Senate Bill 7 Hits CTU Hard

Once the ugly details came out regarding Illinois Senate Bill 7 — which the Chicago Teachers Union endorsed and which is awaiting the governor’s signature after nearly unanimously passing the House (there was one "No" vote and one abstention)— panic set in.

It turns out that the bill Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis and the Illinois teachers unions agreed to contained a direct attack on the teachers unions that even the CTU claims they never agreed to.

In addition to mandating that Chicago teachers have a virtually impossible 75 percent strike vote (unlike the rest of the state which still requires only a majority), SB7 removed the oversight of the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board (IELRB) of the Chicago Public Schools.

In other words, all those grievances filed against abusive principals not properly following the teachers contract would be null and void.

By May 18, the CTU was encouraging members to contact legislators to support a “trailer bill” which would restore the IELRB authority and change the mandate from a 75 percent vote of all active members to 75 percent of those who actually vote.

However, a lot of questions remain unanswered.

Did the CTU really not know what was in the bill that they endorsed? Or are they telling the truth that this was never in the bill they agreed on? And if it wasn’t, why did they have to wait until they were presented with an executive board resolution denouncing support for SB7 to start complaining publically?

CTU President Karen Lewis says she never agreed to such a deal, but state senator Kimberly Lightford, who is chairman of the Senate Education Committee, says that is not true, that Lewis knew what was in the bill.

Lightford was in charge of keeping a tight lid on the negotiations of the bill with about 20 organizations that included business groups such as Advance Illinois and the Business Roundtable, the unions, and school districts.

Lewis has told the delegates that the problem was the negotiations focused on school policy for about two months, and labor issues did not appear until the last hour.

At the April 7, 2011, House of Delegates meeting in which the executive board resolution was passed to withdraw support for SB7, Lewis asked CTU labor lawyer Robert Bloch to speak about the bill to the delegates.

Bloch told the teachers that the union team had only about 15 minutes to read over a hundred pages.

What Lewis did not tell the delegates is that Bloch, who specializes in labor law, did not join Lewis in the room to tell her to sign onto the embarrassing deal, according to union sources who wished to remain anonymous.

There was another lawyer who joined Lewis in the room and recommended that the union sign on the dotted line. Who was this lawyer, and why was this person there and not Bloch who addressed the delegates the other week?

These are questions Lewis has so far refused to answer.

When it comes to negotiations, there is always the question of who is doing the negotiations. Many have questioned who is in the room when the Board of Ed or politicians sit down to negotiate with the teachers union.

One of the charges former CTU president Marilyn Stewart threw at Lewis and her reform CORE slate (which this reporter is a member of) during last year’s elections was “inexperience.” While Stewart’s United Progressive Caucus or UPC had run the union for 37 of the past 40 years (Debby Lynch beat the UPC in 2001 to serve one term), CORE had just been formed a mere two years ago.

Ironically, one union source noted that the charge of ‘inexperience’ has merit. Lewis certainly was an inexperienced negotiator, and her partner most likely was as well. As some may say, they sat down like two young lambs in a room filled with wolves.

How happy were the wolves after Lewis signed off on the new future law that will increase the school day and year and gut seniority as a factor in teacher layoffs? The Sun Times reported Chicago Mayor Emanuel “could barely contain his glee” while former Chicago schools chief and current education secretary Arne Duncan said “every state committed to education reform should take notice.”

SB7 makes it easier to fire teachers, uses evaluations rather than seniority, and puts serious restrictions in Chicago on striking, including mandating up to 120 days after a dispute goes to a special panel, and then if it’s not resolved, another 10-day notice would push a strike into the middle of the school year, if the teachers could do what has never been done before – generate a 75% strike vote from all active CTU members, including those who do not vote because they are not full members.

As one elementary teacher grumbled, everything the veteran teachers fought for on the picket lines (the last strike was in 1987) is being given back.

The lone nay vote on SB7 in the Illinois House, Rep. Monique Davis, perhaps best summed it up: “I’m not going to be a union buster, and especially starting with my own city.”

Certainly, Lewis is learning fast. She started her term last summer on a strong foot by refusing to give up the teachers’ raises despite strong pressure from Daley and former schools chief Ron Huberman who claimed the Board of Education was facing a billion dollar deficit.

In an unprecedented move for conducting union business in Chicago, Lewis took a team of over 20 rank and file teachers and union employees to the negotiations in which they refused to hand over the teachers’ raises.

Lewis repeatedly tells the public that she listens to the teachers; “the delegates are my boss,” she is fond of saying.

Only this time, she did a complete about face. She decided to play by the corporate political rules of back- door negotiating and keeping the members in the dark.

And she lost.

What happens next remains to be seen.


May 19, 2011 at 6:47 PM

By: Rod Estvan

Senate Bill 7 Hits CTU Hard

Jim Vail's article really was hard hitting and aggressive. I am not a CTU member, nor a non-CTU CORE member, but the right of teachers to bargain for class size is something critical for the continuation of inclusive education of students with disabilities. I opposed the elimination of this bargaining right when Stand for Children first proposed it at the December 16, 2010 hearings in Aurora Illinois and I believe Substance has a copy of my testimony in opposition these provisions. Really having the right to strike over benefits and wages is of secondary importance to students, particularly students with disabilities, than are class size issues.

The children I represent every day as an advocate are often lost in large classes where teachers cannot possibly give them the attention they need and are in some cases pushed into completely unnecessary segregated settings which are often in worse shape than the regular classrooms they have just been removed from.

But having said that, I also have to say I am often in Springfield as a registered lobbyist for the not for profit I work for and I was there when some of the "stake holders" meetings over SB7 were being held. I was not in these closed meetings but every lobbyist that worked in education knew they were happening. Jim Vail leaves out several factors in his discussion. First, the IEA was interested in protecting its members and issues relating to the separate section of the School Code relating to Chicago are of limited interest to that organization. Second, the IFT, of which the CTU should be the master, has numerous locals that are outside of Chicago too, so its interests are divided too. Once the bill targeted its most aggressive provisions at Chicago effectively CTU was all alone.

I am not going to rant about the other unions selling out the CTU, because I do not think that is how the leadership of these labor groups see things. But the reality is what it is.

President Lewis had to play the hand that was dealt her and a good hand it was not. I think it is less than fair to say as Jim does: "Lewis repeatedly tells the public that she listens to the teachers; the delegates are my boss, she is fond of saying. Only this time, she did a complete about face. She decided to play by the corporate political rules of back- door negotiating and keeping the members in the dark." What would have happened if she did not play by these rules? I would suspect virtually the same bill would have passed but with a complete strike ban and criminal penalties for job actions along with decertification provisions related to them. Lewis could have said wait I have to go home and consult, vote, etc, and there would have been an imposed bill, because the IEA and the IFT would not have walked out with her. If they had walked out all together there might have been a chance to create a crisis, but more than likely the bill would have extended all the current Chicago provisions statewide.

What we are looking at is real class warfare here folks, we are walking outside the paradigm that has existed in the US since really the end of World War II, where the ruling elites of our nation tolerated unions while disliking them and trying to contain them. Now the name of the game is complete liquidation of unions and their limited power, particularly in the public sector. Democrats in their majority are abandoning labor when push comes to shove. Ultimately even the Democrats in Wisconsin were ready the throw in the towel when the end came there. I think Substance has been effectively reporting on this for some time now.

President Lewis was in a trap, it was a trap created by the existing system of labor relations in the US which was not based on being in a one sided class war. The CTU, CORE, leaders of various CTU opposition currents need to take stock of the situation and not hang President Lewis. Some of you may have to decide if you are going to take unauthorized job actions in the future without legal protections of existing labor law or have the CTU broken without a fight. Or is it better to just try to survive to try to fight another day when things look better? These are hard decisions to make and dangerous ones too.

Rod Estvan

May 22, 2011 at 2:47 PM

By: Jim Vail

SB7 Hits CTU Hard

I appreciate Rod'd insightful analysis on the sb7. Everything he wrote was so true.

Yes, the article was "aggressive" and hard hitting, but that is what journalism is about, good investigative reporting. All credit to George to report these facts since he and many others aligned with Substance now work in the union office.

Rod writes that the bosses are now ready to eliminate unions, so we have to think differently today to save public education and union rights which protect workers and ultimately children for better classroom conditions such as class size as Rod points out.

We can't afford to ignore out mistakes, and not fully inform all around us the fight we are in.

This union we have now is working hard under extreme conditions. But playing the game according to the rules imposed from above will not work.

As Rod wrote, whether or not we choose to fight againt legal protections, these "are hard decisions to make and dangerous ones too."

May 22, 2011 at 7:12 PM

By: Jackson Potter


I have long respected Jim Vail's journalistic integrity. However, i think he is taking the muck-racking job of investigative journalism too far and often compromising his colleagues in the executive board and on union committees by putting on two hats at once without indicating to his fellow unionists that anything they say will be reported.

Secondly, the merits of his argument. There has been a ton of Monday morning quarterbacking in the labor movement that has left us woefully unprepared to fight back and move onto the next fight more strategically. Karen was under tremendous pressure and CTU did not adequately prepare, because of time and resource constraints, for going toe to toe with these dangerous forces. That being said the right to strike was preserved and our permissive subjects of bargaining remain.

It's important to understand that Springfield is not Madison

1) It is not the counter-cultural capital of the Midwest

2) It is far away from Chicago

3) They legislators did this to us with 1946 last year despite being dominated by Dems.

4) The original legislation was side-tracked before Madison blew-up.

5) Despite the mobilization teachers and workers in Wisconsin still lost their rights.

We could have done better to plan, prepare, include and inform the membership, but there is no guarantee that it would have assured better results.

May 24, 2011 at 9:17 AM

By: Jean R Schwab

CTU leaders deserve a lot of credit

This situation did not just suddenly appear when Karen Lewis became Union President. It was aided by Marilyn Stewart and her supporters doing nothing but helping CPS for six years. Remember the "brother in solidarity" letter by Marilyn to Arne Duncan while he was closing all those schools and firing all those teachers? Besides a large debt, the new CTU administration inherited lots of problems — plus the whole country being told to be moving against unions. It is a new day — not a dark day — and we have to stand together to deal with it. In the end, we will probably be better off, but now it seems like too much.

May 24, 2011 at 5:25 PM

By: Jean R Schwab


I've been to the Board meetings every month and to several meetings in the last two weeks about the problems we face as teachers and have talked to the CTU leaders. I've even been to Springfield lobbying and to retired teacher's meetings. I've seen the leadership there working for us, but I don't recall meeting you. Please introduce yourself to me so we can discuss this further and what you can do.

May 24, 2011 at 6:01 PM

By: RosaGonzalez

Union did nothing

Are you blind or naive? Do you know how many teachers lost jobs and union did nothing except collecting dues? It is their responsibilities to protect members. Otherwise we all will be done shortly.

May 24, 2011 at 9:28 PM

By: Jean R Schwab

I am not blind

During Stewart's term people lost their jobs or just quit. There was no help, no court cases — nothing. I should know because I was one of them. I went to the CTU and no one cared about the people at my school. We lost a lot during that period of time. I worked hard to get Karen elected. She has not been in office very long but I have seen more positive action from Karen than in all the years that Stewart was in office. People are losing their jobs now and I've heard that some have been rehired. The fight is not over. It is not fair to judge someone who inherited so many large problems.

I suppose that you also lost your job (that you loved) and I know how hard that is. Please give our new leaders a chance and your support because it could be lots worse— we could have Stewart or someone like her back and nothing good accomplished.

May 31, 2011 at 7:38 AM

By: Sharon Schmidt, editor


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May 31, 2011 at 11:09 AM

By: Patrick SImmons

Jackson Potter's Excuse to SB7


I am sad to say that for a very long time many thought that CORE was going to be the leader throughout the nation to fight for fair and equitable working conditions for teachers. However, I think many were surprisingly wrong. You berate Jim for speaking out against the union and the embarrassing outcome of Karen’s negotiation along with the questionable details of who was present at the negotiating table. At the last House of Delegates meeting Karen said that Robert Bloch was in the room counseling and advising and now Jim has a source saying that another attorney was in the room that encouraged Karen to sign onto SB7. I think Jim has every right to report that piece of information, after all Karen’s actions effect 30,000 dues paying members and those actions should be publicly scrutinized. In another one of Jim’s pieces he wrote about CPS personnel who are also CTU members not following policies of CPS and you never once commented about Jim compromising his colleagues careers, but now that this could have negative effects on your caucus, Jim is wrong. No Jackson, you are wrong and at this point you and CORE have done a great injustice to the rank and file who will be vulnerable sitting ducks until someone with experience and know how comes to the rescue of CTU members and gets them out of this mess that has been created in a matter of 15 minutes. How many lives will be disrupted because of this gross act of negligence, incompetence and lack of integrity? CORE is just another group of political animals who have been corrupted by power. I am disappointed that the caucus that ran on a “worker’s rights and social justice” platform completely gave it away with little resistance and as a complete shock and surprise to its members.

You excuse this by saying “Karen was under tremendous pressure and CTU did not adequately prepare because time and resource constraints” What kind of excuse is that? We elected Karen to be our fighter not someone who wavers under stress and goes in with lack of knowledge and unpreparedness. We pay healthy dues and there should NEVER be a lack of resources or a leader who is unprepared.

You go on to say that Springfield is not Madison, that lobbying or Madison type tactics would have never worked. Well, how would we know when we never tried? Why after SB 7 cleared the Illinois senate and house didn’t members receive 1 notice to lobby Governor Quinn not to sign this legislation?

It’s important that members have an explanation of

1) Who the Lawyer was that was in the room with Karen that encouraged her to sign onto SB7.

2) CTU’s plans to protect its members from the inevitable abuses that are in store for many of its members by abusive principals next year.

3) When the school year and day are extended, how do you intend to enforce demands for more compensation when a strike vote is out of reach and the processes to get to a strike are lengthy? (Karen gave away our biggest weapon)

4) What the plans are to regain what was lost

May 31, 2011 at 3:22 PM

By: Christopher Rudzinski

Patrick Simmons

I fully agree.Corruption by power , negligence and stupidity.

The Union President should be able to make an independent decision. Blaming lawyers is a cheap excuse of her own lack of ability to lead. People were voting against Marilyn and were expecting transparency and honesty.

Our Union leaders should resign if they know the world "honor".

The other option is — the stupidity and negligence were a planned behavior we could call "a treason".

May 31, 2011 at 4:12 PM

By: Jean R Schwab

All the Simmons

I can't help but think that all of you are Marilyn Stewart Wanna-bes. My clue is the desire to make these judgemental statements when the result of the hard work hasn't happened yet. It reminds me of the Marilyn Stewart bunch. Like Marilyn and her crowd, I have not seen you trying to work with the leadership to make the situation better. Have you called your legislator or met with the leadership to discuss what you can do to help? Remember how they jumped all over Lynch about the contract, lied to us saying they were the"new" Caucus and then did much worse than Lynch would ever dream of doing. They villianized Lynch when she she did not deserve it. I never want to go back to that again. I don't like the blaming, name calling and grandstanding.

May 31, 2011 at 6:03 PM

By: Rod Estvan

SB7 again

What I find amazing is that some CTU members are not realizing that there was only one vote against SB7 in either the House or the Senate. Clearly the CTU could have walked out of the deal making sessions, what would SB7 have looked like then?

The narrow issues that involved legal analysis are fairly small. The Illinois General Assembly collectively made a decision to curb the power of the CTU and part of that decision was the high vote requirement for a strike. Stand for Children wanted a full strike ban, not that it makes much difference given the 75% vote requirement. This decision was made by both Democrats and Republicans. No matter how smart President Lewis was in these "stake holders" meetings it was decided to clip the CTU's wings and that was what was done.

Rod Estvan

May 31, 2011 at 6:11 PM

By: Bob Busch



I have read the pundits who try to explain away CTU’s failure to understand the written word.

While I think this leadership has mastered the written word, I also think they did not read

what they signed. This should be a monumental moment for this administration who realized too late they were tricked by a cagy opponent. I still support them but hope this lesson will not be forgotten, or repeated.

May 31, 2011 at 8:54 PM

By: Chris Rudzinski

Bob Busch

Again,I agree with Bob. With due respect to Rod, I would like to mention that our President knew or should know what is going on long before it happened. Where is our great lobbyist?Where is pro teachers campaign in media before voting? Unfortunately, regardless of any kind of excuses, our leaders failed miserably. I was trying to organize, asked many people to call legislators. Long time ago, I was the first person who demonstrated courage and put job in jeopardy by presenting motion to censure Marilyn. At this time I accomplished much more than our high paid leaders. I did it because I believe in unionism, because I believe that members' welfare should be a priority for any union. People with honor definitely should resign and apologize for failure. Unfortunately, the word"honor" was replaced by "greed". So , they possibly do not know what the word means.

June 1, 2011 at 12:27 AM

By: John Kugler

President Karen Lewis on WBBM

Listen to President Karen Lewis on WBBM

AT ISSUE 5-29-11: Chicago Teachers Union

Karen Lewis, President of the Chicago Teachers Union says it's far too early to start talking about contract concessions teachers are willing to make.

June 2, 2011 at 12:05 PM

By: Pat Simmons

Clarify SB7 and tenure?

I was wondering if anyone can give some clarity about SB7 and tenure. I have been retired since 2003 and have watched Union strength diminish over the years since. I know the president and her caucus were speaking of a huge victory because some of her giveaways were supposedly taken back but, when you have bargained off teacher job security and tenure then there aren’t any victories and nobody should celebrate until veteran teachers full seniority rights are restored and tenure is not just a word but real protection against a system that will eventually want to rid itself of expensive teachers. My understanding is that SB7 allows a teacher’s certificate to be suspended and a teacher to be terminated if they receive 2 unsatisfactory evaluations in 7 years. So, if a principal decides they just don’t like a teacher they can an evaluation of unsatisfactory twice and a teacher becomes terminated and loses their state certification. Is my understanding correct? If not can someone clarify?

June 2, 2011 at 6:30 PM

By: Rod Estvan

SB 7 and state politics

If I understand CTU members complaints as they are evolving in this discussion they center on whether a more competent legislative team would have been able to cut off SB7 at the pass if they knew what was coming.

The Illinois Education Association is generally considered to have one of the most extensive governmental affairs divisions of any entity in Illinois. By my count in the state capitol they have 7 full time lobbyists and each lobbyist has a staff support person. As I have said before I too am a registered lobbyist and I am familiar with the way IEA operates. It is considered to be highly effective and organized.

Neither the IEA, nor IFT knew anything about the proposal which became SB7 until December 3, 2010 when this was issued by the Speaker of the House.

Dear Mr. Clerk:

Please be advised that today I am creating a new bipartisan Special House committee for the 96th General Assembly. The Special Committee on Education Reform will have 8 members (4 majority members, one of which will serve as co-chair and 4 minority members, one of which will serve as co-chair).

The majority appointments to this committee are as follows:

Special Committee on Education Reform

Representative Linda Chapa La Via, Co-Chair

Representative Keith Farnham

Representative Jehan Gordon

Representative Karen Yarbrough

At that point things started to fall into place and lobbyists began to link things together. The IEA's lobbyist assigned to Rep. Chapa La Via and Rep Eddy who was eventually the co-chair of this Special Committee for the minority Republicans was Gaye Larison. From everything I know she was unaware of what was rapidly coming down as was the IEA as a whole.

Lobbyists became aware of Stand for Children moving into Illinois only in October 2010 when the Stand for Children Illinois PAC handed over a $175,000 check to Republican Ryan Higgins, who was trying to replace retiring state Rep. Paul Froehlich (D-Schaumburg). Stand for Children’s $175,000 check represented the largest single contribution to a legislative candidate - other than from a caucus leader, party organization or candidate loans to themselves - since contribution records were put online.

It is my understanding that the Speaker of the House Michael Madigan took notice of this and reached out to Stand for Children and effectively asked for money for deserving Democrats too. It is my understanding that the Speaker asked Stand for Children to fund Democrats who were being hurt by the IEA's PAC that was endorsing opposition candidates to them or witholding endorsements because of their votes reducing pension benefits for future teachers and other state employees in the spring of 2010. I do not know much about IFT PACs.

Really the Stand for Children document Performance Counts did not fully emerge until December 11, 2010 when I believe a lobbyist for the Illinois school board management alliance gave it to an IEA lobbyist. The hearings of the special committee began on December 16, 2010.

So the CTU members who are critical of their governmental affairs unit should realize that the IEA which has always had a far more effective lobbying team than either the IFT or CTU in Illinois was also not prepared for what came next. CTU members must realize something and that is Speaker Madigan a Democrat moved to support the Stand for Children agenda only after all teachers unions in Illinois through their PACs began to move against members of the House who voted for the reductions in pension benefits. Speaker Madigan effectively paid back the unions who were defying his cost reduction plans.

The world is far, far more complex than the opponents of President Lewis are making it out to be. To tell the truth if CTU members are declaring the current leadership of the CTU to be incompetent, then so is the statewide leadership of the IEA. What has taken place in relation to SB 7 is not about who is more clever, it is about political power and the balance of social forces in our State. The opponents of the CTU CORE team need some type of alternative strategy to what took place with SB 7, all I hear is people shouting I would have not signed off on it. I say - so what. If you do not have the votes to stop a bill, and the teachers unions did not have that power, you try to mitigate the damage being done. That folks was the reality of the situation.

Rod Estvan

June 2, 2011 at 7:52 PM

By: Bob Busch


Clueless in Illinois

While it is true that the new kids on the block came in with a bang, their paltry payment is not near what the CTU and IFT have given over the years to scumbag Democrats who repay our generosity by stabbing us in the back.

I hope this new group has deep pockets and a long memory because if Mr. Speaker did resort to political revenge it is because this one party rule in Illinois just reinforces the

old proverb that absolute power corrupts absolutely. Now perhaps we will back some

Republicans, who have at least been honest in their actions.

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