Politicians shine at Chicago Teachers Union LEAD Dinner

When political bigwigs buzzed about at the Chicago Teachers Union annual Legislators Educators Appreciation Dinner Friday night, October 29, 2010, there was certainly a feeling of charged energy in the room. And the room, the large hall at the headquarters of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 399, was filled with more than 1,000 union members, community supporters, and candidates. There was barely enough space to walk between the tables, which were being added until the doors were finally opened to the dinner at 5:30 p.m.

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn speaking to the Chicago Teachers Union LEAD dinner on October 29, 2010. Substance photo by Sharon Schmidt.Handshakes and smiles circulated a night of cocktails and corned beef and cabbage in which Democrat politicians mixed with city teachers and union officials before Tuesday's election. The dinner, which had been an annual affair hosted by the CTU until the past couple of years, when it was not promoted by former President Marilyn Stewart, was the largest LEAD since the early 2000s, according to many long-time observers. Current CTU President Karen Lewis and the union's staff worked overtime to revitalize the event.

"We might be able to win court cases, we might be able to win grievances, but we need to stop the attacks from the legislators who are well funded," said CTU President Karen Lewis.

Lewis was followed by Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, a former teacher of 30 years, who perhaps said it all as far as union and government officials are concerned: "We have to win with Quinn."

Governor Pat Quinn (second from right) took the time to pose with (left to right) Josh Schmidt, Grady Jordan, and Sam Schmidt. Substance photo by Sharon Schmidt.Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, running a close race with republican Bill Brady, was walking up and down the aisles being pulled over for photographs, shaking hands, smiling and chatting and answering questions.

Then he took the podium to an outburst of applause and spoke briefly, punctuating why Brady is a horrible choice because he wants to cut education by $1.2 billion, lower the minimum wage, and support vouchers.

"You are the custodians of the future and you are my heroes," Quinn said. "I want to say I've totally enjoyed working with Karen."

Xain Barrett of CTU was master of ceremonies at the event on October 29, 2010. The crowd above was so large that it was impossible to get a photograph of the entire crowd. Above, about a third of the crowd is visible, with Karen Lewis's table on the right. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Quinn, and the rest of the Democratic party, is very dependent upon the unions to get working people out to the polls to vote on Tuesday. He has been calling the CTU, as well as the other unions, to push for their support in the race.

Quinn promised the CTU more funding for education and to veto the voucher bill should it arrive on his desk. He promised the AFL-CIO no job cuts in the near future, a pledge the business community, led by the Chicago Tribune, have heavily criticized.

Earlier in the week, he had been denied a chance to speak to the annual luncheon of the Retired Teachers Association of Chicago, according to RTAC director Bob Bures, when he refused to agree to promise the retired teachers that he would not support any additional raids on the Chicago teachers pension fund, such as the one he signed over teacher and retired teacher protests after the quick vote in the General Assembly in April 2010.

An interesting twist in the night were two hopeful mayoral candidates — Chicago City Clerk Miguel Del Valle and Alderman Bob Fioretti — circulating the rooms in their quest to be the next mayor.

Bets are on that Rahm Emmanuel, who was probably sprinting outside the White House and to the airport as soon as he heard that King Daley was calling it quits after twenty years of rule, will be the next mayor. Emmanuel first served as a fundraiser for Daley before raising money for President Clinton, and later serving as a congressman before returning to the White House as President Obama's chief of staff. He not only has all the money, he also apparently has the machine slowly but surely ready to back his annointment to be Daley's successor.

Chicago teacher Stacy Davis Gates chaired the CTU Political Action committee and spoke to the LEAD dinner. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.One of Emmanuel's top challengers, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, just recently dropped out of the race.

So Mr. Del Valle, many teachers are asking, do you really think you have a chance to win against the ruling class's chosen heir to the throne?

"It's not all about money," Del Valle said, his eyes gleaming. "It's also about the people."

Chicago City Clerk Miguel Del Valle (above) accepted the award for State Rep Cynthia Soto, who had another engagement on the evening of October 29. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Accompanying Del Valle was Alderman Ricardo Munoz, who along with other campaign workers, was handing out Del Valle for Mayor buttons. Fioretti told Substance he is still in the race for mayor, but his star has dimmed as well since the Emmanuel freight train exploded through Union Station.

Alderman Scott Waguespack (above right) was given an award for supporting public schools at LEAD. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Alderman Scott Waguespack, who was once thinking about running for mayor by will not, William Dock Walls, a perpetual mayoral candidate, and Green party governor candidate Rich Whitney, were other notables in an event packed with powerbrokers in suits.

Waguespack spoke briefly to the teachers and legislators after receiving a public education award. He mentioned three important things for public education — a great union leadership, an elected school board and reclaiming TIF monies for the schools.

"I want to give a lot of credit to Ben Joravsky for educating me about the TIFs," said Waguespack, who voted against the mayor's disasterous parking meter privatization deal. "Where is all that money going? It's not going to the schools."

Operation PUSH leader Jonathan Jackson (above center) took time out to pose with Josh Schmidt (left) and Sam Schmidt (right) just before the dinner was served at the October 29 event. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Jonathan Jackson, whose brother Jesse Jackson Jr. was once considered a top contender for the mayor race until his ties to the former Governor Blagojevich surfaced, also attended the event. He has been at the forefront of supporting public schools in low income areas that have been targeted to close under Daley's privatization plan.

There were two prominent mayoral candidates not in attendance. Emmanuel, who has spearheaded neo-liberal reforms that have decimated unions across the country, and the Rev. James Meeks, who once called the CTU the biggest gang in Chicago.

CTU President Karen Lewis (above right) received a hug from O.A. Thorp kindergarten student Joshua Schmidt (above left). Josh and Sam Schmidt were among the few public school children at the massive LEAD dinner. Substance photo by Sharon Schmidt.In addition to many CTU union employees and officers, there were also many UPC members such as former CTU vice president candidate Mark Ochoa, as well as former CTU president Debbie Lynch. 


November 1, 2010 at 1:02 PM

By: Louis Pyster


There was a LEAD dinner in 2008, not in 2009.

November 3, 2010 at 8:40 PM

By: Independent Thinker

Great Election!

I am an independent voter, and I did implement a split vote by voting for some Republicans and some Democrats. I am happy with the election results, and I am also happy with the fact that Huberman is leaving CPS. However, I hope all the Chicago Board members would leave because they are all in fault for all the injustice, corruption, and mismanagement of funds in my opinion. In fact, I think the Chicago Board of Education should be eliminated. This would be a huge savings.

There should only be a very few lawyers and educational leaders. Eliminating more testing would also save money. CPS already has ISAT and teacher made assessment. Why does CPS need more. I do believe video taping lessons are good because most schools already have video tape recorders.

How is the CTU law suit appeal against CPS going? How is John Kugler complaint going?

I do believe many people voted against Obama and the Democrat's policies regarding jobs creation, health care, and education. In addition, I think people are sick of Race to the Top and creation of charters, and a bullying government. People want their voices heard, and they want a government to work for them not against them. I think Obama is going to have a big problem during reelection,unless he makes meaningful change to the American people. Not less change in their wallets.

We need a government that knows how to manage money, create jobs, and that work for all the American people.

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