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August 17 – 18… CORE to hold fifth annual convention

CORE, the Caucus of Rank-And File Educators, will host its fifth annual convention on August 17 and August 18 2012 at The Arturo Velasquez West Side Technical Institute, 2800 S. Western Ave. in Chicago, beginning at 4:00 p.m. on Friday August 17 and resuming at 9:00 a.m. on Saturday August 18.

Anyone who wants to attend and participate in the CORE convention of August 2012 must be a CORE member at the time of the convention. Further information about joining CORE is available at the CORE website: www.coreteachers. org.The theme of the convention — “Challenges Met, Challenges Ahead: Educator Power in Every School” — reflects both the history and vision of CORE since the caucus's founding in early 2008. CORE veterans and leaders will discuss the successes that CORE has achieved since its founding in Chicago in 2008 in the context of the present struggles for democracy, public education, and principled unionism in Chicago and the USA today.

After building its strength by directly challenging “Renaissance 2010” and the vicious closing of inner-city schools under the administration of Arne Duncan (now U.S. Secretary of Education and architect of the Obama administration’s “Race To The Top” program to privatize public education in the USA), CORE went on to electoral power by electing teacher trustees to the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund (in 2009, 2010, and 2011) and finally electing the officers and the majority of the executive board members to the leadership of the CTU in the union elections of May and June 2010. Since then, CORE has led the CTU, the second largest K-12 local in the 1.5 million member American Federation of Teachers (AFT), in working to meet the challenges thrown up by a ruling class increasingly hostile to democratic public schools and militant trade and public worker unions in the traditions of American democracy.

CORE leaders Karen Lewis, Jesse Sharkey, Kristine Mayle and Michael Brunson have been the officers leading the CTU since July 1, 2010. All will be participating in the CORE convention, along with many of the founding members of CORE and the growing cadre of new CORE activists who have been developing the strategy and tactics through the democratic leadership of the Chicago Teachers Union, both locally and more and more on the national stage.

CTU President Karen Lewis, a former King High School chemistry teacher and founding member of CORE, will address the convention. The CORE convention invitation invites CTU members who join CORE to “take the opportunity to talk to CTU officers Jesse Sharkey, Michael Brunson and Kristine Mayle” as well as to hear from President Karen Lewis.

Come hear about the history of CORE, why it is important, and what it means to be a part of a CTU caucus.

There will be workshops on School Based Organizing, Communication, Strike History and Parent and Community Outreach. Be involved in the future structure and direction of CORE. The Convention is only open to CORE members. You can join CORE at the convention or go to www.coreteachers.org to join. Dues are $35 for teachers and $20 for PSRPs and retirees.

CORE was elected as the leadership of CTU in June 2010 and immediately faced the lies and union busting attacks of the old leadership of the Chicago Public Schools (under former Mayor Richard M. Daley and former schools “Chief Executive Officer” Ron Huberman) and the more vicious union busting attacks on the union and on public education of the new leadership of the Chicago Public Schools (under Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the current schools “Chief Executive Officer” Jean-Claude Brizard).

The convention is expected to address current challenges facing CORE and the Chicago Teachers Union, discuss caucus approaches to upcoming elections within the CTU and elsewhere, and set policies for the 2012 - 2013 school year. A democratic caucus, CORE functions under the leadership of a Steering Committee elected every two years by the caucus's membership. (Disclosure: This reporter is a member of the CORE steering committee).

A complete file of CORE newsletters and other CORE information is also available on the CORE website.

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Comments:

August 16, 2012 at 1:46 PM

By: Danny van Over

What to make of this?

Rosita Chatonda (ahem...I believe a former CORE member) posted the following on the Catalyst site:

CAUSE- Chicago Alliance o Urban School Educators IS WORKING ON AN INITIATIVE TO HAVE FREEDOM SCHOOLS FOR OUR CHILDREN WITH LICENSED EDUCATORS IF THERE IS A TEACHERS STRIKE. IF YOU HAVE AN ORGANIZATION INTERESTED PLEASE CONTACT ME @ rcchatonda@yahoo.com

August 16, 2012 at 5:59 PM

By: George N. Schmidt

'Freedom Schools' = Scab Schools (in Chicago at least). Strike Support Centers are the tradition.

As some people who have been paying close attention know already, CAUSE has been organizing against the CTU leadership and against CORE for some time now. Their libelous versions of reality and attacks on many of us are widely ignored, although some of us have had to refresh memories about the complex histories and realities we are now facing again as Chicago moves towards forcing the Chicago Teachers Union into a major strike.

Historically "Freedom Schools" have had two roots, and neither of them makes clear how anyone who supports public schools and unions could claim that such entities should be created in Chicago in the upcoming strike. One root was in the Jim Crow South. The other was briefly in Chicago during the early days of the growing power (and strikes) of the Chicago Teachers Union.

Consider the reality, without the hype. There is, first of all, a logistical impossibility of creating them on the scale they would be needed (even if there were a community demand for them). So they become a kind of vapid publicity stunt — and little more.

The reality, pending the next two meetings of the Chicago Teachers Union's House of Delegates, looks like this. The final legal requirement, setting the strike date, is likely to take place by a House vote next Wednesday at Lane Tech. Then negotiations will continue and the clock will be ticking on that final ten-day period. Rahm's Board and his minions (the Brizard administration) have now proved (last week during the PD days at the "Track E" schools; this week by the way the principals at many — not all — of the Track E schools have treated the teachers and the contract) have now proved concretely that they do not intent to honor the spirit of any agreement, let alone the letter of any contract law. For most of us, they proved they didn't care about the "sanctity of contracts" when they lied, claimed that "fiscal crisis" on June 15, 2011, and reneged on the four percent raise for the 2011 - 2012 school year. With their reputation (and their narratives) already in tatters, there is a real understanding out there that their word is no good, that contract enforcement will require organization and readiness, not matter what the bizarre Brizardisms we will be hearing from the CPS spin machine.

We will be striking at more than 600 locations, even if Rahm's crazies succeed in their attempt to launch "The 100 Schools Plan..." which is making principals and administrators cringe as the word spreads about that variation on the recent 15 months of insanity from the top. The picket lines will be staffed by more than 30,000 current and retired members of the Chicago Teachers Union, plus our families (in my case, our two sons, who attend public school). Thanks to the law, parents (of which Sharon and I are) have had sufficient time to plan for an extended summer vacation, and the last thing most of us (I would never presume to speak for "all") would want is to have someone declare a "Freedom School" for our children. My children, and those we are organizing now, will do just fine without the hype, so no thanks for the "help."

But back to the history.

Everyone who knows the history of the Civil Rights struggles knows that the Freedom Schools of the South during the 1950s, 1960s, and into some of the 1970s were created as an alternative to the racism and segregation of the "traditional" Southern public schools. The curriculum (heavily into Black history and popular history long before Howard Zinn) pushed forward the development of the inclusive curricula we do have in many places today. If someone is claiming that Chicago needs "Freedom Schools" in the face of a CTU strike in 2012, that claim includes the implication that a CTU strike is somehow racist.

But there is a closer to home reality in Chicago, too.

Although it has never been completely written, the history of the struggles that gave rise to the powers of the Chicago Teachers Union includes a piece of that history when scabs and union busters touted their "Freedom Schools" against early CTU strikes. In Chicago, Freedom Schools were usually scab schools, and the people who set them up were actively against the strikes they were poised against.

So if Chicago doesn't need Southern style "Freedom Schools" against the racism of the old Jim Crow realities, what is the Chicago history?

Racial divide-and-conquer, orchestrated in many cases by those who hate unions.

The history of the Chicago Teachers Union is a history of integrating the demands of all of the groups that eventually came to comprise the bargaining unit (the extent of which is enshrined in Article One of the union contract). During the 1950s and 1960s, the racism of CPS led to major confrontations in the schools, and one of those was over the certification and assignment of black teachers, many of whom had been kept in "lower" status as "Full Time Basis substitutes" (FTBs) for decades.

For a brief time, there was an internal division within the union over how to deal with that issue, and it was finally resolved through contractual and procedural changes in the certification process. During those years, however, and especially in the explosive years of 1968 and 1969 (from the murder of Dr. King through the murder of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark, by my markers), CTU leadership was not responding quickly enough to the demands of Black teachers for justice.

As a result, the first CTU contract (1967, without a strike) did not solve the certification problem, and in January and February 1968, the first strike of Chicago Teachers — led by a group called "Concerned FTBS — was a wildcat over the certification issue (there were others, but that was the main unifier). That strike, which impacted between 100 and 200 schools, mostly in the inner city, lasted between two days and two weeks, depending upon where you were watching. It was declared a wildcat by the CTU leadership (back then, John Desmond and John Fewkes and their cadre) and a major split loomed.

The first CTU strike took place in 1969 and resulted in the beginning of the solution to the FTB issue. But the bad blood that had been boiling by then was forcing changes on both the union(s) and the schools.

By the time of the 1971 strike, the CTU leadership (still under Desmond, who was soon to be unseated) was integrating hugely. Chicago was not New York during those years, as everyone who was here then can attest. Sadly, many of those who should have been interviewed to tell the story accurately — Jackie Vaughn, Jim McQuirter, Hudson Wadlington, and Lester Davis come immediately to my mind, since I discussed this need with each of them but nothing was done in time — and a lot of the history has been lost, to be subjected to revisionism often of a very dishonest kind.

I didn't know any of this during my first strike, that bitter cold January strike in 1971. I was a novice teacher (although no longer a complete FNG) working then at Forrestville UGC. When the strike hit, I joined the picket line, under the leadership of the delegates and union leaders at the school at the time. All of them were Black, from Vern Bowie, the delegate, to at least one person who should know better but has been hanging around CAUSE. We won the strike, but almost as importantly we forced CPS to begin to end the vast discrimination against Black teachers that had resulted in those thousands of FTBs.

By that time, the new union leadership was emerging. Under the leadership of Robert Healey (and many others), the four or five caucuses within the CTU that had been opposing the old regime came together to form the "United Progressive Caucus", which came into power and was integrated from the top to the bottom. Jackie Vaughn began her career as a union leader as recording secretary, if my memory is correct. Glendis Hambrick, a former print shop teacher, was treasurer. The old caucuses (TAC, the "Independent Caucus" and others) were effectively integrated into the new leadership. That's how Jon Kotaskis and Lester Davis, among others, became part of the CTU office staff.

As late as the 1971 strike, however, there was a group of Black teachers (joined by some others) who opposed the strike, claimed the CTU was incurably racist, and set up what they called "Freedom Schools" in opposition to the strike. Some of them defiantly crossed the CTU pickets lines, just as a few years earlier the CTU members had crossed the picket lines of "Concerned FTBs." It took a few more years for those tensions to be overcome. But generally, they were. By the early 1980s, the strength of the CTU was in, among many other factors, the fact that we were a truly "integrated" union.

The CTU continued to strike throughout the 1970s, with major strikes in 1973 and 1975. The last I remember there being any anti-union "Freedom Schools" was during the 1975 strike, when the new superintendent, Joseph Hannon, went after the union (this Brizard stuff is nothing new, by the way). We won the 1975 strike, but then Hannon closed schools three weeks early in June 1976, saying CPS had run out of money. But the gains from the strikes (both pay and benefits; and the certification corrections) stayed in our contracts.

By the late 1970s, the union leadership was firmly integrated at every level, from the schools to the downtown union offices. At each challenge to the union, from the 1979 Christmas "payless paydays" (that resulted finally in the January and February 1980 shutdown, then strike), the union became stronger and any sense of privilege or residual resentment was worked out both at work and on the picket lines.

By the beginning of the final two decades of the 20th Century, the Chicago Teachers Union had become virtually a model for a unified union (and leadership; and staff). Yet the other side continued to believe that it could play the race card. Many of those who came to power by the 1980s had been locked into certain versions of reality based on their experiences — or at least their Hollywood version of reality, since many of them had done a lot of "Talking the talk..." without ever having "Walked the walk..." — and were stuck in an anachronism. The most dramatic example of that came when Chicago selected an out-of-towner to be the city's first Black Schools Superintendent in 1980, following the implosion of the administration of Joseph Hannon in the "school financial crisis" of 1979 - 1980 (the one that gave Chicago 29 years of the School Finance Authority based on one highly controversial version of CPS finances, aided and abetted by the slowly collapsing Continental Illinois Bank).

Ruth B. Love was brought to Chicago form Oakland California to be the city's first Black schools chief. Although her early months were marked by a dumb bit of media horseplay (she claimed that her office at 228 N. LaSalle St. was "bugged" and that "the wires" led down the blocks to the 5th floor of City Hall), the media played along with her claims. Then she provoked the Chicago Teachers Union, which had patiently accepted cuts in 1982, into a strike in October 1983.

One of the most melodramatic examples of scabbing came in the middle of the 13-day Chicago Teachers Union strike in October 1983. Ruth B. Love, who had been brought in to run Chicago's schools from Oakland California, proclaimed that she had to open three schools "for the sake of the children..." According to Love's publicity stunt, high school seniors who would need credits to graduate.

Love announced that she would devote a day to encouraging the opening of the three schools, Piccolo Elementary (on the northwest side), Whitney Young High School (on the west side) and Dixon Elementary (on the South Side).

Love needed a major police escort in order to enter the three schools through large picket lines of striking teachers. At the beginning of the day, Love was escorted through the union picket line at Piccolo while strikers carry signs, which included the slogan "Ruthless and Loveless" describing Love's approach to the teachers and their union. By the time Love arrived at Whitney Young, the pickets, numbering more than 1,000, were filling the street under the famous Witney Young bridge over Jackson Blvd.

The grand finale came when Love drove south to Dixon Elementary School. She was greeted at Dixon, as she had at Piccolo and Whitney Young, by angry strikers, at least 1,000 or them and perhaps 2,000. The strikers utilized their scab whistles and their voices to greet Love and her attempt to divide and conquer the union, using racial divisiveness that perhaps had worked elsewhere. During the confrontation Love, who was followed by an entourage of TV reporters and cameras, said that never since Birmingham Alabama during the Civil Rights era had a black leader been attacked by a mob with vicious dogs. She was comparing the strikers who confronted her with Birmingham sheriff Bull Connor, whose (white) police sent German Shepard dogs and used water hoses against civil rights protesters 20 years earlier.

Trouble was, the majority of the strikers who had greeted Love that afternoon were Black women, like most of the elementary school teachers in that part of Chicago that year. For the next day or two, the TV reports quoted Love, then showed the Birmingham files, then showed the 1983 strikers. Love's credibility wilted along with the publicity stunt that had backfired on her.

Love continued to try and play the race card throughout the strike, but the union also had her outsmarted in its leadership. The President of the CTU that strike was Robert M. Haley, a towering white guy, a former English teacher (Gage Park High School). But the Vice President was Jacqueline Vaughn, and every time Love blurted out some racially divisive talking points (usually about what had to be done for the sake of the children), Mrs. Vaughn would reply, pointing out that the union's contracts had succeeded in reducing class sizes and in bringing other benefits to Chicago's public schools despite the cries, year after year, that Chicago could not afford the demands of the union.

Love continued on for another few months after CTU won the 1983 strike, but to some observers, she ended her career as Chicago superintendent that afternoon at Dixon. When she demanded the following summer that the Chicago Board of Education offer her an early renewal of her contract, the Board voted, by a narrow margin, against her and hired Manford Byrd, a veteran teacher, principal and administrator who had been passed over by Love three years earlier. Love went to her friends at the TV stations, but she didn't keep her job in the schools. And after a few months of proclaiming her love for Chicago (and some time as an on the air pundit at one of the Chicago TV stations) she debarked for California whence she had come.

After Love, there were three more strikes during the 1980s, each of which held the line or won gains for Chicago teachers — and for the children in the schools. The only time CPS honored a class size maximum, for example, was when the union could enforce it through a contract grievance. Even with the somewhat limited ways in which a union contract can be used to make the schools a bit better, the alternative (viz., waiting for CPS officials to help solve the problem) rarely worked.

And teachers had learned that strikes were the way to improving both their own lives and work, but also the conditions under which their children learned.

Now we are in 2012. Chicago doesn't need "Freedom Schools" during a strike, Chicago needs strike support centers like those the union had across the city in the early days of striking. And Chicago certainly doesn't need more publicity stunts like those Ruth Love tried, by playing the race card, and failed.

As the Chicago Board of Education and Chicago's mayor continue to play word games and with fire following the massive strike authorization vote by the members of the Chicago Teachers Union, it looks more and more like the union will be on the picket lines rather than in the classrooms the day after Labor Day 2012. Despite all the punditry and the fulminations of the editors of the Chicago Tribune (and lesser apologists for the plutocracy across the city), the burden for forcing the strike on Chicago will be in the lap of Chicago's union-busting mayor, his school board, and those who cheered him one during the 14 months since Rahm Emanuel took office in May 2011.

The first act of the Chicago Board of Education appointed by Rahm was to break the contract of the unions and deny school workers the four percent raise they had been promised. The plutocratic members of the Board have made it nearly impossible for anyone to ever believe that the Board will honor a contract, which poses the biggest challenge of all to the current situation.

August 17, 2012 at 2:51 PM

By: Jonathan Cohler

That was awesome

You have provided an amazing and insightful lesson about one aspect of both the history of strikes and of the CTU.

August 17, 2012 at 4:32 PM

By: Bob Busch

1971 — Simeon and its Strike Headquarters

I toed the line.

1971 was the first time I went on strike as a teacher. I walked the line in 1969 as a student teacher and got my ass in trouble because the principal called school and asked what the hell I was doing out there.

You mentioned Hudson Wadlington we called him Wad. He was the first of many Simeon faculty who rose in the ranks of the union. Our long time CTU Treasurer Mel Wilson was a sheet metal teacher at the warehouse. Monroe Morgan and Willie Scott are others who come to mind.

As the day approached in that cold winter of 1971, I was a little apprehensive about walking the line. I got to Simeon at 7 am and Wad immediately waved me into the strike headquarters across the street. He arranged for the tavern to house us. He immediately gave me a sign and a Budweiser.

You all can give lofty histories of strikes past but those days in that Tavern remain priceless, at least those I remember. Thank you George for reminding me about Wad. I will always remember his wide grin, his wise ways — and that tavern.

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