Teachers at Skinner North and Melody showed 'courage' in voting for longer school day, Chicago's mayor proclaims... Emanuel, Brizard continue 'Management by Publicity Stunt' announcing supposed contract 'waivers' on a Friday afternoon before a long holiday weekend

Officers of the Chicago Teachers Union reacted with fury on the Friday before the Labor Day weekend began, upon learning that Jean-Claude Brizard, the controversial Chief Executive Officer of Chicago's public schools, had announced by press release that two Chicago elementary schools had supposedly voted for a waiver of the union contract earlier in the day. According to the union officials, the union had received no information either from the schools or from the Board of Education that the supposed votes had taken place. By late afternoon, a third school had been added to the list, a school that had not even held its first class for students.

Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Jesse Sharkey (above right) spoke with the media on Friday, September 2, after the union learned that the mayor and the schools CEO had issued a press release announcing two elementary school waivers without informing the union. With Sharkey above is CTU Financial Secretary Kristine Mayle. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt."This is an insult to all of our 30,000 members," CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey told a small press conference hastily convened at the union's Merchandise Mart offices at 3:30 p.m. on Friday, September 2, 2011.

The two elementary schools were Skinner North Elementary School (640 W. Scott St.) and Melody Elementary (412 S. Keeler). According to union officials, union records showed that Skinner North had 14 teachers and Melody had 23. Under the union's contract rules, waiver votes are supposed to take place upon 48 hours' notice and by secret ballot. In most cases, waivers are voted on by union teachers on the school's staff (other staff at the schools are also members of the CTU, or of other unions representing school workers). By late afternoon, union sources were saying that none of the waiver votes had been conducted legally according to the union contract.

During the 3:00 p.m. press conference (which began 20 minutes late), Sharkey told reporters who were able to make the event that the union had not been informed either by the schools or by CPS that the supposed waiver votes had taken place.

Later in the afternoon, union officials said that they had heard that a third school, the new STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) school (1522 W. Flournoy) had also voted on a contract waiver. STEM has not yet held its first class, since it is opening this school year. According to one union staff member, the school did not yet have a union delegate, and was therefore not legally able to hold a waiver vote without requesting that the vote be conducted by the union's representatives.

In a statement issued by the union, Sharkey charged "CTU contends that the Board has coerced principals to force this waiver vote on their staff. We have heard of gifts being offered as bribes to teachers and other concessions if they vote for a longer school day."

The CTU also provided reporters with a copy of a grievance filed against the Board of Education on August 30 on the waiver questions. The grievance, which was submitted to Cheryl Colson, Director of Labor and Employee Relations at CPS on August 30,m states: "The Chicago Teachers Union contends that individual school principals have demanded that the school Union Delegate , and all bargaining unit members, take a WAIVER vote to increase the school day an additional 90 minutes per day. The Chicago Teachers Union views this demand by the school principals as a form of coercion and a violation of the Agreement and Board Policy!'"

Union officials also told Substance that the union was consulting attorneys about whether the Chicago Board of Education had violated Illinois labor law and basic union contract law by offering incentives directly to teachers at the schools through the principals. Under Article 1 of the Agreement between the Board of Education of the City of Chicago and the Chicago Teachers Union (the contract), the law and the contract bar management from negotiating directly with union members. It is a long-established principle of labor law that the boss cannot circumvent the union's right to represent its members. The concept of management going directly to the workers is basic to the version of economic reality pushed by corporations like Wal Mart, which maintain that every worker has the power to negotiate his or her terms and conditions of employment in an individual negotiation with the corporation.

At approximately noon on September 2, 2011, the Chicago Public Schools Office of Communications issued the press release below, which was received by Substance at the Substance email address (and was apparently received by other news organizations as well). The press release includes a quotation which supposedly has been made both by Mayor Emanuel and CEO Brizard.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:. September 2, 2011. Statement from Mayor Emanuel and CPS CEO Brizard on Teachers that Voted in Favor of Longer School Day Today at Their Schools

CHICAGO—This morning, teachers at Genevieve Melody Elementary and Skinner North Elementary schools voted on a waiver that would lengthen their school day by 90 minutes. The passage of waivers require a 50% + 1 of all voting teachers. Both schools received the required 50% + 1 to pass the waiver and extend their school day by 90 minutes.

Statement by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard:

“We thank the courageous teachers and principals today for their dedication to investing in our children’s future by supporting a longer school day. This is a historic step forward in bringing the kind of change we need in the classroom to help our children get the world class education they deserve. Despite the hard work of teachers throughout the system, our children are falling behind. They need more time in the classroom to be successful. Teachers stood up today to say they want to help lead this change. We support them and commend them for the message they are sending to our city that our children must come first. We hope more principals, teachers and parents will come together to put our children first.”

The Labor Day weekend announcement follows weeks of public relations work by Chicago's mayor claiming that the Chicago Teachers Union should be willing to accept a "two percent" raise (after CPS rescinded the contractual four percent raise for all unionized workers at its first June meeting) and an extension of the school day by 90 minutes. The campaign by Mayor Rahm Emanuel has included demonstrations at the Chicago Board of Education led by preachers who support the mayor (and are often subsidized directly or indirectly by City Hall) and an announcement on the "Chicago Tonight" TV show by Brizard that the Board was "offering" two percent for the longer school day the mayor was demanding.

Reporters were challenged sorting out the story because it broke late on the Friday before a major holiday, but some of the story was developing by late on September 2.

Skinner North Principal Ethan Netterstrom (above) told Substance that the waiver had passed at the school by a vote of 9 to 6 on the morning of September 2. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.At Skinner North Elementary School, Skinner North Principal Ethan Netterstrom told Substance that the vote took place on the morning of September 2, and the result was a "Yes" vote of 9 to 6. The school has 15 teachers, one clerk, one security aide, on special education aide, and one assistant principal, according to Netterstrom.

He confirmed that CPS officials had told him that the school would receive an additional $150,000 if it approved the waiver. He said that the only condition he was aware of was that the money could not be used to pay teachers for an extended school day. Earlier, a Substance source had told Substance that CPS had made the $150,000 offer, and Substance tried to speak with CPS Chief Communications Officer Becky Carroll to confirm the story. Four hours after Substance first left messages for Carroll, she still hadn't returned the Substance calls or contacted Substance by e-mail about the fact of the $150,000 per school offer. Substance made its last attempt to talk with her at 8:00 p.m. on September 2.

Calls to CPS Chief Communications Officer Becky Carroll were not returned as of the evening of September 2, so Substance was not able to confirm the conditions of the use of the $150,000 or how much money, total, is available from CPS if other elementary schools were to decide to take CPS up on the same offer.

It is also unclear what the "two percent raise" attached to the extra 90 minutes means. According to several sources who asked to remain anonymous because they are in a position to face retaliation from the city or CPS, the teachers have also been promised a raise of "two percent" for accepting the waiver, although at press time it was unclear as to "two percent of what?"

One rumor has it that all teachers, regardless of their time in the system, would receive a raise based on two percent of the average Chicago teacher salary, which this year, according to estimates, is just under $70,000 per year.

But starting teachers (which includes some of the staffs of places like Skinner North) earn $20,000 less than the average.

No one has provided Substance with a copy of the exact wording of the "two percent" offer, and one union official predicted that the promised raise would prove a disappointment to the teachers who have supported the deal, predicting that they would be calling the union sometime during the school year to file a union grievance when the "raise" was either not paid or not paid in the amount they had been led to believe in early September. The wording of the waiver materials upon which the teachers allegedly voted does not include the specifics of the raise claim.

The math behind the $150,000 per school deal (which has been confirmed, but not in detail by top CPS officials) is clear enough.

"At Skinner, that comes to $10,000 per teacher," CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey told Substance after the union leaders independently confirmed the $150,000 figure.

Officials noted that if all 400 CPS elementary schools were to vote for waivers as demanded by Brizard and Emanuel, the total cost would be at least $70 million. Since June 17, CPS officials have claimed that they were facing such an enormous "deficit" that they didn't have any money to pay for the four percent raise guaranteed to teachers and other union workers in CPS under the terms of the fifth year of the system's seven union contracts.

By late on September 2, questions were also being raised about whether a waiver referendum would apply to all those who work at the schools in question. In addition to the teachers who allegedly voted in favor of the deal, each school has administrators (a principal and at least one assistant principal), an engineers, lunchroom, custodial and other staff. Additionally, so-called "citywide" staff are at the schools on assigned days, and their rights have now been affected by the votes of the teachers whom the mayor is praising for their "courage". 


September 3, 2011 at 4:34 AM

By: John Kugler

CPD Watching

from our brothers on a CPD blogsite


Divide and Conquer

And the Teachers begin to cave, some for as little as $800:

Mayor Rahm Emanuel is getting his wish -- partially -- regarding longer school days for Chicago Public Schools, and how it happened has some in the Chicago Teachers Union crying foul.

Two CPS schools next week, Genevieve Melody Elementary School and Skinner North Classical School, will add 90 minutes to their day. A third, STEM Magnet Academy, will extend its day by 90 minutes beginning in January.

Teachers at Melody and Skinner will be given a pay hike, a "lump sum of two percent equal to average teachers salary," explained CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll. That amounts to $1,275, she said.

Additionally, the two schools will be given $150,000 each to make it happen, either by hiring aides or additional teachers.

When STEM Magnet Academy extends its day in the new year, it will receive $75,000. Teachers there will receive lump sum payouts of $800.

Now watch Rahm and Brizard exploit this across the system. And remember when Rahm tries to do the same thing to us. We've already seen officers willing to sell out contract protections for units and blue jeans. Shortsightedness will kill us all.

September 3, 2011 at 4:40 AM

By: John Kugler

Union Busting #16 - Favoritism and Division

Favoritism and Division - Tactic #16

Consultants may direct management to establish "Vote No" committees of pro-company employees charged with the responsibility of rewarding loyal workers. Such workers may receive special favors, extra time off, and other bonuses. Pro-union workers are forced to undergo ever-tighter scrutiny, and are confronted with scurrilous rumors spread by the anti-union campaign. Whenever the union attempts to hold constructive meetings of potential union members, a group of anti-union employees may be sent by union busting consultants with instructions to disrupt the meeting and put the union on the defensive. The anti-union employees might shout and sneer, or ask hostile, misleading questions. Some of them may be tasked with jotting down profuse notes whenever someone speaks to make pro-union workers uncomfortable. The company gains from any divisions or animosity created by such tactics, for the union can be blamed for driving "a wedge of hate into a once unified work force."[39]

[39] Confessions of a Union Buster, Martin Jay Levitt, 1993, pages 3, 28, 30, and 102-103.

September 3, 2011 at 10:02 AM

By: Rod Estvan

re: What were they thinking

As most of us who read Substance are aware SB7 will allow CPS to impose a longer school day even while a salary for that additional time is under discussion. It is not surprising that some teachers will take whatever they can get because the longer day will happen, it is just a matter of when.

My reading of SB7 is that CPS might right now be able to void sections of the existing contract. Two lawyers I know agree with me and one disagrees. So apparently CPS has decided to go the wavier route this year because they are not sure if they can void sections of the existing contract relating to the work day, class sizes, and school year.

Since the CTU was not notified of the wavier vote at the three schools it is possible other wavier votes took place and may have failed or attempts at wavier votes were made by principals and faced with losing the vote the idea was abandoned.

The CTU faces the possibility of being broken if a wave of wavier votes approving a longer day takes place at schools where principals have good polling data that they will win. It would seem very important for PR purposes that the CTU support wavier votes at all schools so the public can see in mass whether or not teachers and other unionized staff support what took place at these three schools. A massive no vote on immediate longer school days with no additional pay would send a strong message. On the other hand if the votes go the other way it would seem that the CTU would have to accept the 2% offer rapidly.

While the CTU can fight this out legally and argue the votes at the three school were improper, that in my opinion is a pretty conservative strategy. The CTU may need to risk everything at this point in order to not be effectively broken. Recall the old military saying: those that hesitate are lost when under attack.

Rod Estvan

September 3, 2011 at 11:18 AM

By: Jim Cavallero

Waiver Votes

I am interested to know if one of the schools, STEM, even has a delegate yet. It's a new school. Waiver votes have to be conducted by the ELECTED delegate (Waivers are covered in Appendix C on p. 203 of the agreement). If I am not mistaken there is not an official delegate until an election has been held in the school and the results verified by the union. How can a brand new school elect a delegate, get it verified by the union, give 48 hours notice for a waiver vote and take the waiver vote in three days? As a matter of fact don't they have to give 48 hours notice for the delegate election? Further investigation is needed here.

September 3, 2011 at 12:27 PM

By: John Kugler

Good Working Conditions

We are talking about a total of no more that 60 teachers out of a system of 20,000 that voted to waive some of their contractual rights under duress and out of the 60 maybe 35 voted for the longer school day. The way I see it this is a manufactured sky is falling syndrome to provoke fear and a reaction from the Union. From what I hear, none the schools had any waivers actually initiated by the staff or community. In most cases the staff that did vote for the waiver were new, who had a vested interest in listening to what the principal wanted. The clear intent of the waiver process historically is to adapt each school to local educational needs with the input of the community, not a top down management mechanism. There are contractual and organizational safeguards in-place that protect against widespread mass hysteria to giveaway collective bargaining rights.

In my opinion, the strategy for the Union is to stay the course and be focused on what the Union wants to accomplish: Good Working Conditions. Rahm and Brizzard are erratic and not able to appropriately work through difficult issues without bullying, intimidation and deception; character flaws that only lead to failure.

What we are seeing is an escalation of union busting tactics rather that a concerted effort to sit down and develop a plan that improves the quality of education in Chicago. To organizationally react and run a 30,000 member union in response to media stunts is counter productive and silly.

When I was teaching carpentry, if I reacted to every personality flaw that my students had I would never have finished my daily lesson and they would never have learned anything. My job was to teach the skill of adulthood to teenagers, not worry about what my students liked or did not like. In the end all of my students, even the ones that ended up on the bad side of the tracks, appreciated the consistency and focused learning environment I established for them.

It is good to remember history. Brizzard was run out of Rochester while under federal investigation for sexual and racial discrimination. Rahm left one of the most influential jobs in the world to be a mayor of a city to straighten things out before the 2012 presidential election. For over 100 years the Chicago Teachers Union has been advocating for public education.

Our constitution makes it perfectly clear that:

We, teachers, and other educational personnel in the Chicago public schools, being members of the Chicago Teachers Union, do hereby declare this Union to have the following purposes:

l. to protect and improve the services of the public schools as a social agency for developing the capacities of the young and promoting adult education;

As our motto goes

Good Working Conditions

Are Good Learning Conditions

September 3, 2011 at 12:46 PM

By: Sarah Loftus

Procedure for waivers was not followed

Re: comments

Did these schools follow the proper waiver procedure?

There's a timetable members must be informed of the wording of a waiver, time notice of the voting place and time and the delegate must conduct the vote, etc. was this done?

The administration can not conduct a waiver vote; it used to be up to the PPC to decide if there even will be a vote.

But, to that point, as said in another comment it would be great if the CTU (after a year spent 'organizing') would direct all their delegates to campaign for a NO waiver vote. Send a very loud and clear messege that members are not stupid.

On the other hand, if the Mayor & CEO really want to get rid of incompetant teachers, they should first fire anyone who thinks their plan is a good deal.

September 3, 2011 at 5:00 PM

By: Bob Busch

Living with the shame of the waiver vote

Granting a wavier is based upon the results of an election held in the school. If three schools want to go on the Rahm Schedule that is their prerogative. I do not like the bribe given to the schools for voting yes, but they will have to live with the shame. Forgotten in this shouting match is the fact the schools will now have to do something with the extra time, and everyone will be watching. The teachers in these schools have the right to a longer day.

But making your bed is easier than laying in it.

I pity the poor kids.

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