last few weeks, the Board fired over 200 educators without due process. They have threatened even more cuts that ignore seniority and tenure rights and will harm students by raising class sizes.

The CTU requested full access to all documents pertaining to the 2010-11 CPS budget. Last year, CPS spent $400 million in contracts, but who holds those contracts and for what? On the revenue side, TIFs take $250 million away from our schools each year, $100 million more than your hard-earned 4% raise will cost.

Last week, the Board requested a meeting with the Union to discuss the budget, but we still don’t have that budget in our hands.

What we do have is the strength of our members — 30 CTU rank-and-file members who will observe these talks with the Board and strategize with and inform our officers sitting at the table. We are thankful to each team member and to experts from the American Federation of Teachers who flew in from D.C. to prepare us for what may come.

We promised transparency. We promised a member-driven Union. We’re delivering on our promises and the Board should work within that model.

The Chicago Teachers Union transition team hit the ground running three weeks ago. We made our mark at the AFT convention, getting school closing language adopted nationally. Back home we’ve been transforming our Union into a member-driven one that is responsive to members’ needs and mindful of the fact that it is the members’ hard-earned dues that allow this Union to operate.

It’s a new time, a new way. We will keep you informed through e-mail, our website, Twitter, and Facebook.

In solidarity, President Karen G.J. Lewis

Chicago Public Schools CEO Ron Huberman was not present.


July 25, 2010 at 10:13 AM

By: Danny

Eight concessions the Board is seeking

The following account was posted on the First Class communication network by a citywide social worker who attended the meeting Friday.

"I am writing to you to inform you about a meeting the Board had with the officers of the CTU along with 42 other CTU members including me.

"The meeting was requested by the Board to ask for concessions of school personnel that are members of the CTU. We listened to the Board's proposal. They want the CTU to give up $100 million dollars of benefits in exchange for 1000 people not to be laid off. They gave a list of eight areas in which the CTU could use to make the concessions from the contract. We could use the eight areas creatively to do this!!!

"They listed: unpaid recess (5 furlough days); eliminate 9 paid holidays (9 furlough days); eliminate pension pick-up; no 4% raise for the last two years of the contract- which save only $80 million; no step/ lane advances; eliminate all increments and stipends (our increment, $100 stipend, travel allowance are examples); the Board can decide when the school day

begins and ends (do not understand the savings for that); and, freeze all rates and reimbursements.

"We met after the Board people left. WE AGREED THERE WILL BE NO CONCESSIONS!!!! The layoffs or concessions will not reduce the CPS budget deficit. Giving up our 4% raise will not reduce the budget deficit! NONE OF THE CONTRACT CONCESSION WILL SAVE JOBS EVEN IF THE MONEY COMES FROM SPRINGFIELD! THE BOARD WILL NOT PROTECT JOBS EVEN IF CTU GIVES ALL THE CONCESSIONS! One thing I learned today is that the Board does not even know where the money is coming from or exactly how the money is being spent."

July 25, 2010 at 10:27 AM

By: Margaret Wilson

Eight concessions

I'm glad the CTU is staying strong on not giving concessions. The consequences would be very serious esp. in terms of future retirement. If the Board can decide when the school day begins and ends, it sounds like you could be told to teach a before or after school program for no additional money. It sounds like we are going back to the pre-Union days which no one but the Board wants.

July 25, 2010 at 11:39 PM

By: Vinicius de Mello

James Franczek .. possible conflict of interest?

James Franczek, is he not part of the NON Educator group, the Chicago Civic Committee that wrote up the Ren 2010 plan!!! Would there conflict of interest since his organization wants to fire veteran teachers and hire cheap labor and privatize education. He would want to see the Union caving in for multiple reasons.

July 27, 2010 at 1:09 AM

By: kugler

Franczek Membership

Members Directory

James C. Franczek, Jr.

Active - 2004

Franczek Radelet P.C., President

Add your own comment (all fields are necessary)

Substance readers:

You must give your first name and last name under "Name" when you post a comment at We are not operating a blog and do not allow anonymous or pseudonymous comments. Our readers deserve to know who is commenting, just as they deserve to know the source of our news reports and analysis.

Please respect this, and also provide us with an accurate e-mail address.

Thank you,

The Editors of Substance

Your Name

Your Email

What's your comment about?

Your Comment

Please answer this to prove you're not a robot:

5 + 5 =