Strike thoughts... We need to read and understand the entire contract and discuss what we have done, won, and lost

After I send this to CORE, I will probably forward a copy to each CTU member of my school's faculty and staff. Then it goes to Substance, for whom I have reported for a long long time. Like so many other schools out there, at our school we have been doing everything-plus-beyond-beyond possible on the front lines of this strike — the continuation of a natural thing for all of us as we work daily in CPS.

We have done all that we can (and more) that has been asked of us by CTU leadership for this one week and prior and in so doing have drawn in many parents and students and neighbors.

The CTU members at my school who have gotten back to me (quite a few) have told me not to vote for a contract that I have not been able to read and digest on such short notice; in fact, on principle a few have told me to just vote NO already. They will NOT appreciate going back into the school just to read the fine print and need to start the process all over again by voting NO when it gets to them, but they will. They are willing to keep going right now, and there will be resentment if the House of Delegates votes in favor of something that goes to the membership with far less than what expectations have promised from our massive rallies and turnouts across the city.

I am speaking for myself, but I think I can state a theme for the schools on the southeast side on the whole, judging by a Friday area rally organized by Sue Garza: "ONE DAY LONGER! ONE DAY STRONGER!" I predict that the southeast side schools will NOT vote for a weak or too compromised contract and will be extremely disappointed if one is presented after all of this or somehow such a proposal actually passes for a working contract. This is an understatement.

To CORE and CTU leadership:

NOTE: I am writing this as a CTU member and delegate with zero information from a House of Delegates meeting that was supposed to be about updates to contract negotiations (of which there was little to none) with an agenda listing Q & A that had no A in the actual meeting.

It's like this. There are issues across the city that we have made catch fire via our CTU signs and chants and rallies. If we only get something for ourselves in this contract now, that will be shameful. The following must be declared by CTU to be NON-NEGOTIABLES before any contract is ratified (or even presented to the HoD): class size, wrap-around services, standardized tests, and school closures. (And we need to add small parts of the longer school day in there.) THERE IS NO DIGNITY IN WALKING BACK INTO OUR SCHOOLS WITHOUT ANY CONTRACT LANGUAGE ON THESE ISSUES over which we have rallied others out there (students, parents, community members, and strangers at gas stations in Indiana for crying out loud) to fight for with us.

Please, don't tell me these are not legal items for contract negotiation. WE CAN DO THIS. We know we won't "get everything." But we should hold strong for MORE than stopping this strike this weekend would probably get us. Ten years from now, will one or two more weeks (or more) have mattered in this fight, if you are someone who is thinking that we can't face it any more right now? "Short term pain for long term gain." Deferred gratification. That stuff we try to instill in our students on a daily basis. If this results in only "more money for the employees" then we will be seen as the hoodwinking snake oil peddlers of all time. I can hear it already: "They were only in it for themselves from the start." "Look how they only got something for themselves but nothing else for anyone else after all that." "What about 'Children First' for the CTU?"

If the contract proposal (that is, IF the Board puts into writing this last-minute, "miracle framework" no one will tell us anything about until the last minutes of a made-up make-believe unrealistic 24/7 media run deadline — much as the City Council must be run I imagine) does not include ANYTHING FOR OUR STUDENTS AND THEIR FAMILIES but it has "satisfactory" pay increases, then I suggest we try this:

We change our minds and very publicly ask for at least a 200% pay increase for each teacher, PSRP, and clinician. WHY? Because although we don't really want two or three salaries for each of those of us remaining in this system, if the Board won't hire more teachers/clinicians/PRSPs, then the rest of us need to be just plain paid for working those NEEDED positions as well. (If this is supposed to be a movement, similarly exploited, overworked labor across America should hear that message from CTU right now.)

1) CLASS SIZE: IF we do not have any official lowering of class size numbers in that contract, we have shamefully reneged on our very public declaration that has become a hopeful promise to our students, and I can't walk back in with any "dignity" on that one. At my School, we set up a space with craft materials on our picket line to keep all the kids occupied, and on their own they made their own signs by copying some of the CTU signs the neighbors had up near the school.

What do I tell them about their protest signs for smaller class sizes if I go back in with no Board concession on this? Lots of kids from across the city marched in our rallies wearing similar signs. So, IF CPS keeps these class sizes over 20-25, we need to demand the pay that would have gone to the other teachers research tells us the students should humanely have - so pay us for THAT since you are asking me to be an extra teacher on top of being the teacher. We will not be labeled "greedy teachers," we will be admired as "those smart teachers" getting for their students what they can get as they can get it under the dictates of that stupid 1995 law in Illinois setting up mayoral control of CPS. And we will be pointing some of this RED anger deservedly toward Springfield. We say: Hey, everybody! Here's a loophole for the 99% finally.

"We can only bargain or strike over pay..." Okay, then compensate us for being two-teachers-in-one with the class sizes we can't bargain about in Chicago.

2) WRAP-AROUND SERVICES: SAME CONCEPT. IF we do not have any official contractual language lowering case loads or increasing the numbers of clinicians in our schools (sorry, your kid can only have a meltdown from what happens on the streets on Tuesdays and Wednesdays because that's when the social worker is here), then we have further shamefully reneged on our very public declaration that has become a hopeful promise to the families we claim we want to serve so well.

So... IF CPS keeps the status quo on that, then we need to stay on strike with a demand that the pay which should be going for new clinicians now go to the remaining teachers and clinicians - so pay us for THAT since you are asking me to be a nurse, social worker, and psychologist (and every other clinician) on top of telling me to be the teacher or having one clinician do the work of 10. Thus, as a CPS teacher or clinician, I can legitimately demand and continue to strike over the expense of at least three or four salaries now.

The "public" would GET THIS.

And the 24/7 news-cycle mentality would keep the talking points of CTU's latest demands going for at least another week of public attention span interest on talk radio and the like.

3) STANDARDIZED TESTS: IF we do not stand strong against any standardized tests connected to pay and evaluation (as well as the insane proliferation level toward everything), then we have NOT CREATED A MOVEMENT which we have been told has been passed the Civil Rights' torch, because FOR THAT to be the case - bullying, wrongheaded, research-rejected, immoral pieces of crap LAW/LEGISLATION (PERA/NCLB/RttT) should not matter to us!!

A MOVEMENT should wake up SPRINGFIELD and WASHINGTON D.C. as well as a pipsqueak mayor (they can't seem to shut up) in Chicago.

Rosa Parks, and before her all the unnamed others, and the MOVEMENT that followed did not say, "Okay, thank you, we'll settle for the second seat from the back or even the middle of the bus."

Someone in Chicago is TIRED? Have they been blasted with a fire hose or attacked by police dogs? In 2012 OUR CFD and CPD are cheering us on, for crying out loud! Sidebar: As I was marshalling, one female cop confessed that she was worried about their contract negotiations, and they were watching us. I told her, then maybe after we got our own contract, we could go before and after work from our schools to our neighborhood police stations in CTU RED and chant "CTU! CPD!" and support her. (Cops can't legally strike.) We both got a total kick out of that picture. (I am anti-brutality but not anti-cop; think about how much of what they have to deal with at the ends in the street is because of how all our hands in the schools are so tied and unfunded at the beginnings in the schools?)

But, hey, let's just otherwise change the chant WE STARTED across the city. Take: OUR STUDENTS - ARE MORE - THAN JUST A TEST SCORE! And just replace it with: OUR STUDENTS' - TEST SCORES - are just going to be, oh, let me see, I don't know, something like 25% of our evaluations, but look, this is a really good thing because the law mandates it and the board put it higher. (Yeah! GO! forward with THAT chant and watch a movement continue.)

4) RECALL/School Closures: What good is recall if they close so many schools there are no neighborhood public school positions to apply for or we compete like starving dogs for a bone over the few left? What's the plan for that? (Another discussion... hopefully NOT with Randi.)

5) LSD (Longer School Day): In the elementary schools we need to keep what we had. The LSD broke what was working with that small but solid block of prep time in the AM so that our parents are able to meet with teachers when they arrive with the children. This keeps the atmosphere of an elementary school very connected to the students' homes. I thought that was what was wanted. This is impossible now.

We also need a solid block of prep time in the AM so that we can meet with one another as a PreK thru 8th grade faculty as needs be for whole group or for individual meetings and consultations. This keeps us together as a whole. I thought that was what was wanted. This is impossible now.

CLUE: It is NOT HIGH SCHOOL in the elementary schools! (The high schools, I hear, do not like that 14 extra minutes than the elementary schools - that differentiates us, meaning it SPLITS US APART.)

REAL "HOPE AND CHANGE" FOR THE DEMOCRATS: Right now I have never seen the Democrats with their feet more to the fire than by all of the symbolic not-gonna-take-it, healthy channeling of blood red anger on the streets of Chicago. We cannot pull back on that. Or do we now change that chant to: "We're gonna keep on taking it! YEAH!"?

If we keep the pressure up, it can work to PUSH them BACK into what some of us still hope for when s/he continues to vote while holding his/her nose from Chicago to Springfield to everywhere else coast-to-coast with this freakin' cowardly-ass political party that has forgotten that LABOR IS ONE OF ITS MOST IMPORTANT BASES! What BREAK have WE been given? We have been pressured to the point of snapping into broken pieces by these guys. Arne Duncan has been in charge of the nation's educational system FOR FOUR FULL YEARS with these guys, come on!?! Don't feel sorry for any freakin' pressure or embarrassment we're putting on them right now. THEY EARNED IT! Make them BE what anyone left keeps wishing for every time s/he votes! No more memories, make them BE what they actually USED TO be.


September 17, 2012 at 6:15 PM

By: Ed Hershey

Good Post

I agree. Six of us at Lindblom canvassed West Englewood today, and we found almost everyone we spoke with to be supportive. I don't believe the papers and don't think we've turned the corner as far as the opinion of the parents and the general public goes.

I also think we should heed her advice. I don't agree with everything the leadership's done, but they have brought us very far.

September 17, 2012 at 7:34 PM

By: Kent Joseph

Put your money where your mouth is...

...and do what I, and many of my northwest side colleagues have done. We sent an email to CTU leadership a month ago and volunteered to forgo all potential raises for the next 4 years in order to get extra sped teachers, lower class size, and jobs for our displaced teachers.

Hard to take the high road, and have the nerve to make comparisons to civil rights marchers (such as my own mother), from what many people believe to be our ivory towers. The media (including Substance) has created this image of us as overpaid union fat cats, and it is our believe on the northwest side that if we keep chanting the mantra that it's "for the soul of public education" than maybe it's time that we publicly put any potential raises into the collection plate.

I assume that as long as you believe that you are the voice of the SE side, I might as well match your arrogance and speak for the entire NW side too.

September 18, 2012 at 1:33 AM

By: Jim Vail

Great Post

We all know power does not concede anything, without a major fight.

The first week of the strike was exhilarating - congrats to the CTU for organizing a wonderful, and inspiring strike that has captured the heart of the city (pictures of Rahm as the Grinch ring true!)

But the next round, the next week, would be the real, tough fight. The CTU is presenting a contract with some significant gains - but we need to fight on if we want to hit Rahm and the 1% where it hurts - to fight Race to the Top agenda in this contract which attacks and scapegoats public school teachers.

Everything is this contract continues the onslaught against public school teachers -harsh evaluations, meak job protections, etc.

I guess today we're hearing from many of the north-siders, how the kids got to get back to school. That's magnified by our wonderful corporate media working for the 1%. Suddenly, people are getting very nervous.

I saw the TV news where a group of parents were protesting against the strike, and demanding the kids go back to school.

Now, here's what was absolutely delightful - the signs they were carrying. They were so professional, so well made - you would think, no, couldn't be ... but could they be, might they be .... from one of our friendly astro-turf groups, maybe Stand on Kids or Dems for Ed Reform Now? Hope I'm wrong (btw, where were they last week, or is one week out of school the acceptable time limit for these concerned parents?)

And true to form - the TV news now would never dare interview the parents supporting the strike today. They wouldn't dare interview the parents continuing to honk everyday, giving teachers the thumbs up or silently supporting a fight to relieve their child's kindergarten filled with 50 kids.

So friends and families everywhere - make no bones about it, the ruling elite said enough is enough, go back to school, you got your crumbs (stuff like eliminating merit pay is crumbs in their minds since nothing stops the floodgates that will open after the ink dries on this contract for Rahm to further destroy the teachers union).

If we're not armed to fight the ruling class, then forget it - the 1% continues on its ruthless path to destroy us the 99%.

Perhaps for now all we can do is look east and wonder when the reds will return.

But I will say this, thank you CTU for helping to give us all the chance to dream.

Perhaps we need to then pray this dream will one day come true.

Jim V.

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