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IFT praises SB7 even after tumult over union busting bill breaks out in Chicago

Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT) President Dan Montgomery agrees with the business community and politicians that the union busting Senate Bill 7 which was signed into law by Illinois Governor Pat Quinn in June 2011 ago is a good thing.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel praising the signing of Senate Bill 7 (SB&) at the June 13, 2011 signing ceremony at Livingston school in Maywood Illinois (chosen because the school was the alma mater of State Senator Kimberly Lightford). Behind Emanuel are (right to left) millionaire heiress Robin Steans (head of the corporate school reform group called "Advance Illinois") and Illinois Federation of Teachers President Dan Montgomery. Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis was the only major official who did not attend the June 13 event. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.In fact, Montgomery praised the new law that unfairly signaled out Chicago to prevent a strike by forcing the teachers to acquire an unprecedented 75% strike vote — and pretty much eliminated hard-fought seniority and tenure protections by focusing on evaluations when layoffs are imminent.

Montgomery called the new law a “national model for education reform because all parties worked together and everyone – including classroom practitioners – had a voice in the outcome,” according to the July IFT newsletter.

Really?

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, who negotiated the deal behind closed doors, learned the hard way that many of her members were opposed to legislation she signed onto that tried to eliminate collective bargaining – something that had provoked the massive protests in Wisconsin.

Lewis faced a revolt within her own ranks when the executive board (of which this reporter is a member, as an elementary vice president) brought forth a resolution to oppose SB7 and called for the union to lobby against it.

Teacher caucuses such as the UPC, PACT and Ted Dallas (who formerly headed CSDU), which all ran in last year’s union election, handed out flyers denouncing what they termed a sell-out deal at the delegates meeting last May.

However, true to the power of democracy, the resolution to denounce SB7 passed unanimously.

Among those at the signing of SB7 were (left to right, front row) Illinois Federation of Teachers President Dan Montgomery, Robin Steans (Advance Illinois), Ken Swanson (IEA), State Sen. Kimberly Lightford, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, State Rep. Linda Chapa La Via, and Chicago's Gery Chico. Seated behind Sen. Lightford is State Rep. Monique Davis (D., Chicago), the only person in the Illinois General Assembly who voted against the proposed legislation, because, she said, it was a union busting legislation aimed against the Chicago Teachers Union. Seated behind Linda Chapa La Via is Jonah Edelman of Stand for Children, whose zeal to get his name into the narrative about SB7 led to an embarrassing tape of Edelman bragging at the Aspen Institute about how Stand for Children used millions of corporate dollars to help break the Chicago Teachers Union. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.The CTU later lobbied legislators to support a trailer bill that quickly passed that was able to fix some parts of the new law by removing the restriction on the Illinois Labor Relations Board to hear grievances, as well as mandate 75 percent of all eligible teachers vote for a strike (whereas the original law would count all the teachers, including those not eligible to vote).

At the signing ceremony were Advance Illinois, the Business Roundtable, Stand for Children, Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel, Illinois governor Patrick Quinn, representatives of the Illinois Education Association, representatives of the Obama administration's U.S. Department of Education, and IFT president Montgomery. All were praising a deal crafted by the business community to slam the union and teachers’ rights, in the name of the children.

Lewis was not present at the signing ceremony.

With Robin Steans of the union-busting corporate reform group Advance Illinois smiling behind him, IFT president Dan Montgomery praised SB7 at the June 13 event. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Even billionaire front group Stand for Children’s Josh Edelman bragged in a video (in which he had to later backtrack after it became a bit embarrassing), how he was able pull a fast one on the union by lining up the politicians with cash to support the bill.

Still, the IFT proclaims that SB7 contains “the most significant, bold and comprehensive reforms in education in more than 40 years.”

However, there is not one word in the legislation about lowering class size, or increasing funding for early childhood programs, or preventing the destruction of art, music, sports and other programs being cut due to onerous standardized testing, pointed out Core activist Dave Vance, who added that a longer school day, which the bill allows for in Chicago, is not the answer to these pressing problems.

Earlier in the year the unions were faced with a precursor draconian bill called "Performance Counts 2010" (drafted by Stand for Children and Advance Illinois) that wanted to eliminate the right to strike outright, as well as collective bargaining rights.

The IFT and CTU encouraged its members to call their representatives to voice their opposition to the bill.

A so-called compromise bill called "Accountability for All" was then promoted by the CTU and IFT. However, certain provisions, such as seniority protections, were also dropped in the union’s bill.

Eventually, Senate Bill 7 unanimously passed that included most of what the mayor and business community wanted – a longer school day and a law making it much more difficult to strike.

The IFT, comprised of teachers throughout Illinois, is mostly a conservative teachers union organization that has taken its cues from sell-out queen Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).

But the CTU plays an important role in the IFT. Lewis draws a second salary as the vice president of the IFT, and the CTU funds roughly 40 percent of the IFT budget.

In the IFT July newsletter, Montgomery addressed the critics of SB7 by stating that these “profound changes to the status quo of the last 40 years” are necessary because with all the problems today with the economy and education, “parents seem to have lost faith in public education and those who teach and care for their children.”

He then defends public education, noting that corporate funded groups have pushed for ineffective education reforms.

However, he fails to mention that the corporate agenda is to destroy public education and privatize it, and that many people support their public schools despite the negative corporate publicity.

“Through the collaborative process undertaken to draft SB7, the IFT and our allies were able to find solutions to difficult issues while protecting teachers’ elemental rights,” he wrote.

Montgomery wrote that SB7 will include “comprehensive improvements to teaching and learning,” without mentioning specifically what those improvements are.

President Montgomery refused to return a call from Substancenews for comment. It is deals like this, in which the union believes it can be a part of the “process,” that is effectively withering away the unions rights to protects its members as the corporate-political onslaught on the working and middle class in this country continues at full speed.

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Comments:

August 31, 2011 at 6:50 PM

By: Rod Estvan

President Montgomery's statement

Regardless of where one stands on the longer school day issue and the tenure issue it would seem that President Montgomery would realize that SB7 weakens the largest local in the IFT.

It would seem to me if I was President of one of the Boards of Education that bargains with North Suburban Teachers Union, Local 1274 that President Montgomery comes from that I would want the same legislative deal that CPS got. Doesn't President Montgomery realize that the bargaining bans effecting only Chicago now will at some point be extended to other districts because other districts will want this too. Really rather amazing comments by him.

Rod Estvan

September 1, 2011 at 12:53 AM

By: John Whitfield

Not IFT, but the Prez. says

We are, as you all know, all IFT members if we teach in Illinois, unless you are IEA. So, IFT Prez. praises SB7, not IFT praises.

"You can't scare me I'm stickin to the union."

One big union Jim, George, Karen.

"An attack on one is an attack on all."

September 3, 2011 at 3:19 PM

By: Earl Silbar

IFT pres. praises SB7

Good article, Jim.

The IFT's Montgomery chooses not to respond, but his actions (and those of the IEA's president and the CTU's president) speak loudest. All three entered secret Springfield negotiations that led to SB7 only after agreeing to keep their 10s of 1,000s of members ignorant and not lobbying.

The CTU's elected leaders and most CORE members chose not to inform and mobilize CTU members to defend seniority in layoffs/rehires. Instead, they collectively defended Pres. Lewis's determination to trade away seniority to defend the right to stike for months while the secret deal was in the works. Now, the revised SB7 mandates that about 19,000 CTU members must vote YES to legally strike while seniority only counts when all other 3 factors are tied in layoff/recall order. Some deal.

All this follows the AFT's response to the corporate attacks on public education and teachers' rights: Do It With US, Not To US.

Being at the table where the deal is done trumps informing and mobilizing members and allies. SB7 is only the latest in this strategy where unions act as corporate America's "junior partners".

Many CTU, IFT and IEA members oppose this deal. We need to chart another course- one that engages with and fights for quality public education alongside those left out- children of poverty and the working class.

Our unions will only survive if we relearn some lessons of the 30s: we need to fight for workingclass social issues like pensions and healthcare for all, ending the imperial wars, and living wages. Otherwise, we're on a one-way street, and it ain't good.

September 3, 2011 at 7:45 PM

By: John Whitfield

The Trailer Bill

So could someone please explain just exactly what the "trailer bill" accomplished, given the damage of SB7, and just what the trailer bill ended up rectifying.

I understand that it took away some of the language of SB7, like to do away with (ULP)"unfair labor practice" rights in filing with the IELRB (Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board)

I don't think Karen or other CORE members knew of any "secret deal" Earl, out of all due respect. Nor do I think that President Lewis was determined to trade away any of our rights. I do think that a whole group of heavy hitters from CTU, CORE, PACT, CSDU, Sea Caucus, and UPC should have accompanied

Karen to these talks so she wouldn't have gotten mugged in the unfriendly confines of Springfield, and Illinois politics. And why didn't IEA have their enterage, or did they?

If not, the CTU group that went in to talk to the board after the CTU election, pictured on the front of the CTU paper, almost anybody and everybody now working for CTU, should have been there blocking for Karen. But there was a CTU House meeting that week.

Now there is a new group, C.A.U.S.E

that Rosita Chatonda heads, fine. But now is the time for all good people to come to the aid of their party, and out party is CTU.

Brown, red, black, and white, all the workers must unite Earl. Yes, we have given away too damn much over the last couple of decades, and now is the time to start getting back that was negotiated away.

As you know the Social Justice fighters in CORE have been advocating for the same as you suggest above: that is, charting another course, one that engages with and fights for quality public education alongside those left out-children of poverty and the working class."

Now, faced with the Board of Education, trying to divide and conquer us, offering elementary education instructors a 2% raise, while denying all CPS workers their 4% raise promised in the contract, we have to refuse waivers that would shove such a thing down the throats of education workers.

But I think we are organized enough, and are not ignorant of what is happening, though what I think you meant Earl, was being kept in the dark about the SB7 shenanigans.

One thing for sure, there was a house meeting around that time, and President Lewis reported to the House of Delegates from Springfield via satelite. Now who planned for that to happen, so other CTU leadership could not be down there to support her? Though no one is denying that something was rotten in Denmark, the other explanations were that a lot of last minute stuff was tacked onto the bill, and a ton of before midnight emails bombarded our CTU president.

Now for the trailer bill, Earl, Jim, and other distinguished union activists and reporters.

What do you think?

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