CTU attacks internal critic, ignores Daley's union busting... CTU harasses critic without answering questions about selling out to Daley

Less than four pay periods after selling out to the Daley administration in the five-year contract railroaded through the August 31 House of Delegates meeting and the September 10 referendum, the leaders of the Chicago Teachers Union devoted more time to attacking one union member who has been critical of their policies than to examining the policies of the mayor who pioneered privatization, union busting, and the “mayoral control” model of school governance in the largest cities in the USA.

In the December issue of the Chicago Union Teacher, the union’s official newspaper, CTU officials took issue with questions raised by long time union critic Gerald Adler. Now retired, Adler was one of the original members who pushed the union into collective bargaining during the 1960s. He remains an activist, issuing his own leaflets at most meetings of the union’s House of Delegates.

Since Marilyn Stewart became President of the 30,000-member union (a membership that has decreased by more than ten percent since she was installed in office in 2004), she has assigned special union “Security” personnel (reportedly off-duty Chicago police officers) to stand beside Adler during union meetings and escort him out as soon as he voices and opinion in disagreement with her.

The state of internal opposition in the CTU is currently so much in disarray that no one challenges Stewart’s right to appoint “Security” or use “Security” as a secret police against union members. In December 2007, the union went a step further.

The editor emeritus of the union newspaper, John Ostenburg, took time out from his other duties to devote several inches of type on the second page of the union’s December (2007) issue to a critical look at a critical letter Adler had distributed at union meetings and at a union picket line at the December Board of Education meeting. The Adler letter asked questions about a poll that the union leadership had paid for by the Hart Associates, a major Democratic Party polling firm. The poll had asked union members questions about Arne Duncan and Richard M. Daley, which resulted in both the CEO and the privatization mayor receiving unusually high marks from CTU members. As Adler had been pointing out, the union leadership had not asked the union’s House of Delegates about the poll, or to pay for it. To this day, nobody knows all of the questions that were asked on the poll. Adler had called the Hart Associates offices in Washington, D.C. to learn more about the poll itself, including what questions were asked and who was polled.

Instead of getting answers from the CTU, Adler was stonewalled, then criticized.

The expensive and controversial Hart poll remains a mystery to the CTU’s dwindling membership as Substance goes to press in January 2008. A visit to the union’s Web site in early 2008 shows that the site is still lacking in almost all information that other union Web sites (most notably, CTU’s sister local in New York City) routinely provides to its members. Among the other things that could be included on the Web site is the content and cost of the Hart Associates poll. But the Web site doesn’t even include all of the back issues of the union newspaper since Marilyn Stewart was put into office in August 2004. The entire history of CTU — like the cost of the Hart poll and the Security staff working for Stewart — is being erased from CTU. 

This article was originally published in the January 2008 print edition of Substance.


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