EDITORIAL: Why a 'Yes' vote is the only serious union vote on October 2 in Chicago

Between September 24, 2012 and September 28, 2012, the officers of the Chicago Teachers Union held five informational meetings after school regarding the proposed contract. During that same time, the union, on its Web site, posted the entire 53-page proposed contract so that anyone could read it (not only union members). In addition to those discussions in the after-school meetings (which on one day lasted until 7:30 and which involved a little less than 1,000 union members), there were thousands of school discussions and individual discussions about the deal that CTU members had won following the first strike in a quarter century — a strike that made international news and which is still being discussed by workers and by the Plutocracy as the CTU vote looms.

[img=5571]Yet there is still some talk among the union's 26,000 eligible voting members (retirees such as myself can't vote on contracts or strike, for reasons of democracy that become obvious once the issue is raised) of voting "No." In addition to those who have circulated (and repeated) outright lies about the ways in which CTU has to vote and ratify a contract (see below), there have been honest disagreements among honest men and women who helped organize the recent strike and the tumult that is still echoing.

A bit of a historical review should be in order to clarify some of the reasons why it's easy to recommend a "Yes" vote.

CTU delegates (and a small but growing number of media people) will remember that on August 22, 2012, less than three weeks before the strike begin, the union's delegates met in the auditorium of Lane Technical HIgh School. At that meeting (which approved giving the union President the power to pull the "ten day strike notice trigger"), the officers presented the delegates with a nine-page review of what was still at issue in the negotiations. The delegates were reminded that the negotiations had begun in November 2011 (although the first presentations had begun almost as soon as the current officers took office during the summer of 2010).

Six hours before the picket lines began forming at more than 600 real public schools across the third largest city in the USA, pickets began round-the-clock picketing at midnight at CPS headquarters in Chicago's Loop. Less than 24 hours after the above photograph was taken shortly after midnight on September 10, 2012 (the first day of the strike) tens of thousands of strikers and supporters were gathered at the same location for the first of the daily rallies that were a feature of the first Chicago Teachers Union strike in a quarter century. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.One of the items still on the table in late August 2012, less than three weeks before the strike, was a "Management Rights Clause" that the Chicago Public Schools had been insisting be incorporated into the contract. It's worth re-reading, and reading out loud at every meeting where someone expresses honest questions about why to vote "Yes." (There are some dishonest questions floating around the city's more than 600 real public schools, but the honest ones at least deserve to be answered in context).

This is what the nation's third largest public school system wanted included in its largest workers union contract:

Management Rights. The Board has proposed the following management rights clause:

Employer Authority. The Board retains the exclusive right, authority and responsibility to manage its operations, develop its policies, determine the scope of its operations, adopt a budget and decide the manner in which it exercises its constitutional and statutory functions and otherwise fulfills its legal responsibilities. Except as may be restrained or limited by a specific and express provision of this Agreement, the Board shall not be required to bargain collectively over matters of inherent managerial policy as defined by the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act or the Illinois School Code, including, but not limited to, the following areas of discretion: (a) the functions of the Board; (b) the Board’s overall budget; (c) the Board’s organizational structure, including the creation, modification or elimination of departments, divisions, offices, sections and positions and the allocation or reallocation of the work to be performed therein; (d) decisions to eliminate work or relocate, subcontract, contract out or transfer work to a third party for one or more services otherwise performed by bargaining unit employees and the procedures for obtaining such contract or the identity of the third party; (e) decisions regarding the implementation of new technologies and methods of operation and decisions concerning the use of technology to deliver educational programs and services and staffing to provide the technology; (f) the retention of consultants, specialists and other skilled professionals on a contract or project basis; (g) the size and composition of the work force; (h) the selection, examination and classification of new employees and the establishment of hiring standards; (i) the hiring, evaluation, transfer, promotion, demotion, layoff or reduction-in-force, reappointment or recall, discipline and discharge of employees; (j) the educational or training programs provided to employees; (k) the direction and scheduling of employees; (l) the assignment of work to employees whether on a straight-time or overtime basis; (m) production and quality standards, standards of service and performance expectations of employees; (n) the development and implementation of rules, regulations, policies and procedures governing employee conduct, job performance and other conditions of employment; (o) decisions to determine class size, class staffing and assignment, class schedules, the academic calendar, the length of the work and school day, the length of the work and school year, hours and places of instruction or pupil assessment policies; and (p) decisions concerning the use and staffing of experimental or pilot programs.

Shortly after sunrise on the first morning of the seven-day strike, mass picketing began at every one of the city's more than 600 real public schools. Despite intense efforts by CPS officials, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and the corporate media to promote that 155 "Scab Centers" (as they were designated by the union), there were more children and students on the picket lines than there were inside the local Scab Centers. Above, the teachers and other strikers stand outside Portage Park Elementary School on Chicago's northwest side at around nine a.m. on September 10, 2012, as they began their strike. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.From the beginning of the negotations until the suspension of the strike, the city's ruling class knew what it wanted, and the best summary of the ridiculous attack on democracy that has been at the heart of this stuff for years is that paragraph above.

But for anyone who missed the fact that the CTU and our allies "won," the expensive TV ads promoting Rahm Emanuel that followed the suspension of the picketing are just one example, while the bizarre declaration of war against the union by one of the richest guys in America, Chicago's Bruce Rauner, is another example. The Plutocracy that rules the world today knows who has "won" now, and the question is how Chicago's teachers continue to pour forward towards other victories from now on.

The best way to do that is by voting "Yes" and then shifting to community, workplace and political action in Chicago and in Illinois.

The strike was a tactic, one battle in a long war.

The proposed contract is a victory.

But the war is still on, as anyone paying attention in Chicago and elsewhere knows.

The teachers and supporters at O.A. Thorp Elementary School on Chicago's northwest side stood in front of the school's empty parking lot on Day One (September 10, 2012) as the strike's effectiveness slowly became clear. By the second day of the strike, the Board of Education was still spending millions of dollars per day to keep open the Scab Centers, but there were more and more students, parents and community supporters walking the CTU picket lines than there were inside the Scab Centers. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Chicago billionaire Bruce Rauner and all of the members of his class (including those who financed the Rahm ads) know this. Whether all of our brothers and sisters in the Chicago Teachers Union understand that will be clear as the months and years ahead. After the cote on the proposed contract, the results of which will be announced by Wednesday, October 3, Chicago teachers can continue to go forward, measure our abilities to build our power.


October 1, 2012 at 1:07 AM

By: George N. Schmidt

'No' vote entities are spamming Substance with comments against the contract

As most readers of this web site know, Substance requires that all those who wish to comment provide our readers with their real name.

We also ask them to provide our editors with a real email address. This is to protect our growing number of readers from the kind of silliness that pervades most blogs, where "anonymous" can create hundreds of comments in a nanosecond, with no accountability.

As we have made clear, we encourage people who are willing to stand behind their words and have no patience with people who are cowards and try to hide this way in the blogosphere. When we began these policies years ago, there were few people who would stand up with Substance and join this fight in the only way it can be fought: with honest democratic discussion.

By our count, there were between 20,000 and 50,000 Chicago teachers and supporters marching in downtown Chicago on the first day of the Chicago Teachers Strike of 2012. We are all standing up to be counted, and for those of us who were often nearly alone in these fights a decade ago, this is a great time and wonderful experience.

That's why we have these rules, and why democracy has a chance.

The next couple of days are key for Chicago's public schools, and so we are going to remain vigilant to prevent liars and cowards from polluting our comments.

During the past 24 hours, Substance has been spammed several times by entities using pseudonyms, first names only, phony email addresses, or trying to post as "anonymous". There are plenty of places in Chicago where these people can spew their wordings, but Substance is not one of those places.

Our editors will continue to canvass the comments to on a regular basis and remove all comments that violate out policies.

Most recently, Substance received several comments critical of the proposed contract being voted on by all regular CTU members in the schools on October 2. Not one of them was legitimate.

Here is one example. Someone using the name "Mike McGuire" put up a comment, giving as his email Hello reader... "

We tried to send the following message to "him" asking for further verification:

"Your comment to is up for the time being. However, you must verify your existence and school by replying to this email. Please send us your phone number and indicate the Chicago school at which you teach so we can be certain of the validity of your comment.

"The Editors"

AOL couldn't deliver the email since the address did not exist.

This was among several comments that have been removed during the past 12 hours.

Apparently, the same people who are trying to push a "NO" vote through anonymous emails to CTU members (using an email list that was apparently stolen from the union a few years ago) are spamming Substance.

We will publish legitimate comments by real people, especially Chicago teachers who are working through how they will vote on October 2. And we will continue to stop the cowards who try to spam people with words they are not willing to stand behind.

October 1, 2012 at 9:15 PM

By: John Whitfield

Anti-bullying provision

The fine print of the contract that gives the CTU new leverage in key areas, including an anti-bullying provision to help members stand up to abusive principals.

It is all together fitting and proper that the strike accomplished this, and that our negotiators got this in the language.

John Whitfield, retired, former GWHS delegate

October 4, 2012 at 4:29 AM

By: John Whitfield

More about "Anti-bullying provision" in agreement

Here is a comment that a superb young teacher has shared, who senselessly got the axe by a clout heavy administrator, who then put a DNH (Do not hire) on the gifted instructor making it impossible for the teacher to get rehired:

We are demonized by media and the oligarchs to the point that I have witnessed students bullying teachers constantly. All for the reason that teachers are now guilty of being BAD until proven innocent teachers or the crony of the administration. That leaves the witch-hunted (tenured) teachers vulnerable to administration attacks and therefore enables students to attack these teachers.

and here is an addition to my original comment on the anti-bullying provision:

The fine print of the contract that gives the CTU new leverage in key areas, including an anti-bullying provision to help members stand up to abusive principals.

It is all together fitting and proper that the strike accomplished this, and that our negotiators got this into the language.

Over the course of the last several years we filed more grievances at Washington High, via our CTU Field Reps,( 6 in less than 5 years) than any other school, while we watched dozens of our fellow staff members get the axe.

To enforce this provision however, it will take active PPCs(Professional Problem Committees)

a union entity, that began in the late 80s. And it will take a lot more organizing.

Substance, a teacher monthly helped us, in particular a stellar reporter, who spent time in Russia as a reporter. He helped us get the word out, as did Tori and Kari when we were breathing toxic fumes at Cesar Chavez School.

The rank n' file members of the Chicago Teachers Union have voted on whether or not to approve the House of Delegates vote to suspend the strike, and to accept the contract that has been negotiated with the Chicago Board of Education.

John Whitfield, retired, former GWHS delegate

October 4, 2012 at 12:12 PM

By: Rod Estvan

re anti bullying provision

I agree with John that the CTU's contractual provision regarding the use of a do not hire designation was a very good thing. But I don't agree with John's praise for the CTU's contractual provision called by the union its "anti-bullying provision." I would call it a variation of a whistle blower protection provision that is seen in many statutes and in my own experience in a settlement agreement between the CPS and plaintiffs for disabled children in the Corey H case where I was a monitor with responsibility for enforcing that provision.

But first lets reproduce the actual language of the contract that John is referencing:

44-58. Respectful Working Environment. The following behaviors are inconsistent

with a respectful working environment and are impermissible: (a) verbal abuse, which

includes, but is not limited to, obscene, threatening, humiliating or intimidating language;and (b) non-verbal abuse, which includes acts that are threatening, humiliating or intimidating. Individual, group or school-wide meetings shall not be utilized to threaten,humiliate or intimidate bargaining unit employees. Employees shall suffer no retaliation for reporting, grieving or protesting workplace bullying. The BOARD shall designate its

Equal Employment Compliance Office to investigate allegations that employees,

vendors or staff are creating undignified or disrespectful working environments or

conditions. Such remedies and corrective actions may include, but are not limited to,

reversing adverse actions, directing the training of an employee regarding proper

professional conduct toward all employees and vendors, discipline and debarment to

the extent permitted by law and/or other corrective actions.

I took a look at the CPS organization chart and tried to find the Equal Employment Compliance Office, it is so insignificant I can't find it. I also could not find this office using the CPS search engine on its website. I am sure this office exists somewhere, possibly in the Office of Talent or law. But let's be clear here, the contract does not in any way specify how this office is to investigate allegations that employees,vendors or staff are creating undignified or disrespectful working environments or conditions.

Moreover another section of the contract states: "The principals or assistant principals shall not reprimand a teacher or other bargaining unit employee in the presence of his or her colleagues, other teachers and bargaining unit employees, students or parents. Reprimands and criticism shall be made only in a place ensuring privacy."

This provision means that most of the actions covered by section 44-58 will take place in private and most allegations will be reduced to teachers claiming they were abused in private by administrators. In that situation without collaborating evidence I suspect the CPS controlled investigators will make no findings based on a lack of evidence. This provision might be enforceable if a principal is so foolish as to abuse teachers in public which has taken place. Let's also be clear, each incident will be investigated separately rather than a systemic analysis of a principal who may be a habitual abuser in private.

I had just this type of experience when as a federal Court appointed monitor we on several occasions forced the CPS Law department to investigate teachers claims principals were forcing them to violate Court approved plans for their schools and chastising them for objecting to directives, in fact one such teacher was given written charges of insubordination. At one school multiple teachers made the same claim and CPS looked at each claim in isolation from the collective reality that was present.

In one case we were able to get CPS to issue a warning resolution against a principal, in other cases CPS law department investigators claimed teachers were in fact using the anti-retaliation provisions of the Corey H agreement to get back at principals for legitimate prior disciplinary actions taken against the same teachers. The monitor's office became so frustrated that we attempted to conduct investigations by ourselves and we discovered CPS was providing legal counsel to the principal and they were also being represented by the Principal's Association so the principal in question refused to answer any questions at all when we met. Collective claims by teachers were in some cases dismissed by CPS almost as conspiracies against the managerial authority of principals.

I think that the anti-bullying provision could very possibly turn out to be a feel good provision given the way it's written, knowing the competence of the CTU officers that negotiated this provision I have to assume they squeezed out the best possible language they could. But none the less it's not too good.

Rod Estvan

October 4, 2012 at 6:07 PM

By: John Whitfield

EOCO at Chgo. Bd. of Ed.

The entity in question is the EOCO (Equal Opportunity Compliance Office). Yes, located at the Chicago Board of Education, 125 S. Clarke St. One class action grievance on behalf of the staff that we had was referred there by employee relations in answer to a cease and desist grievance, in which we called for the school administration to stop the practice of only supporting some staff members in disciplinary matters, while others that were people of color, spoke with an accent, and or because of their national origin were far too often not supported, and unruly / uncooperative students were given a nod and a wink, or merely a pat on the wrist with no consequences for their disruptive behavior.

Our most recent field rep. had not initially heard of EOCO, but an older Field Rep, now rertired, had once referred me there, stating that they were discriminating against me as a CTU delegate.

EOCO s response to that was: that they did not investigate matteres resulting from a grievance that had been filed, but suggested that one could make another complaint.

The former case went to appeal. The administration, after attending the appeal, sent all the members mentioned in the cease and desist grievance to a classroom management session at Depaul downtown.

This in itself, we felt was retaliation for having filed the grievance. Another grievance was filed by our field rep(now very familiar with EOCO) stating that the matter had not even been investigated. EOCO responded that it had, but the results could not be given out, because of confidentiality. The grievants in the cease and desist grievance, to my knowledge, had not been given an answer either.

thank you Substance for having taken interest in this vitally important contract language.

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