CTU House of Delegates... House of Delegates Meeting Opens New Era of Democracy in Chicago

It seemed like a breath of fresh air after years of screaming, cajoling, and squashing any chance for an open debate on serious issues affecting Chicago public school teachers. The monthly meeting, held at the Operating Engineers Local 399 union hall on Grove St. on Chicago's south side, was better attended than most of the meetings of the past five years, a fact that many took as an indication that delegates who had become demoralized under the old union leadership were back with renewed commitment.

That commitment showed as the main items of business came up.

The delegates voted overwhelmingly to endorse six resolutions at the House of Delegates meeting on Wednesday, September 15, 2010, including calling for a repeal of the 1995 Amendatory Act which took away the teachers' bargaining rights and handed the mayor control of the schools. The resolutions also included opposition to President Obama's Race to the Top (which demands more charter schools and teacher evaluations tied to standardized testing), a moratorium on school closings, a call for an elected school board, an end to charter school proliferation, and a repeal of the recently passed Senate Bill 1946 in which teacher pensions took a serious hit.

Jackson Elementary teacher Reina Otero, a UPC (United Progressive Caucus) stalwart who vigorously supported former CTU President Marilyn Stewart during House debates in the past, demanded to know why the CTU would present a resolution directly at odds with the Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT). The IFT, like the American Federation of Teachers, supports Race to the Top with the belief a "seat at the table" is a good thing, even if the table and everything on it are controlled by your enemies.

Another delegate wanted to know why the CTU would not support Race to the Top funds for the schools — even though it would have come to about only $200 per child in Illinois, according to CTU President Karen Lewis. The Race to the Top supporter ended her peroration adding that merit pay is not a bad thing for teachers.

Several teachers then stated their reasons why Race to the Top has hurt the teaching profession, especially merit pay, and the delegates then voted almost unanimously to endorse opposition to Race to the Top, along with all the other resolutions.

It was clear to see how much the previous UPC-led CTU administration, which followed orders from New York, had been selling out the teachers by supporting an agenda that aims to destroy public education.

But to do that the UPC had to shout delegates down, turn off the mics, quickly end — or never even allow — a debate on the floor when they secretely endorsed Race to the Top and merit pay. Now, the current CORE-elected CTU administration has done an about face and opened up the floor to a rigorous and healthy debate about the government/corporate led attack on public education and unions.

The delegates voted overwhelmingly in support of the six resolutions, which will be presented to the IFT convention to be held in St. Louis from October 15 - October 17.

Another area of acute sensitivity to the delegates at Wednesday's meeting was the political front.

The CTU presented a list of endorsements for the House to vote on, and one, the endorsement of current Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, upset many of the delegates.

Otero and others pointed out that Quinn voted for the pension bill that increased the teacher retirement age to 67 for future hires, and allowed the state to no longer have to pay over a billion dollars into the teachers pension fund.

"You guys said you wouldn't give money to the politicians who hurt us," said Kevin Huff, a delegate from Roberto Clemente High School.

Newly elected president Karen Lewis, who ran on the radical CORE platform to fight for public education and not make deals at the top, replied that it is up to the delegates to decide if they want to endorse the current embattled governor who is trailing in the polls to Republican Bill Brady.

The delegates unanimously voted against endorsing the governor.

The meeting began with a question and answer period for Lewis. Questions ranged from displaced teachers being handed "bogus" lists of teacher vacancies, to schools endangering their staffs and students with strict orders to cut electricity bills by turning off parking lot lights immediately after school to turning down the temperature in unoccupied rooms to 65 degrees.

"They already heated us out, now they want to freeze us out," Lewis said, referring to the heat problems faced by the nearly 200 schools forced to begin under "Track E" in August instead of September.

The official part of the meeting began with Judge Yolande Bourgeois swearing in the newly-elected officers president Lewis, vice president Jesse Sharkey, recording secretary Michael Brunson and financial secretary Kristine Mayle.

An icy silence from the delegates followed the judge's brief remarks that the teachers should never consider a strike because "nobody ever wins." Contrary to such sentiments, the fact is teachers' pay and benefits were a result of years of strikes before Mayor Daley took control of the schools and started to roll back many of the rights earned from such confrontations.

A financial report from Mike Baldwin stated that the CTU currently has $3.4 million in net assets, noting, "there's plenty of cash in the bank." He ended by saying the officers' and coordinators' salaries will be tied to teacher salaries, and auto allowances eliminated, which will result in "significant savings to the union and allow them to do new things."

Vice president Sharkey said the Union is focusing on a legal strategy, contract enforcement and a public campaign. He said the CTU is suing the Board of Ed for violating the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution, which guarantees that a person cannot be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process, by arguing that tenure is a "property right," which is based on legal precedent. The judge will rule on the case after arguments were heard earlier in the day.

The focus on contract enforcement is being implemented via increasing the number of full-time CTU employees who will enforce work rules, creating a computerized grievance tracking system so that members will be able to file and follow any grievance cases online and increasing delegate outreach and training.

A public campaign includes organizing an education rights rally scheduled for next Tuesday, September 21, from 4-6 pm at the Daley Plaza.

"Don't throw our members under the bus," Sharkey said, "and we know who's driving the bus."

Lewis in her presidential report noted that the Board is playing hardball because the Union, after the delegates voted unanimously, refuses to give salary or other concessions. According to the law firm representing the Board of Ed, a phone-in conference last spring stated that three-forths of the membership would agree to concessions if it meant saving teacher jobs. The fact is the survey was never scientific, the results not known and a small percentage of the total number of city teachers called in.

Clearly the Board, along with the corporate and government sectors, are continuing to attack tenure, with schools chief Ron Huberman telling state senator James Meeks - who has called the teachers union the worst gang in the city - they may need legislative help to ensure the elimination of tenure, at an education forum sponsored by the Chicago Tribune on Tuesday.

A resolution was then passed that ensured "all members who are laid off, displaced, or honorably terminated from the Chicago Public Schools shall keep their union affiliation and maintain full benefits of union membership for a period of two years, provided they pay dues equivalent to one-tenth the annual rate for full dues paying members." 


September 18, 2010 at 5:52 PM

By: Lou Pyster

CTU House of Delegates

Jim, just two clarifications. It was Edna Otero, Reina's sister, who made the motion to not endorse Governor Quinn. This motion did not pass unanimously. I and several other delegates voted against the motion. You may recall I spoke against the motion prior to the vote.

September 19, 2010 at 3:36 PM

By: xian

Quick correction

Kevin "Hough" is the delegate from Clemente HS.


September 19, 2010 at 3:40 PM

By: Earl Silbar

associate member of CORE, retired GED teacher

Thanks for the clarity, Jim. Where can one find these IFT resolution? I\'m wondering if anyone proposed to amend the on vs. RTTT to include a public campaign by local unions in addition to the call for the IFT to lobby.

September 19, 2010 at 9:59 PM

By: Jim Vail

IFT Resolutions

Earl - I have copies of the IFT Resolutions passed at the Delegates meeting. I would assume you could call the union to obtain copies as well. They may be available online as well.

September 20, 2010 at 7:17 AM

By: Garth Liebhaber

Thanks for the Report, Jim

Excellent report, Jim, and thank you all for those clarifications.

September 21, 2010 at 12:02 PM

By: Maddy

IFT Resolutions available at

IFT Resolutions can be downloaded from the September HOD packet available on the CTU website.

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