SOLIDARITY FOREVER: 'Salvation' caucus brags about Tribune's support for their version of company unionism

By the afternoon of April 26, 2013, the "Coalition To Save Our Union' had posted another article from the anti-union Chicago Tribune on its Website. There is little on the site, except Tribune stories. Emails were sent around to the email addresses the "Coalition" had stolen and was using to communicate with union members at their personal emails. The notice came from

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


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