Capitulation in Chicago? Reading the news on a Friday night, it sounds that way

By the time this article circulates, it may be all over but the shouting, finger-pointing, and bitterness among rank-and-file loyalists over another union sellout. As this is written, it looks that way. It won't surprise. Across America, union bosses keep prioritizing their own positions and welfare over workers they represent.

At 10:04 p.m. on Sunday, September 9, 2012, many teachers were still trepidatious about what Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis was announcing to more than 50 reporters from around the world: The the CTU was beginning its first strike in a quarter century less than two hours later. Above, Lewis stands in the bright lights of the media in front of Chicago's Merchandise Mart, site of the union's offices, to announce that the Chicago Teachers Strike of 2012 was to begin. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Instead of fighting for rights they deserve, they capitulate to corporate and government scoundrels. Wisconsin public workers learned the hard way. The state was ground zero to save public worker rights.

During February and March 2011, they waged an epic struggle. It captured international attention. It ended with a whimper, not a bang. When the dust settled, they lost jobs, wages, benefits, and bargaining rights.

The Madison-based South Central Federation of Labor passed a hollow general strike resolution. Nothing was done to initiate an urgent action many workers demanded.

AFL-CIO, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), and NEA-affilated Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC) leaders abandoned their struggle and sold out Republican Governor Scott Walker's wish list.

It didn't surprise. It been happening across America regularly. Workers have been ill represented for decades. The 1981 PATCO (Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization) strike was seminal. It was a shot across organized labor's bow.

Over 11,000 workers lost jobs. AFL-CIO president Lane Kirkland conspired with Ronald Reagan in union-busting. During the 1980s alone, coal miner, steel worker, bus driver, airline worker, copper miner, auto worker, and meatpacker strikes were defeated. Union bosses sold out worker interests.

No wonder unionism today is a shadow of its former self. It's headed for extinction without committed rank-and-file activism to save it.

On September 10, Chicago teachers walked out. At stake are rank-and-file rights, jobs, benefits, keeping education public, the futures of Chicago kids, the city's soul, and perhaps America's. A previous article called Chicago America's epicenter of resistance. It's headed for becoming its epicentral defeat. Don't blame teachers, parents or students. They're resolute and deserve better. They're also ill served.

On September 13, the Chicago Tribune headlined "Optimism over ending Chicago teachers strike, but no classes Friday," saying:

Both sides expressed optimism. On a 1 - 10 scale, Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) president Karen Lewis said "I'm a 9" on reaching a deal quickly. House of Delegates approval is required.

"We're hoping we can tighten up some of the things we talked about yesterday….and get this thing done."

Chicago Public Schools (CPS) chief education officer Barbara Byrd-Bennett echoed Board of Education president David Vitale's optimism. Jesse Jackson showed up. He expressed "a sense of urgency." What he's doing to help isn't clear. Expect little.

At 2PM Friday, over 700 House of Delegates meet. If negotiations are completed, they'll vote up or down on ending the strike. Whether they'll know full contract terms isn't clear. Perhaps union officials will conceal ugly details. Full union membership has final say, but will it matter?

If strike action ends Friday, classes resume Monday. Expect another week or so to complete rank-and-file voting. If teachers learn they've been scammed, it may be too late to resume striking.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Vitale, and CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard are hardline. They're all take and no give. They won't yield and resume negotiating once current bargaining ends.

A weekend "Wisconsin-style" rally is scheduled in Union Park on Chicago's West Side.

Hope springs eternal. Teachers expressed mixed views. Some hope CTU negotiators are bargaining hard. Others are skeptical. They have good reason. How can major issues be settled in five days when for months they’ve been unresolved. It's understandable that every one wants classes resumed.

What good will it do if union bosses sold out teachers, schools keep being privatized, and kids are denied the education they deserve. All indications suggest it.

Job security won't be strengthened. Thousands of teachers will lose jobs. As many as 120 schools will be closed over the next five years. Quasi-private charter ones will increase.

A Chicago Tribune editorial headline "Chicago Teacher Union fighting the inevitability of education reform," saying:

Teachers "aren't merely fighting City Hall. They're fighting the inevitability of education reform. They are denying the arc of history."

"They need to understand." Principles involved "are set in (federal and state) law….They're at the heart of the Democratic education reform agenda" under Obama's destructive Race to the Top agenda. It follows Bush's No Child Left Behind.

Both plan public education's destruction. At stake is commodifying it, handing it to corporate predators, and making it another business profit center. Doing so assures destroying the futures of thousands of Chicago kids and millions across America.

Go along union bosses should be fired, hung in effigy, then out to dry like they're doing to parents and children.

"Don't let this arc of history get lost in all the red shirts and red-meat speeches." Tribune bosses only care for bottom line priorities like profiteers they represent.

Kids are to be exploited for profit, not taught. That's the bottom line of this struggle. Reform is code language for sellout. Teachers, parents and kids don't have a chance if union bosses betray them for their own self-interest. All signs point that way.

They'll claim success to hide failure and betrayal. They'll say they got the best deal possible. At issue is will teachers buy it? How will parents react once they learn they are their children were scammed?

According to TribuneThink, the "knottiest issue in the strike is whether Chicago will stay on the national reform path. Or will Emanuel and CPS, under pressure to restore normalcy, cave to teacher demands….?"

They want their just due. Parents want public, not corporate run schools. Kids want futures. Education isn't a commodity. It's a societal right. It's workable form is headed for the trash bin of history unless heroic efforts save it.

On September 14, the Tribune headlined "Both Sides still optimistic as Chicago teachers strike enters 5th day," saying:

Number crunching delayed a Thursday deal. Details remain unresolved. Lewis called discussions "ebb and flow." CTU lead attorney Robert Block said negotiations go up and down. "There are many areas, facets to be worked out."

One CTU representative said CPS negotiators don't play fair. They're "stopped bargaining and dug in their heels." How can teachers reach an equitable deal without a willing partner? They have none in Emanuel and his cronies.

Negotiations resume Friday. Plans still call for kids back in classrooms Monday. Lewis hopes so but isn't sure. Her body language shows how much she's bent.

CPS psychologist Elizabeth Chapin-Palder claims teachers are cautiously optimistic. Why who knows when behind their backs they're being betrayed. When they find out it'll be too late to matter unless they take matters in their own hands and carry the fight on their own.

Chicago's Substance News editor George Schmidt provides accurate information on issues related to city education. He forthrightly supports teachers. They "know more about the city, its schools, and its children" than city officials, bureaucrats, and CPS and Board of Education bosses combined.

"Will Rahm try to put out this fire with gasoline," he asked? He and officials around him "hint darkly that the strike is 'illegal' because teachers are talking about issues the Board refuses to allow into the union contract."

They include class size, recalling laid off veteran teachers, proper year-round classroom temperatures, and others. They're major ones essential for all contracts.

Vitale is a corporate bully. He's used to operate autocratically. He's Emanuel's point man because Brizard already is widely disliked. Vitale replicates his dark side. Daily he lost his temper with negotiators and journalists. His arrogance grates on those around him.

He stops short of using profanity like Emanuel. "The unraveling of (Big Money) leaders….is taking place….before the eyes of the world."

"Whether the unraveled is Vitale on camera, Emanuel fulminating behind the scenes….or Brizard quietly collecting his enormous pay while being told to sit down and shut up off stage, the sight is not pretty."

Emanuel apparently plans dirty tricks. He may call a legitimate walkout illegal and end it that way. Doing so will make a bad situation worse. Claiming 30,000 teachers are criminals doesn't wash. Hopefully they're ready for whatever he has in mind.

They care about what's most important. They want good education for Chicago kids. City officials have other fish to fry. Serving Chicagoans ethically, honorably and effectively isn't on their menu. Exploiting them is policy at high salaries.

It's not surprising that unionists and teachers call the Board of Education a "billionaires and millionaires" club. It also holds for CPS bosses. They earn six figure salaries. They have no teaching or administrative experience.

Emanuel-style patronage installed them. CPS head Jean-Claude Brizard earns a quarter million dollar salary. Rochester, NY teachers practically ran him out of town. They banished him for wrecking city schools. Since May 2011, he's following the same failed scheme in Chicago.

CTU officials haven't challenged him. Ebb and flow delays hardly matter. Capitulation looks likely.

Public education is being privatized. Bottom line priorities matter most. Teachers are expendable. Parents and kids have most to lose. It's a sad testimony to the city of big shoulders.

Last of its saloon keeper aldermen, Paddy Bowler, was right. "Chicago ain't ready for reform." For sure not under Emanuel and corrupt officials around him.

A Final Comment

Friday PM reports said CPS and CTU officials reached a tentative deal. Classes may resume Monday.

CTU attorney Robert Bloch said "talks today were very productive. We are still continuing to work out the details of the contract, but we are hopeful (to have) a complete agreement to present to the House of Delegates by Sunday."

If approved, students and teachers will return Monday. Terms weren't disclosed. Expect fine print details to reveal sellout. If Board of Delegates don't balk, hopefully teachers will act on their own straightaway. It's their only chance. Delay won't help.

More ahead on contract terms when they're known. Hold the cheers. Celebratory time isn't now. Battle lines are more appropriate. This struggle has miles to go.

[Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at His new book is titled "How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized Banking, Government Collusion and Class War" Readers can visit his blog site at and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.]


September 15, 2012 at 9:53 AM

By: Jean Schwab

120 schools closing

If we accept the contract and 120 schools are closed, we still lose. I hate the closing of schools,it is so traumatic for the neighborhood community and the teaching community.

September 15, 2012 at 12:00 PM

By: Jat Rehak

Get Ready for the Next Battle

The contract fight was a battle and not the war. There are many more battles to be fought, including contract enforcement.

I know many are battle weary, but we are also battle tested. Everyone should take a deep breath and prepare for the next fight: an assault on our pensions.

The Civic Committee and others will use the same tactics: they'll insist the City can't afford its contractual obligations while simultaneously arguing that our pensions are "too rich."

We need to blog, respond with letters to the editor, speak out and remind people when the Civic Committee undermines our pensions, that the Civic Committee represents the extreme wealth of this City and not the ordinary citizen. They have the money to get their message of "greed" out, we have our voices and our numbers to respond with a collective "Oh, no, you didn't go there" response.

The extremely wealthy in this town may or may not have earned their wealth (depending on one's perspective) but I know every middle class fire fighter, teacher, police person, streets and sanitation worker and other public servants have earned their right to a dignified retirement.

It's all well and good for the wealthy to have their retirements set, (many of them from birth) but let's not let them bamboozle the public into thinking we haven't earned ours from the sweat of our brows.

September 15, 2012 at 5:43 PM

By: Rich Gibson

Toward a Deeper Grasp of the Class War

While the speculative criticism of the CTU Tentative agreement above is well rooted in history, as this article demonstrates, in a short note I'd argue that this is one-sided and needs a better grasp of why things are as they are. The unions: they are the empire's unions and they have been since WWI, if not before.

Top leaders are very well paid to defend the empire, above all else. George Schmidt's rediscovered "AFT and the CIA," is a good one in a pile of evidence about that. These are also the empire's schools. In a society promising perpetual war, that makes sense: human munition factories. And, in a society booming with inequality, using schooling as illusion mills does too. So, it is class war and imperial war that sets the stage for US schooling.

What finally came rising up against that was the CTU, the first truly mass mobilization of working people united across lines of race, job, gender, age and even nation that mobilized since the one-day outpouring of Immigrant Rights marches about 5 years ago. This lasted longer, was more concentrated, more a clear-cut example of class struggle — whether wittingly or imputed in the minds of the tens of thousands of participants. They fought, and still fight, a very real ruling class, the government serving as an executive committee and armed weapon of the rich.

This may serve as an accelerator to more social movements, hopefully smarter each time--but inspiration is not something to be sniffed at. This battle has been heartening. I don't know what will be in the TA and may not be the last to be critical, but the main thing I see about CTU's fight-back is the fact that it showed it is right to organize, connnect reason to solidarity and power; then rebel, and that's been done — perhaps not enough, but the lesson of the week, better than most weeks in capital's schools, is that people can and will resist--and winning is possible.

September 15, 2012 at 6:36 PM

By: George N. Schmidt

Sorry, Jay. You lose the war if you surrender — especially after your army has won so much.

Sorry, Jay. This is the war.

We have won, and now we are being told to surrender an army that is victorious in the field.

When I am asked, my suggestions are as follows:

1. There is no reason for the House of Delegates to meet on Sunday, September 16. The "contract" proposal is an insult to everyone who struck for not only decent wages and benefits, but for lower class size, enough clinicians, etc., etc. etc. "The Schools Chicago's Students Deserve."

2. Any House meeting that is held is likely to vote to reject the proposals we are seeing. That would hurt the leadership. Better no meeting than that, but if necessary, that.

3. If, by some strangeness, a House vote narrowly approved the deal proposed, it will be defeated at the membership referendum. That, too, is not a good idea.

When the picket lines resume Monday, we should do less rallying and more preparing for the long haul. Last week was an exhausting (and in some ways inspiring) adrenaline rush.

Next week...

And the week after that...

And for as long as it takes...

Have to be a patient and focused battle to win the contract for the demands that the teachers have been inspired over. We all know them, and they are on our lawn signs and in our hearts.

Sorry, Jay.

This is the war.

And you know what happened the last time we were asked to surrender. The destruction of all those school closings of the 2000s would not have happened had Debbie not brought in that terrible contracts, and lost the office we needed for our futures in 2004.

I do not want to see a repeat of that sorry history, and I do not want to see people I respect commit political suicide.

It's that serious. We are not, ultimately, discussing metaphors. We are discussing the contract we want to get "The Schools Chicago's Students Deserve." We mean that, and we will fight to win it. The army is no battle tested and on the field. The only way for us to lose is to accept the terms of surrender this weekend. I for one will not go along with that, nor will my 200 or 300 closest friends and unionists.

September 15, 2012 at 7:33 PM

By: Jay Rehak

You've been through it before

Haven't seen the contract offer yet, but if there's one thing I know it's this: Karen and the officers won't bring it to us if they think it is unacceptable.

You, who have been through so many strikes know far better than I that no war is ever won in the short term. It is always won over the fullness of time.

I'll weigh in tomorrow after I see the contract details, and wait before I commit to a decision.

That said, I trust Karen, Jesse, Kristine and Michael, as well as the collective bargaining team, with attorney Robert Bloch. I will support their position unless I read something tomorrow that is persuasive the other way.

Every war is won over a series of battles.

September 15, 2012 at 10:23 PM

By: Tina Beacock

Hold Your Horses

It was disturbing to read Substance already calling this a betrayal before the details are known. Can we just take a deep breath and SEE what the terms are? There's clearly lots of pressure on the negotiation team and teachers in general to finish this quickly. But the climate for labor in Chicago and around the country has already been dramatically changed.

Jitu Brown issued the most serious challenge at the rally today -- CPS is stil planning to close 80 schools. What wil we do about it? It's true, the war's not over, HOWEVER this battle finished.

September 15, 2012 at 11:33 PM

By: Zulma Violeta Ortiz

Puerto Rico support our struggle

September 16, 2012 at 3:22 AM

By: George N. Schmidt

What MOUs can do when contracts can't

In the end game of this world class chess match, the members of the Chicago Teachers Union will vote on a contract. That contract can — if the Board of Education agrees — include language stating that class size can be enforced at the local school level by a contract grievance (just as it was when I was doing that during the 1980s and prior to the sellout of the Amendatory Act of 1995). Class size is still on the agenda, although the Board has claimed it doesn't have to talk about that.

It does.

This is about power, rights, and justice, not about the trivial pursuit played by some plutocratic nonentity. All CPS has to do to grant one of the major demands of the families of Chicago — lower class size — is bring the power to enforce that back to where it was, as I've reported in Chicago School Strikes and at dozens of forums — before the ruling class began this ignoble generation of trickery and duplicity. Back in the day, we had our classes stable by October 1, even in the most challenging schools (I was delegate from Amundsen, then Bowen in those days). The "class size committee" (which I served on in 2010 - 2011) was a cynical evasion, a way for CPS to stall justice at the school level, a way they could force 40 and 50 kids into classes and prevent us from changing that until January or, if they were strong enough, forever.

But the bigger ones, school closings and charter expansions, are also resolvable, but not through the contract the union will ultimately sign.

Just as CPS could get a (secret) MOU from a previous union administration giving a green light to the unseemly and tragic expansion of the charter schools (and campuses) during the first decade of the 21st Century, so also could a MOU be drafted that would freeze both school closings and charter expansions for at least two years while a truly representative committee of people from across the "spectrum" investigated (a) the impact of closings on communities, especially the children; and (b) the actual results of the massive expansion of charter schools (and "campuses") in Chicago.

A MOU is a "Memorandum of Understanding" and would be legally binding.

While it's possible for negotiators to get some language in the CTU contract to do the same, I'd recommend a MOU, were I asked. But not a secret one, a fully "transparent" and public one.

There is not need to close more schools in Chicago, despite the dishonest frenzy that broke loose as soon as the corporate media smelled blood in the water (an end to the explosion of democracy and hope that the first week of the strike brought). It is, simply, a lie to claim either that there is "no money" (there is; this is the latest Big Lie the Tribune began telling after they foisted the School Finance Authority on us in 1979 - 1980) and that the best way to get the money is to "reduce staffing" and close buildings.

In fact, most of those buildings that CPS closed were enormously expensive, because they were rehabbed before they were given to charter schools — at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars. Just three of the high schools that were destroyed under Arne Duncan and then given to charters (and other strange entities) cost a total of nearly $100 million to fix up after they were "closed" on various pretexts: Austin, Calumet, and Collins.

The details have already been published at Substance, and more recently the research has been verified by the CTU's researchers (with whom I work as a consultant).

As to the hysterics who jump around here: Substance hasn't declared any "sellout." One of our reporters and analysts wrote a story. It's the same guy who wrote the longest review of "The Shock Doctrine" about five years ago, the review that prompted lots of people to read Naomi Klein's book (after the Substance staff had read it) and realize what was going on and what we would face with power again.

Stop hyperventilating and get closer to the facts.

If you want what Jitu was talking about, what can't be in the final union contract demands a MOU or two.

This is the time for both a solid contract and a bit of MOU.

And one thing after that: the end of the Amendatory Act of 1995. But that has to be done in Springfield, the scene of the original crime against public education and out union. At least now, 17 years after Chicago launched "mayoral control" and all that other ruling class nonsense, we can say that history has spoken: Corporate school reform has failed.

September 16, 2012 at 10:37 AM

By: Rod Estvan

Enforcing any deal... Will CTU drop legal claims?

Regardless of whether or not an MOU on school closings would be attached to the contract we have to be aware of the current court decisions relating to our State government honoring contracts. Let's all recall that AFSCME is in a battle over this and in the last version of the CPS contract offer I saw CPS wanted the CTU to drop its case over the 4%.

In July 2011, Gov. Quinn ordered 14 state agencies, boards and commissions to withhold negotiated pay increases. An arbitrator (the same one used by CPS and CTU) determined that the pay freeze was a clear violation of the state’s collective bargaining agreement with AFSCME and ordered the governor to pay the wage increases. Refusing to comply, the governor sued to vacate the arbitrator’s award and got a decision supporting its position.
 While, the court battle has continued over the ensuing months, the Quinn Administration agreed to pay the contractual increases in eight of the 14 agencies. Back wages are still owed to employees in the departments of Corrections, Human Services, Juvenile Justice, Natural Resources and Public Health as well as the Human Rights Commission.

The basis for AFSCME ‘s 8 agencies getting the back pay is that these agencies had money left at the end of the fiscal year. CPS is basically the same as these 8 agencies. Mr. Benn the fact finder for CPS and CTU warned the CTU to have a re-opener allowing the immediate right to strike in its contract under the assumption that CPS and other governmental agencies would back out of contracts as the fiscal crisis of both state and local governments continue. All I can say is this, if the proposed contract language does not contain a reopening provision allowing the immediate right to strike in the situation CPS reneges on all major aspects of the deal, then in the context of where we are going fiscally in Chicago and the State the contract is not worth much at all.

Good luck to all of you tonight, to force your leaders to go back to the table is no crime if that is what you decide to do. I think Karen understands what democracy is and if such an action did take place both she and the other leaders have thick skin and will do what they have to do. Read the actual language carefully and do not worry about the reporters outside of the doors. There is no question that even having a contract that has encompassed in it the section 4.5 issues CPS tried to revoke is a victory, but the world we are entering now is not the world of the past. We are in a time where a deal is no longer a deal unless a union has the ability to enforce the deal via a strike or relatively fast court action.

Rod Estvan

September 16, 2012 at 10:55 AM

By: Bob Busch

Leadership — CTU has a true leader

Devil Words

I am not a house of delegates member. I am retired, but I also walked my feet off last week on the line as did my wife who is still teaching. This is just the personal take of an old goat.

You do not have a union president ,you have a true leader running the show.

I would do what she recommends. Nobody has learned how the devil is in the details better than Ms. Lewis, She got burned real good by the final language of SB7. That was a blessing in disguise and will not happen again.

You won the battle, despite a hostile media the politicians are quaking in their boots .The site of 30,000 united voters marching in peaceful protest is something no Democrat can ignore. In fact I think even the Republicans are impressed.

It was the leadership of Karen Lewis — and a lot of other hard working people — which brought this about. I trust her she brought us this far and has earned the right to make the final call.

September 16, 2012 at 1:27 PM

By: John Meyer

Contract highlights

The $64,000 question is did the CTU give up its right to seek litigation against CPS for losing the 4%raise in the last year of the contract? This was a winning case that even CPS fears. If the CTU did agree to drop it, then it was a fatal strategic error. No word on healthcare cost and the wellness program. Not to mention why CPS is dangling the carrot of a 3%raise if we agree to a year 4 but yet they refuse to offer the 3% in years 2 and 3 instead. The result is I and others will vote down this contract if the devils in the details reveal the CTU caved in when the momentum was clearly on our side!

September 16, 2012 at 3:56 PM

By: bob Busch


Ok just don't cut your face off to spite your nose. Read every word and listen to the explanation.

September 17, 2012 at 12:12 AM

By: Susan Geuder

Appeals process flawed

I know from experience that the appeal process is useless. After 15 years of service, CPS finally figured out that I do not live in Chicago but because I am a veteran teacher, what better way to get rid of me? The hearing officer found in my favor, recommended I get my job back with retro pay because 15 years is too long to wait, then all of a sudden it's an issue. Unfortunately, and I don't believe many people know this, the hearing officer's recommendation is non-binding. The Board did want it wanted anyway and poof! I'm gone. The hearing process is a waste of time and money.

September 17, 2012 at 12:20 AM

By: John Whitfield

The good news out of Madison, Wisconsin

Judge Denies law limiting unions

A Wisconsin law has struck down the state law championed by Gov. Scott Walker that effectively ended collective bargaining rights for mist Wisconsin public workers. Dane county circuit judge Juan Colas ruled Friday that the law violates both the state and U.S. constitution and is null and void. The ruling come after a lawsuit brought by the Madison teachers union and a union for Milwaukee city employees. Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie says he is confident the decision will be overturned on appeal. It is not clear if the ruling means the law is immediately suspended. The law took away nearly all collective bargaining rights from most workers and has been in effect for more than a year. (Associated Press)

September 17, 2012 at 7:37 AM

By: Bob Busch

Contract — get the language straight


Good for you new kids don’t fall for old tricks. Get the ACTUAL language in Front of you before you vote. A generation or so ago I was a union delegate from Simeon. We were assembled to Vote on a contract, like you were yesterday.

Here is how it went. At the last second the meeting place was changed, but Simeon was rich in union officials so I got the word. The meeting was to start at 4 o’clock. At 4:20 Bob Healey comes out and said we had to leave by 5 pm then it took about ten minutes to distribute the newsprint copy of the proposed contract, which we had to read, discuss and vote on in thirdly minutes.

Delegates who had not been told where we were meeting straggled in right up to the time we left all that was done on purpose.

The other issue is language. In 1983, I think, deferred comp was added to the contract. The newsprint first edition clearly stated 25% of us would be placed on this schedule based on seniority. In the actual printed book which came months later this had suddenly become 50% . I was told by a union official that the 25% was just a typo. thousands of teachers suddenly had their pay checks cut by 20%.

Karen Lewis is a union leader — not a labor boss — and I trust her. But you might have something: go slow and look out for typos.

September 17, 2012 at 11:32 PM

By: Jessica Marshall

Strike is a tactic; not a strategy

I'm disappointed to read here, and in a different article, the idea that ending the strike and eventually even accepting the contract is tantamount to selling out. The idea put forth by George S. that we stay out on strike for weeks and weeks is irresponsible and unrealistic.

Reminder: Our strategy is to build schools that Chicago students deserve and that respects the people who work in those schools. We do this through building unity with parents, students, community, labor and others.

Our tactic was to use a strike, withholding our labor, in order to push the Board to negotiate with us and move on their position. We also used the strike to strengthen our ties with the above mentioned coalition partners.

In many ways we have been successful. Public opinion is on our side, the contract proposal defeats merit pay, limits test scores influence on our evaluation, restores language from previous contract that the board threatened to remove, adds language to provide some, though limited, hopes of job security for displaced teachers, etc.

This contract is not the contract of our dreams. However, given the balance of forces and the current political realities this is an absolute victory for our union. In other cities around the country they are taking setback after setback and merit pay and other schemes are being shoved down their throats. We have shown through the strike that we can stand up to the deformers and slow down their agenda. We've inspired educators and the labor movement around the country to stand up.

Complete victory? Nope.

Good use of the strike as a tactic? Absolutely.

Now we move forward and continue to build our coalition and fight for our kids and our members. A strike is not the only tool in our toolbox and while it is effective it can also backfire and break the unity that we have built. We do not have a union membership committed to weeks on end of strike; while some do, most of my members certainly don't have that stamina. We will not enjoy endless weeks of parent support; especially as working class parents risk their own jobs and are struggling to figure out how to care for their children. Finally, do we believe that a judge will not grant an injunction? And if he does, is our union prepared to send our leadership to jail to defy the injunction? Are our members ready for this level of action? Is this even an appropriate step to take?

This is not a game; to push for a strike for strike's sake without an accurate, objective look at the balance of forces is irresponsible at best and dangerous for our union and the unity we have built.

September 18, 2012 at 7:11 AM

By: Anthony Smith

Just a concern!

I know there is a lot to discuss concerning the contract. I too am concerned about school closings and voila, miraculously building charter schools that replace those closed schools. But my concern here and now is simple:

With high school (where I teach) having an additional 14 minutes to the day that works out to be over 5 full days of work. Add to that, according to my limited understanding of our contract at the moment, 10 full additional days that we have to now work, and here it comes: Are we working 15 additional days (time and actual days combined) for no additional pay?

Just wondered. Open to your thoughts.

Standing Strong and Proud!


September 18, 2012 at 9:06 AM

By: George N. Schmidt

Dollar a year charters get buildings after millions wasted by CPS on renovationi

School closings are in part of result of the Board's drive to give away productive (usually, recently rehabbed) CPS schools to charter schools virtually for free. This has been going on for ten years now. CPS "closes" a school after slandering its staff (and usually paying millions to rehab the building), then leases the same building to the charter school for one dollar — that's right, this supposedly financially "broke" school system has been giving away public buildings to charters for a decade!

CORE and the current CTU leadership joined many of us in protesting this scam by late 2007, just after CORE got together, and by January 2008 the closings were on the agenda of everything CORE did. The huge protest meeting at Malcolm X College back then was partly chaired by Karen Lewis, and hundreds of people came out during a blizzard for the meeting. That was more than two years before CORE won the 2010 CTU election.

As soon as the current strike is over, we'll be organizing tours of all the CPS buildings that were given away to charters, with an emphasis on two truths now clear:

First, these charters got the building for free, after CPS had lied for years and told the real public school in the building that "there is no money" to fix the place up.

On the West Side were talking about dozens of buildings, but my favorite are Collins High School and others. Let's look closely just on the West Side.

The Collins High School building includes the North Lawndale College Prep charter, which has been "failing" by the same measures CPS attacks real public schools since it began six years ago. The founding principal of that school visited in recently and said he couldn't recognize the school so much money had been spent on renovating it — for the charter after most of the real public school kids had been dumped.

One of my favorites is the old Morse Elementary School — now Polaris charter school. Like Collins, Polaris hasn't yet met the "accountability" criteria that are used to bash teachers and close real public schools. When I covered the opening of Polaris a couple of years ago, the city was still finishing the new maple flooring in the gym and rebuilding the parkways outside the building.

For a generation, when Austin High School was a real public school, Board of Education officials, including that Master of Mendacity Michael Scott (who would always remind people he was a son of the West Side) would repeat the mantra "There is no money." After the Board voted to "phase out" Austin, more than $20 million was spent on the exterior renovation alone (as anyone can see; check out the design of the parking lot and green space to the east of the building). The various charter schools inside the huge Austin building have been a joke since former State Schools Supt. Michael Bakalis clouted to get one opened six or seven years ago, and others followed. Need you ask? American Quality Schools, Bakalis's charter scam, would have been close for "failure" had it been a real public school.

That's enough for now.

The charter tour, which will take more than a day and include many faith and political leaders in Chicago, will span the city. The examples I give above are only a couple out of more than a dozen on the narrow West Side alone.

And every one of those schools went down fighting.

But the hearings where hundreds of people turned out to tell the truth about the scam and attacks on the communities were ignored by my brothers and sisters in the corporate media, even as we covered them year after year (beginning with Williams Elementary in 2002, Arne Duncan's first hiccup of hypocrisy) night after night.

A bunch of black children and teachers (teachers, mostly black; kids, all black) challenging the attacks on their "failing" schools just weren't news back then — except for Substance, and then CORE.

But they damned well will be from now on.

But first, we will take the tour across Chicago showing each of those "dollar a year" scams, inside each a failing charter school, and then making the video of all that sordid history.

If Rahm and the Rahmsters think they are going to walk through another attack on the city's real public schools during the 2012 - 2013 school year like they (and their forebears) have gotten away with since Arne Duncan began this sordid skein of lies a decade ago, they are as delusional as the editors of the Chicago Tribune, who want more and more and most charters...

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