Former union president claims 'CTU members won nothing from the strike....' Deborah Lynch Valentine's Day email foreshadowed creation of new CTU opposition 'coalition'
Five days before a group of Chicago Teachers Union members hosted a media event to declare their opposition to the current leadership of the union in the 2013 election (which will not take place until May 17), the tone and content of the group's attack on the leadership came to many people's attention in an email distributed, with the support of the Chicago Board of Education, to hundreds of union delegates and other school leaders.
The email was sent by Deborah Lynch, who is now retired from her teaching career, working as a college professor, and nominally the head of the PACT group. Lynch served as CTU president from July 2001 through July 2004, when she was finally sent out of the union's offices following a contentious struggle over the results of the 2004 election, which she and her group lost to Marilyn Stewart and the UPC. After losing a runoff election in June 2004 to Marilyn Stewart and the United Progressive Caucus (UPC), Lynch announced that she was not leaving the union office because there has been voting irregularities. She was finally ordered out of the union's Merchandise Mart offices by court order in late July 2004. Stewart and the UPC took over the reigns of union power for two terms, until they lost the June 2010 runoff to Karen Lewis and CORE.
On February 14, 2013, Lynch sent an email to the remaining people in her PACT group (and some she considered "independents") asking them to support her former adversaries, the UPC, in a new coalition. The decision announced by the former union president to join ranks with her former adversaries was at first viewed with skepticism by many. But it was confirmed by Friday, February 15 -- and more so confirmed when some of the remaining Lynch PACT loyalists appeared with her former UPC adversaries at the union's Merchandise Mart offices to hold a press conference on February 19, 2013. The media event announced the formation of "The Coalition To Save Our Union."
In a possibly unprecedented events, both Chicago daily newspapers covered the media event by the Coalition To Save Our Union, with the Chicago Tribune placing the story on its front page on February 20, 2013.
Many union members, including this reporter, consider the fact that Lynch helped promote the media event as one of the reasons it received some coverage from the city's corporate press. Otherwise, the question arises: Why are Chicago's media interested in a local union election a month before anyone can know for sure who the candidates are? The union election isn't being held until May 17, and the nominating process had only begun on February 20 when it had become front page news.
On February 19, when the self-proclaimed leaders of the newly formed "Coalition To Save Our Union" stood outside the union's offices, the union was still five weeks from knowing which candidates had actually qualified to be on the ballot in the upcoming election. The election itself, to be held on May 17, is 12 weeks in the future. Both CORE (led by Karen Lewis) and the "Coalition" (now led by Tanya Saunders - Wolffe) are required to get signatures on nominating petitions from the union's active duty members between now and the end of March. Until the day the nominating petitions are submitted -- and vetted for authenticity -- there is no CTU election contest. As the 2010 election proved, anyone can announce a candidacy. Fewer will qualify to be on the ballot, and fewer still will get enough votes to prove authentic candidates. History shows that it's best to wait until the actual caucuses exist enough to be on the ballot.
Take the most recent election, in 2010. In February 2010, six "caucuses" announced that they would run for office, including the caucus (the UPC) led by the then-incumbent Marilyn Stewart. Of those six caucuses, one (the so-called "Independent Caucus") failed to get on the ballot. The other five qualified for the ballot, and of those none garnered the necessary 50 percent of the vote to win decisively in the May union election. Three groups -- the "Caucus for a Democratic Union" (CSDU); the SEA (School Employees Action); and PACT (ProActive Chicago Teachers) ran behind the pack in the May voting, and the final runoff was held between CORE and the UPC. Contrary to what the new opposition has told the press on February 19, CORE won the June runoff decisively, with more than 60 percent of the vote. The email, which Lynch dispatched on February 13 to union leaders at their schools via their CPS email addresses, reads as follows:
From: debbie lynch Date: Thu, 14 Feb 2013 09:56:59 -0600
Subject: Invitation to Join the Coalition/Slate to Save Our Union
Dear Fellow Delegate,
Because of our concern about what is happening in our union, PACT has participated in the establishment of a Coalition with members of the United Progressive Caucus (UPC), some independent CTU members, and some former CORE members to run a slate of candidates in this election. Each of the major Coalition caucuses is recommending half the slate, with a commitment
to including Independents on the ticket. We are writing to ask you if you would be interested and willing to join our slate of candidates for this May's CTU election.
We have formed this Coalition because of deep concern over the future of our union under the current administration. Here are just a few of those concerns:
1. CTU members, who struck in good faith, won nothing from the strike. The union may have won the PR fight at the time, but the mayor won the contract fight. The members did their part, but the leaders failed to deliver in the contract.
2. Four year raises under Lewis have been: 0,3,2,2 considering the cancelled raise of 2011. Even this year’s 3% isn’t really that as members are working longer days and a longer year. The "raise" is really a 3% pay cut.
3. The Lewis group gained office over the expansion of school closings, yet were unable to stop the proposed school closings of 2012 and, when they had the power when members were on strike, agreed to a contract with no moratorium on school closings. Now, after they squandered their chance when they had the city at its mercy, they want you to do protests and sit-ins.
4. The value-added evaluations in the REACH system, agreed to by Lewis, which gives principals more power than ever before, and has been severely criticized by researchers across the state nationally as an unreliable measure of teacher effectiveness, now dictates teacher job security.
5. Lewis also agreed to a frightening CTU Employee Discipline Policy (see HR4U at cps.edu) which gives principals even more power than ever to go after teachers and terminate them after 4 warnings.
6. The Wellness Program has raised alarms over biometric health ratings and their potential use by the employer, employee privacy rights, and the financial burden on members if they refuse to participate.
7. The Lewis administration's protest and rally approach is counterproductive and has not resulted in any wins for the membership. They have little credibility with state legislators after Lewis accused them of tricking her and changing agreed upon language in the problematic Senate
Bill 7 legislation, as can been seen in the CPS unanimous win over delaying the school closures announcement. No one listened to the CTU.
8. The Lewis/CORE confrontational, adversarial approach with CPS is harming members in their grievances and hearings. CPS representatives have been sworn at by Lewis appointees and have left meetings because of it, destroying any chance to findings solutions to member problems and concerns.
9. The Lewis administration has come right out and stated that the CTU is “not a service organization anymore". Members are feeling the lack of support and responsiveness when they try to get help from the union. This group is more interested in organizing community groups than serving their own members.
10. Our pensions are in great jeopardy, and with lessened influence and credibility in the legislature, and an IFT leadership which showed in its support of SB7 that it did not have the interests of CTU members, we don't have the power we need to fight back.
11. This contract gave away seniority as the only consideration in layoffs as now it is performance-based and member rights to the reassigned teacher pool are too. The time in the reassigned pool has also been cut in half.
12. CTU members have lost the morning elementary preps, the Pension Enhancement benefit, the banking of up to 300 sick days, and more. We have also lost thousands of positions to the growing number of charter schools.
Because of your leadership in our union and obvious commitment to it, we hope you will consider joining the Coalition and our slate. Please let us know if you would like to discuss this further. If you provide your contact information and a convenient time to reach you, one of us will get right
back to you.
We are in a fight to save our union and hope you will join us in that fight.
*PACT Steering Committee/Coalition Candidates,*
Mary Ellen Sanchez, Delegate, Byrne Elementary School
Kelly McFarlane, Delegate, Washington High School
Loretta Balsam, Morgan Park High School
Frank MacDonald, Delegate, Washington High School
David Arredondo, Delegate, Washington High School
Kevin Condon, Delegate, Stevenson Elementary School