No Deal?... 'This is what democracy looks like'... House of Delegates meeting at three in the afternoon on September 16, 2012.... The same democracy that transformed the Chicago Teachers Union and transfixed the nation calls a halt to media frenzy about ending the Chicago Teachers Strike of 2012.

For weeks before the Chicago Teachers Strike of 2012 began, the union's leaders have been warning the union's members not to believe anything they read, heard or saw in the corporate press. "Aren't the corporate media the worst place to learn the truth during a strike?" CTU vice president Jesse Sharkey, less than three years from a history teachers' classroom at Chicago's Senn High School, repeatedly reminded the unions members and delegates at rallies and meetings which eventually became too numerous to list for the history books. And with her almost trade-marked smile, CTU president Karen Lewis had tried (and failed) to remind reporters from the corporate media that the strength of the movement she was leading was its democracy.

Every day during the first week of the Chicago Teachers Strike of 2012, the strikers became more tired and more tough. With the picket lines beginning at the schools at six a.m. and protest marches and rallies scheduled after the lines came down late in the morning, the strike was intense, but more and more visibly successful. Above, teachers begin gathering at Chicago's famous Marshall High School (looming in background) on Wednesday, September 12, 2012, for what eventually became a march through Chicago's huge West Side black ghetto. More than 8,000 strikers and supporters were at Marshall by the time the march stepped off around noon on the third day of the strike. Substance photo by Kati Gilson.And yet, as the first week of the strike ended and the size of the protests and rallies continued to grow, news reports kept looking for a reality that the strike (and the movement that created it) had rendered obsolete in U.S. history: the Chicago "union boss." For all the talk about "accountability" from those in the ruling class who want accountability to only go one way, when the real accountability of democratic leaders was in front of them, those who thought they were telling Chicago what was real were completely missing the truth that was before their own eyes.

No deal was going to be in place until two or four layers of real democracy had examined it and held the deal — not the personalities — accountable.

It was always a bit more than many in the media and an era of one-liners, sound bites, an "Gotcha!" could grasp. It is a form of learning disability that has its really dramatic exemplars, my favorite of which is Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Having covered more than 40 of his press conferences during his first year in office, it eventually struck me that the man's mind was not only addled, but crippled. He really believed the world could be manipulated like he sort he had been doing with the 24-hour news cycle inside the Beltway. But of course, not matter how big the ego, he is only a spare part in the machine of empire.

The plodding drama of democracy in the Chicago Teachers Union, even as it unfolded month after month, was more than most people in that ruling arena could grasp.

And now come the next steps:

A Chicago Teachers Union strike can be suspended by a majority vote of the House of Delegates (the rulers should be glad they didn't get an SB7 seventy-five percent on that one, although they probably don't get the joke). Only 36 of the more than 700 voting members of the House of Delegates are ineligible to vote on strikes and contracts because we (the retiree delegates) are less affected by those two things, so we (I am one of those 36) will not be voting when the House votes.

The other 700 voters will represent every school and group within the CTU. It's called democracy. No "union boss" at least in the CTU can escape it (although there was a funny example of an attempt on August 31, 2007, when Marilyn Stewart tried to not call the "NO!" votes on that contract, but that's another story for another time).

Once the House votes to suspend a strike (and recommend a contract), a membership referendum is scheduled. Every card carrying member of the CTU will be eligible to vote in every school on the proposed contract. If they vote "Yes", the contract willl be binding for however many years it is in place. If the members vote "No", the strike will resume. (New York once went on strike, and back, and back on strike, three times in one year; it can happen although it has never happened in Chicago). Democracy is a kind of reminder of what the United States of America is really about, even in a year when some delusional opinion leaders (and several mayors) believe that schools and urban schools systems should be run by "Chief Executive Officers" rather than principals and superintendents. (Some might say that the urban schools of the USA are the last stand of the imperial CEO; since ENRON — and on the anniversary of Lehman Brothers and Bernie Madoff — most sane people know the "CEO Model" is fatally the enemy of democracy and lots of other good stuff.

Just as with the USA, the Chicago Teachers Union didn't elect a "Chief Executive Officer" in May and June 2010. CTU elected a President who constantly reminds people about the checks and balances within her own union (and on her own power). And so, on the night of September 15, 2012, another reminder was given. It had been a day during which anyone who believes the Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Tribune, or New York Times thought the strike was over. But they weren't paying attention. More than twenty thousand teachers, five thousand other Chicago school workers, and the parents and students who had put their faith in "change" — like Chicago had promised once and then failed to deliver after all the tears and heartbreak — were saying, simply "No deal!" The more teachers across Chicago learned about the "framework" that the Board of Education's millionaire president and the Board's million dollar negotiator was examined, the more teachers began calling it "The FRAME UP." There is less to this than meets the eye, everyone was saying.

And since union "bosses" Karen Lewis and Jesse Sharkey (the two leading personalities and spokespersons for the Chicago Teachers Union) had repeatedly told everyone that there were a couple of realities between a proposed deal and the real deal, it was becoming clear what they were.

So the union's House of Delegates (of which this reporter is a member) would meet at 3:00 p.m. on the afternoon of September 16, 2012 and decide, by a democratic vote of more than 700 people elected in every school in the city (and representing every group in the union) whether there was a deal.

The site of the meeting was almost archtipically Chicago: the headquarters of the Operating Engineers Union on the South Branch of the Chicago River, across the river from barges that bring rock salt into the city for the winters that sometimes decide the fate of politicians who think they are more powerful than the people. A location closer to the untrendy home of the Chicago White Sox than the trendy Chicago Cubs. In the middle of Chicago's South Side. If Karen Lewis had staged the moment — during those times she had repeatedly declared "We are fighting for the soul of public education — she might have chosen this spot for the Hollywood shoot. But unlike Rahm Emanuel (whose Hollywood scripting had won him the mayor's office but blinded him to the reality of Chicago), Lewis was a person of Chicago, and in Chicago that often means a person of the South Side. Reality in Chicago is as real as the popping of gunshots on a New Year's Eve. And the South Side is where reality is always going to be tested against the gossamer fantasies of those who've never dared to dream a truly better life.

The official Web Site of the CTU outlined how the September 16 meeting would be held, and what would be done:


From tonight's press release:

House of Delegates to review new contract language this Sunday at 3:00pm.

The Chicago Teachers Union’s ruling body will decide whether or not to call off its strike against the Chicago Public Schools during a 3:00 p.m. House of Delegates meeting tomorrow at Operating Engineers Hall, 2260 Grove Street. When doors open at 2:00 p.m. delegates will be required to present photo identification. Seating for any non-delegate visitors will be very limited.

The Bargaining Team is expected to share new details about proposed contract language which includes a number of victories for teachers, paraprofessionals, clinicians, and students. The earliest teachers and other school personnel could return to their schools could be Monday; however, no decision has been made to do so. Delegates have the authority to suspend or lengthen the strike. They could also ask for at least 24 hours to talk to individual members in their schools before making a decision on what to do next.

“We are a democratic body and therefore we want to ensure all of our members have had the chance to weigh-in on what we were able to win,” said CTU President Karen GJ Lewis. “We believe this is a good contract, however, no contract will solve all of the inequities in our District. Our fair contract fight has always been about returning dignity and respect to our members and ensuring resources and a quality school day for our students and their families.”

The new proposed CTU/CPS contract will:

Secure Raises & Ensure Fair Compensation: The CTU wants a three-year contract. It will secure a 3% raise in the first year, 2% raise in the second and 2% raise in the third, with the option to extend to a 4th year by mutual agreement at another 3% raise.

Defeat Merit Pay: The CTU successfully fought the star of national misguided school reform policies. The Board agreed to move away from “Differentiated Compensation,” which would have allowed them to pay one set of teachers (based on unknown criteria) one set of pay versus another set of pay for others.

Preserve Steps & Lanes: The new contract will preserve the full value of teachers and paraprofessionals career ladder (steps); and, it will increased the value of the highest steps (14, 15 and 16)

Provide A Better School Day: The Board will hire over 600 additional ‘specials’ teachers in art, music, physical education, world languages and other classes to ensure students receive a better school day, a demand thousands of parents have called for since last year.

Ensures Job Security: Creates a “CPS Hiring Pool,” which demands that one-half of all of CPS hires must be displaced (laid-off) members.

Adds An Anti-Bullying Provision: No more bullying by principals and managerial personnel. The new language will curtail some of the abusive practices that have run rampant in many neighborhood schools.

Paraprofessional & Clinicians Prep Time: The new contract will guarantee preps for clinicians.

Racial Diversity: The CTU continues to fight the District on its lay-off policies that has led to a record number of African-American educators being laid off and eventually terminated by the District. The new contract will ensure that CPS recruits a racially diverse teaching force.

New Recall Rights & Tackling School Closings: Acknowledging, the CTU will continue its ongoing legal and legislative fight for a moratorium on all school closings, turnarounds and phase-outs, the new contract requires teachers to “follow their students” in all school actions. This will reduce instability among students and educators. The contract will also have 10 months of “true recall” to the same school if a position opens.

Fairer Evaluation Procedures: The new contract will limit CPS to 70% “teacher practice,” 30% “student growth” (or test scores)—which is the minimum by state law. It also secures in the first year of implementation of the new evaluation procedures there will be “no harmful consequences” for tenured teachers. It also secures a new right—the right to appeal a rating.

Reimbursement for School Supplies: The contract will require the District to reimburse educators for the purchase of school supplies up to $250.

Additional Wrap-Around Services: The Board agrees to commit to hire nurses, social workers and school counselors if it gets new revenue. Over the past several months, the CTU has identified several sources of new revenue, including the Tax Increment Financing program.

Books on Day One: For the first time, the new contract will guarantee all CPS students and educators have textbooks on day one and will not have to wait up to six weeks for learning materials.

Unified School Calendar: The new contract will improve language on a unified calendar. The District will have one calendar for the entire school district and get rid of Track E and Track R schools. All students and teaching personnel will begin on the same schedule.

Reduced Paperwork: The new contract ensures the new paperwork requirements are balanced against reduction of previous requirements.

“This Union has proven the Chicago labor movement is neither dormant nor dead,” Lewis continued. “Our members are on the line because we all believe there is an assault on our profession and public education in general. We will always do what is in the best interest of our students and our own children, many of whom attend these schools. We showed our solidarity and our strength, and with this new contract we have solidified our political power and captured the imagination of the nation. No one will ever look upon a teacher and think of him or her as a passive person, to be bullied and walked on, ever again.”


The union is not on strike over matters governed exclusively by IELRA Section 4.5 and 12(b).


September 16, 2012 at 4:45 PM

By: Kent Joseph

south side reality

That's right George, south siders Daley, Daley, and Washington, kept it real for all those years. It was only when north sider Emanuel came to town that the educational system started to fail., and we had our fist ever Union strike.

Sorry George, although I tend to agree with you on several issues, there is much "reality" on the north side too. If you cut a north sider, do they not bleed?

In solidarity,

Fellow union thug Kent Joseph

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