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SUBSCRIPTS: Was December Chicago Teachers Union meeting the dying gasp of the company union called the United Progressive Caucus?

It was interesting to watch, especially given the context of the years, as more than 600 members of the Chicago Teachers Union walked into the Operating Engineers union hall adjacent to the South Branch of the Chicago River on the chilly night of November 30, 2011, while a handful of pamphleteers (including salesmen selling the December issue of Substance's print edition) showed that the First Amendment continues to be lively in the Chicago Teachers Union. But one leaflet in particular struck many observers, including a number of new teachers who had no idea of the long history and context. as particularly strange. The United Progressive Caucus of the CTU was again offering those who bothered to read its screeds the latest trampling on the President of the CTU, Karen Lewis, and the union leadership that is leading the once proud union out of about two decades of slavish devotion to a program that can only be called company unionism.

Probably the biggest achievement of the once might UPC was not to be seen on November 30, but could have been read as an echo in the morning news the same day: pensions for union officials. While the new leadership of the CTU has reduced staff salaries, including the salaries of the officers, to the same range of dollars earned by classroom teachers, the former officers of the union are now collecting pensions that are double or more what any classroom teacher can hope to earn in Chicago today.

Yet the Christmas green leaflet went into the union hall in the hands of hundreds of teachers who read them, if at all, with a skeptical glance. An entire page trying to trash the current union leadership in words that even Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel would not use, at least in public. The only thing left out of the UPC screed was the "F" bomb Emanuel famously used against CTU President Karen Lewis during the confrontations over the "Long School Day" (which, contrary to the UPC claim, Lewis and the new CTU won).

Anyone who wants to try can probably locate someone from the remnants of the UPC to share their latest version of reality, so that's not worth the time or space at Substance. But one thing worth sharing, now that the current wave of mendacious attacks on Illinois teacher pensions is over (the General Assembly is out of session until January; the Chicago Tribune has screamed its disappointment that what it calls "pension reform" was not done), it's worth noting how much the former officers of the CTU are now drawing in pensions, thanks to how they utilized the union's power during the six years they were in office as a king of personal piggy bank for themselves and their cronies.

Here are the pensions of some of the former officers and staff of the Chicago Teachers Union who have retired since the union elected CORE and Karen Lewis to lead the union in May and June 2010.



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