SOLIDARITY FOREVER? Chicago Tribune continues support for CTU 'Salvation' caucus by printing an April 26 Perspective by Tanya Saunders Wolffe trashing Karen Lewis and CORE

Anyone devoting any time to searching the archives of the anti-union, pro charter school and pro-privatization Chicago Tribune would have a hard time finding much coverage of any major union election, city, state or national. Since the Tribune busted its unions nearly 30 years ago (after a history of anti-union hostility going back to the Civil War) and created the likes of scab columnist John Kass, the Trib has found the only news from unions is bad news. And said it over and over and over.

Tanya Saunders Wolffe and Mark Ochoa outside the April meeting of the CTU House of Delegates. Substance photo by Sharon Schmidt.But in 2013, the Tribune has found a union caucus it loves, and candidates for the leadership of the Chicago Teachers Union that it can't resist covering. On February 20, the Tribune devoted a front page story to the announcement by the "Coalition to Save Our Union" that Tanya Saunders Wolffe and Mark Ochoa would be running against Karen Lewis and Jesse Sharkey for President and Vice President of the CTU. On April 14, the Tribune ignored the CORE campaign kickoff rally at the Haymarket. But on April 26, the Tribune has again found space to push the "Salvation" caucus version of reality by publishing the following piece by Tanya Saunders-Wolffe.

One thing I couldn't help noticing as I read the latest Tribune endorsement of the union opposition was the contrast between the Salvation caucus and the opposition to the incumbents in New York City. During Spring Vacation, my family and I went to New York, primarily to visit family and to take part in the final days of my brother's art exhibit at the MOMA annex in Queens, which was doing a retrospective of the art of Thomas Lanigan Schmidt. While we were in New York, I had arranged to talk with some people from the New York United Federation of Teachers opposition, MORE and Ed Notes. We met at a downtown restaurant and had a good two hour discussion about the differences and similarities between New York and Chicago in the UFT. My topic was "From protest to power: CORE in Chicago..."

But one of the things that was the most clear was that in both cities, our caucuses and opposition groups were supporting the union, and not allying with scabs to gain a temporary advantage. During our conversation in New York, people told me that the viciously anti-union New York Post had called Julie Cavanaugh, who was running for UFT president against incumbent Michael Mulgrew. The Post wanted Julie to comment on the election, but she refused to talk with them. The reason? The Post is notorious for its anti-union and anti-public school biases, just as the Chicago Tribune is here. Despite Julie's refusal to talk with the Post reporters, they did run a story, quoting a letter Julie had sent to Mulgrew, challenging him to a debate. The headline of the story accused the incumbent of being "chicken" to face the challenger in a debate. The headline, typical of the post, was not designed to increase the unity of the United Federation of Teachers, our sister local in New York.

As reported (article below) Mulgrew won the election, and MORE declared its continued support for the union. MORE ran a clean campaign, and friends tell us that the "Unity" caucus (the incumbents) and MORE (and the other opposition) will be working together into the future.

The anti-union Chicago Tribune continued its support for the so-called "Coalition to Save Our Union" in its April 26, 2013 Perspectives page by publishing a third of a page from the pen of Tanya Saunders Wolffe, who is running for President against CTU President Karen Lewis (and CORE). The first blast of the Tribune's support for the Saunders-Wolffe ticket came on its front page on February 20, 2013, when Saunders-Wolffe held a press conference at the CTU offices to announce that she would be running -- and got front page coverage from the most anti-union daily newspaper in the American Midwest.During the contract negotiations last summer, Karen Lewis established the "Big Bargaining Team," and designed it to be inclusive. That team included Tanya Saunders Wolffe and Mark Ochoa. Today, both of them are claiming that the CTU leadership failed to negotiate a "moratorium" on school closings. But they didn't mention that during the months they were actually with the union's leadership at the bargaining table. Nor have they admitted, although they will soon have to, that it was illegal for the Chicago Teachers Union to bargain over school closings (a management right) unless CPS agreed to it, and CPS didn't.

There will be a debate between Karen Lewis and Tanya Saunders Wolffe at the May House of Delegates meeting. By a vote of the April House of Delegates meeting, the two candidates for vice president will also square off. The delegates will have the time to hear all the candidates that day, and can bring back to their schools what they see and hear. Meanwhile, every time the candidates from the Salvation caucus do school meetings, some union member might ask them whey they are getting so much free publicity from one of the most vicious union busting media in the United States.


My Challenge to Karen Lewis, By Tanya Saunders-Wolffe, April 26, 2013

A year ago Chicago teachers, clinicians, paraprofessionals and parents hoped that their strength in numbers and unity would yield the legislative action and contract settlement needed to remedy the problems teachers face in the classroom — problems that impede our ability to offer students the very best education.

That hope turned to despair. Rather than improved schools, children and their parents face the largest number of school closures ever experienced in the U.S. Rather than improved working conditions, teachers and school staffers face longer days, lower pay and benefits, loss of sick days, prep times and new dictatorial powers given to principals.

The cause of the misery lies with Mayor Rahm Emanuel, members of the Chicago Board of Education and Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett, who have made it clear they wish to replace public schools with charter schools and break the Chicago Teachers Union.

Much of the blame lies with CTU President Karen Lewis. She is adroit at making speeches at rallies, but she has failed at all else, squandering the energy and talents of thousands of teachers, parents and others who, during the last contract negotiations, supported better education for the children and better working conditions for teachers.

That's why I am running for president of the CTU on the Coalition to Save Our Union slate.

Under the current contract, not only did teachers and staff lose benefits, we lost things that are critical to good teaching. We lost prep time for classes, we lost teaching time (because we have to administer as many as 15 standardized tests a year), we lost the incentive for innovation with draconian rules that give principals more power to hire and fire at will.

Worst of all, Lewis gave up the voice of teachers. For the past decade, CTU leadership sat at the decision-making table — with the school board and the CPS administration — and together we negotiated programs to save struggling schools. Lewis gave that away. We lost 53 elementary schools and one high school program. We will have to suffer through seven school consolidations and six school turnarounds. The decision will affect more than 30,000 students and thousands more in the "receiving schools."

Lewis gave all that away and teachers, parents and students will pay the price.

Lewis has turned her well-paid staff into a well-honed political machine. While that may be useful for her little-hidden desire to run for mayor, it's played out poorly for those of us in the schools. Never was this clearer than this past month when those of us in schools threatened with closure received little to no help from union leadership. We received no data on where our schools were in comparison to others. We received no support staff to help us organize parents, staff and teachers to fight back.

It didn't have to be that way and shouldn't be again.

On May 17, the union will vote for its 2013 - 2016 leadership.

On May 22, the Board of Education will announce its final decisions on school closures and consolidations.

I am running for CTU president with a slate of candidates (Mark Ochoa, Mary Ellen Sanchez and Kelly McFarlane) who have the experience and track record not only to fight for the needs and rights of students, teachers and staff, but to protect them at the bargaining table.

We need leadership that can do more than make speeches or hold rallies. We need leadership that is more interested in solving problems than in creating a political platform. We need leadership that has the confidence, skill and lack of ego to work effectively in boardrooms and classrooms as well as in the streets. That is why I am running.

Tanya Saunders-Wolffe is a counselor at Jesse Owens Community Academy on the Far South Side.

Copyright © 2013 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC


April 26, 2013 at 3:09 PM

By: John Kierig

Rumors of a Koch brothers Tribune sale

i don't think it will make a damn bit of difference the Koch brothers do buy the Trib.

April 27, 2013 at 9:52 AM

By: Maureen Cullnan

Koch sale will cost Tribune subscribers...

The Trib will lose subscribers. But Koch brothers don't care about the old business model. They want to own the bully pulpit.

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