CTU President Marilyn Stewart dodges budget 'transparency' with doubletalk

When Chicago Teachers Union President Marilyn Stewart appeared before the Chicago Board of Education at its January 10, 2006 meeting (above) the union’s members did not know that increased pay and benefits for her top staff were slowly bankrupting the 31,000-member union. Surrounding Marilyn above are (left to right): Coleen Dykas; Peter Ardito; Sandy Schultz; and Traci Cobb Evans. By the time this photograph was taken, coordinators such as those above were being paid for a ‘53-week year’ and had unprecedented fringe benefits. Two years later, many of the deals are still secret. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. Chicago Teacher Union President Marilyn Stewart reiterated at the May 7th, 2008 House of Delegates meeting the news announced in the April issue of the Chicago Union Teacher, the Union monthly newspaper.

The Chicago Teachers Union is broke, although the union has borrowed money and is not in legal bankruptcy. She no longer denied that the Union now has millions of dollars in loans to repay (three million dollars taken out just this year since January, 2008, according to Union accountant Paul Merkel) and owes the parent Union organizations approximately six million dollars in affiliate dues.

President Stewart reached back to the administration of Jacqueline Vaughn to cast blame for this financial disaster in a Union which operates today on a yearly $30 million dollar budget, according to Treasurer Linda Porter, mostly from membership dues. Stewart put the blame for the deficit on past presidents Jacque Vaughn, Tom Reece, and Debbie Lynch.

Stewart took only the smallest responsibility for what many call raiding the Union piggy bank to enrich herself and her friends. She said that her fault was merely her trusting heart and her lack of oversight of others.

Stewart did say, “I take responsibility for getting you into this (financial crisis) and I’ll take the responsibility for getting you out.”

When asked if anyone would be punished for this, she said “No, we will be moving forward.” Of course, she wouldn’t punish herself.

How President Stewart blames Presidents Vaughn and Reece for the Union deficit

At this May 7th meeting which took place at Plumbers Hall, 1340 W. Washington Blvd., President Stewart explained that the problem began with the late former Presidents Jacqueline Vaughn’s and Tom Reece’s administration. At that time, limits were placed on how high the percentage of members’ dues could go to pay “per caps” to the parent Unions, our affiliates, the AFT (the American Federation of Teachers), the IFT (the Illinois Federation of Teachers), the Illinois Federation of Labor, and the Chicago Federation of Labor.

These organizations get 48 percent of our dues yearly, according to Stewart. Stewart said that recently it was found that this action of placing limits was unconstitutional for a local Union to do. Vaughn and Reece thought their limit would never be reached and certainly not exceeded, but it was, she said. Representatives from the AFT and the President of the IFT were on stage with Stewart, and in the view of many delegates, were providing her cover for the deficit which she caused. While this deficit was not caused by their cut of the monies, they certainly would not want to lose that cut.

It had already been announced at the April Delegates House meeting that arrangements had been made to repay our Union affiliates for the dues for which our Union local is in arrears. Therefore, these organizations would not be pointing the finger at our Union for the deficit caused by the limits placed on the dues pass through for their organizations. Who knew that Stewart wouldn’t be able to live within a budget? She even voted last summer to raise the dues for the parent organizations.

The IFT had already given Stewart a part-time job as secretary at the handsome salary of $90,000 per year in addition to an annuity equal to 25 percent of that salary. This in addition to her base salary as CTU President of $122,853, along with other “compensatory” bonuses, equals earnings for Marilyn of $272,000 per year. Not bad pay for a President of a Union who couldn’t live within the Union budget. This salary is more than twice what former President Lynch took for doing the job — just to put these figures into some kind of perspective.

At a time when other unions, such as the teachers unions in British Columbia and Oregon, are scaling back on the opulent salaries and perks for union administrators, it is clear that Stewart took spending on herself and her friends to new heights, bringing our Union into disrepute both locally and nationally.

When Delegate Karen Jennings Lewis of King High School asked President Stewart whether the budget cuts Marilyn promised from top down would lower the Union officers’ salaries, Stewart said the salaries would be frozen, but not cut.

How Stewart blames former President Lynch for the Union deficit

In addition to blaming the two of her predecessors who were members of the caucus (United Progressive Caucus, or UPC) that she claims to head, Stewart also blamed the opponent who unseated the UPC in 2001 and headed the union for three years (2001 - 2004), Deborah Lynch. After her defeat in the 2004 union election, Lynch returned to teaching. She is now delegate from Gage Park High School and is still a member of the House of Delegates. Lynch, however, has been disputing Stewart’s versions of union finances in the face of nasty attacks in the House of Delegates for the past two years, and as time goes on Stewart’s versions of what was taking place have become more and more suspect. According to past Lynch, there was $5,685,925 surplus which she inherited when she was elected in May, 2001.

She states that in 2004, when she left office, the reserve was still in place. Marilyn Stewart’s administration inherited $5,600,833 in surplus inclusive of the 2003 contract and 2004 election costs. Lynch left over five million dollars, she says, despite that there were extra elections and contract referendums (votes) during her term. At the May 2007 meeting of the Chicago Teachers Union’s House of Delegates, more than 100 members of the union’s part-time and full-time staff were sitting at credentials tables sporting huge UPC election buttons like the one above. One year later, Stewart’s UPC — posing as the leadership of the Chicago Teachers Union — has accused CTU Vice President Ted Dallas of using the union for partisan political activity — something Stewart encouraged exactly one year earlier when the CTU election was still looming. At the sign-in tables for the May 2007 union meeting and around the union hall, Substance counted more than 100 union staff (including district supervisors, above) wearing partisan buttons supporting Stewart and her slate. Substance photograph by George N. Schmidt.

Lynch asks, “Where did this five million go?”

Her figures are verified by the February, 2005 issue of the Union newspaper — printed under the Stewart administration. However, the next year, the February, 2006 newspaper shows a deficit of $2.2 million.

Stewart blames Lynch in a number of ways for the financial shortfall. She says Lynch cut membership dues by $800,000 which helped cause the deficit.

What Stewart doesn’t say is that Lynch also cut out the bonus of approximately $22,000 per year that Marilyn Stewart’s party, the UPC (United Progressive Caucus), always gave their administrative staff “for overtime” on top of their salaries which are well over $100,000.

In Stewart’s proposed budget, a 21 percent annuity bonus is called “officer and staff pension contributions” — and totals $1.2 million.

Calling it a “pension contribution” fools Delegates into thinking that it is not a bonus, but a payment into the pension fund like the Board does for teachers. In fact, the annuity is apparently in addition to the contribution to the Teachers or Municipal Employee pension funds that the union makes for those employees who are on leave from teaching or PSRP positions with the Chicago Board of Education. Under the Lynch administration, only those CTU employees who were not on leave from CPS positions received the annuity.

The six-figure salary and bonus being paid to the CTU officers and top staff are in addition to other valuable perks. These include: a monthly expense account for each administrator — officers, coordinators, and field representatives — of $1,500; a car allowance of $7,000 per year (whether or not you have a car); 85 percent of car insurance and expenses paid; parking allowance; cell phone allowance; life insurance paid with Union dues; and among other perks, a 53rd week of yearly pay for “working” over the Christmas holiday which Stewart initiated.

As soon as she could after coming into office, Stewart reinstated the $22,000 “overtime” bonus that Lynch had cut out. This alone, some delegates speculate, could be the yearly $1.2 million in the budget which during the almost four years that Marilyn has been in office could account for the disappearance of the $5 million plus that Lynch left in 2004. Yet, Stewart and company maintain that Lynch left a great deficit.

Stewart and company in 2001-2002 successfully led the charge against the first budget Lynch presented in which she had cut officer and other administrator salaries and perks. The budget was defeated in the House, and so the previous budget hammered out by the UPC leadership of the Union for over thirty years was left to stand. Perhaps, preparations were already being made to keep intact the obscene booty that Marilyn’s party had always paid themselves for when they again took over the Union. Lynch still made the cuts giving herself a salary pegged to a teacher’s salary with a Ph.D. at twelve months, she states. This gave her a salary of $100,000 the first year compared to former President Tom Reece’s salary of $110,000, according to Lynch.

Despite the promises Marilyn made at this meeting in May 2008 to be “transparent” and report monthly to the membership on finances, she still refused to reveal the salaries and the perks of union staff, treating both as private information. She called the Union a private entity. Other verifiable sources have given the information to Substance that she has refused to give to the Delegates and members.

Again, the Delegates have not been given a disaggregated line budget where costs are spelled out. It’s once again where everything with the exception of the base salaries is lumped together so that the Union membership does not learn about the expensive fringe benefits for Union administrators and staff that their dues are paying for.

Please note: If the proposed budget at the June meeting is defeated, the old budget stays in place until another proposed budget passes. The Union does not stop functioning.

Stewart should be forced to explain to the House all the financial dealings she has kept secret.

Marilyn’s political party, the UPC, and their fellows, the AFT and IFT, are examples of unions as big business where those elected fight to stay in power so they can keep lining their pockets with the money from the Union dues. When a union becomes this kind of union, it destroys the name of all good unions, as I accused Marilyn of doing at the April meeting.

Teachers and others might say that they don’t care about the supersized monies the Union leaders pay themselves as long as the membership feels protected by them. However, members no longer feel that Stewart is about the business of protecting their interests. She deceitfully rammed through a bad Contract that did nothing about the proliferation of charter schools and the school closings. She blames the teachers for not organizing the charter schools and for not stopping the school closings (see the April, 2008 issue of Substance, page 10).

Marilyn Stewart also charged that Lynch used faulty membership figures from the Board of Education and overpaid the affiliates by $1.6 million which, she stated at previous meeting and this one, the AFT will not repay. Financial Secretary under Lynch, James Alexander, has vigorously contested this charge and has said that his repeated requests for evidence of this, both verbal and written, have been ignored.

Stewart stated that her administration overpaid the affiliates by $800,000 before they realized the error in the Board’s figures, but said that the AFT and other affiliates did pay this amount back.

It’s hard to understand how Stewart can have it both ways: On the one hand, our Union owes the affiliates millions of dollars. On the other hand, Lynch “overpaid” by $1.8 million, but the money was not returned by the affiliates. Marilyn’s “overpayment” of $800,000 was returned by the AFT. Why would the affiliates return any money if the Union still owes them millions? How could Lynch have “overpaid” if millions are owed? This doesn’t add up.

The proposed budget, as always, a sham

Lynch points out in her June letter to the school delegates (the monthly letters cost her $300, she said) that what the House votes on in proposed budgets and what gets spent do not match. She compares the proposed budget the Stewart team pushed through in the House for 2006-2007 to what the audit shows was actually spent by the audit in the March, 2008 Union newspaper and reveals the deception.

For example, Employee Benefits were proposed and passed for $2.5 million, but $3.2 million was actually spent.

For Travel and Staff Expenses the proposed and passed amount was $442,000, but $618,000 was spent.

For Miscellaneous the proposed amount was $150,000, while a whopping $1.4 million was actually spent.

The Interest Expense proposed was $25,000, but, behold, $256,000 was spent.

Lynch urges that the proposed budget for 2008-2009 be tabled until the Delegates are provided with the terms of all of the employee contracts and loans.

Lynch silenced by Stewart bullying

When Deborah Lynch, now a Delegate from Gage Park, went to the microphone to contest what was being said about her administration causing a deficit, she said she wanted to make a point of personal privilege. Using a shameful technicality, Stewart said Lynch could not speak because she had no personal privilege as she had not been mentioned by name.

At the moment, many realized that Stewart — along with John Feldman of the AFT and accountant Paul Merkel — had taken special care to refer only to “the previous administration” and “the administration between the years 2001—2004.” It was on such trickery that the House was denied information from a different vantage point.

Surrounded by Stewart’s sergeants-at-arms who at the command of Stewart and company are getting more and more like the flying monkeys of Oz, Deborah Lynch was forced to sit down. There was an outcry, but not enough of one to make a difference. Stewart knows how teachers fear being portrayed as anything but professional, and her bad leadership preys on and fosters those fears. June 1, 2005. Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Ted Dallas (above, center) talks with irate union members including School Clerk Delegates Maureen Callaghan (left) and Schurz High School Delegate Lois Jones (right) after someone from the CTU leadership tried to have former CTU President Deborah Lynch arrested. The verbal and sometimes physical attacks on Lynch during Marilyn Stewart’s first term (2004-2007) have long been compared to the dirty tricks conjured up for the Bush Administration in Washington, D.C., by Karl Rove. Of all the dirty tricks, the nastiest came with the arrest of Lynch, who was escorted out of the House meeting by two armed Chicago police officers. At the time, several observers believed that Dallas had called the police, and the police told Substance reporter George Schmidt that the call came from someone identifying himself as the “vice president.” Dallas claimed that he had not called the police. Lynch was released from police custody after CTU officials refused to sign the arrest complaint that she had been “disorderly” during the House of Delegates meeting. Others in the photograph above are CTU security coordinator Rick Perrote (behind Dallas), who is now an officer of the Marilyn Stewart faction of the “UPC,” and Ted Hajiharis (a field rep, to the right of Dallas). Two complete stories about the incident (“Scofflaw Union Chiefs Run Outlaw Meeting” by Theresa Daniels and “CTU officials attempt to arrest Deborah Lynch” by George N. Schmidt are still available on the “old” Substance Website at The new Substance site is Substance photo above from the June 1, 2005 CTU meeting by George N. Schmidt.

How shocking is it that a past president of the Union can be muzzled like that in front of the representatives of the very organizations that act as moderators in union disputes like the election that ousted Lynch in 2004 by a razor-thin margin of about 500 votes.

Many feel that the AFT did not completely investigate that election, but handed the Union to Marilyn Stewart whom they now have to defend and prop up by co-signing for loans and agreeing to pay for a comptroller/director of finances who would have complete oversight of the Union finances. Delegates have speculated that this is a way of putting our local into receivership like the teachers unions in Washington, D.C. and Miami/Dade.

After spending months denying that there was a deficit, and that loans had been taken out, and that the Union was in arrears on dues to the affiliates, Marilyn really played the buffoon at this meeting, acting like the loans and paid-for comptroller were her own personal victories.

Stewart’s people sitting in the small section up front, and who probably should not even be sitting in the hall during a consideration of a budget from which they benefit (Can they say “conflict of interest”?), clapped and cheered like mad. As if the Union being broke, as if the Union’s treasury being fleeced by unconscionable salaries and perks, as if the Union having to be bailed out from a financial hole was a good thing. What a tragicomic travesty!

“Can you keep Marilyn Stewart out of jail?” I asked the AFT man

President Stewart answered the questions during the extra question period on the budget that Lynch won for the House of Delegates with her motion made at the April meeting.

When I got to the microphone I first made a point of information, saying that the people cheering in such a rowdy way in the little front section around Mike One were the people that perhaps should not be in the hall while the budget was being discussed because it was a conflict of interest.

I said that Stewart’s people who were making that unholy and prolonged racket were the very ones sucking on the teat of the Union and benefiting from the budget under discussion while still keeping hidden their salaries and perks.

One elderly blondish woman yelled “Bitch” twice, and several started yelling at me the whole time I was speaking. I kept up a yacketty-yack hand gesture at them while I spoke and they yelled.

“Do your jobs! Take that microphone away from her!” yelled Gail Koffman. Consultant Gail Koffman, once grievance coordinator, still collecting both salary including perks as well as pension, went through a total melt-down, her face flecked with spittle, screaming at the sergeants-at-arms to take the mike away from me.

“Do your jobs! Take that mike away from her! Shut her mike off! Do your jobs!” Koffman kept screaming. Luckily the sergeants-at-arms at Mike One were not like those I’ve described as the flying monkeys from Oz.

I then said my question was for the Certified Public Accountant of the AFT, John Feldman. Marilyn stepped aside and he approached the stage mike.

I said that the president of Washington, D.C. and the president of Miami/Dade Teachers Unions were sitting in jail for financial malfeasance.

“Can you keep Ms. Marilyn Stewart out of jail?” I asked. “Are their cases and Ms. Stewart’s similar, or are there differences?”

Mr. Feldman said that there were similarities, but yet differences enough that the outcome of our case would not see the same dispositions as those cases.

Several minutes after I sat down, a retiree Sergeant-at-Arms named Marguerite Bruzzini whom I hadn’t noticed at Mike One came to me to tell me that she would not allow me to speak at the mike if I continued to be disrespectful. I asked her if she had addressed the people who yelled “Bitch” at me and whatever else they were yelling that I couldn’t hear. Surprise, surprise—Bruzzini hadn’t witnessed that.

Bruzzini became worried when I asked for her name and started to write it down looking at her ID badge. I answered her question about why I was writing down her name by saying that she spoke to me and that I report on these meetings. Do you think, Gentle Reader, that she was trying to intimidate me and keep me from expressing my opinion?

Stewart administration a joke to Union members while dues go up and up

While calls from the members to the field representatives go unanswered and unreturned, while Marilyn is no where to be seen in the fight to organize charter schools and to stop school closings, while the Union piggy bank the piggies have raided is so broke that the Union will be combining the last two issues of the Union paper and canceling the dinner for the Gay/Lesbian Alliance Award that Delegate Susan Steinmiller of Gage Park was to receive, our dues will be going up and up. But never fear, Marilyn says there will be no cut back on service to members.

The Stewart administration has more people working at the Union while the Union now has fewer members (about 32,000) than the Union employed in former President Jacqueline Vaughn’s time when there were about 39,000 members. But I don’t think it’s to provide service to the members. I think it is more about rewarding friends and allies. Hyde Park High School delegate John Kugler (far left above) looks on as Chicago Teachers Union officers discuss the increase in violence at Wells and Hyde Park high schools following the September 2004 decision of the Chicago Board of Education to privatize Austin High School on the West Side and Calumet High School on the South Side. Beginning in September 2004, 9th grade students from both schools who would have attended Austin and Calumet were forced to find other schools, often increasing gang violence at the receiving schools. At the March 2005 press conference above, students from Wells and Hyde Park described the increased gang violence that resulted from the significant influx of new students. At the microphone (above) was Traci Cobb-Evans, who was hired by CTU President Marilyn Stewart to be the union's $100,000 per year Legislative Coordinator despite the fact that Cobb-Evans had crossed the picket lines (scabbed) during the 1987 strike. Kugler first reported the confirmation of that story in the March 2008 Substance, three years after the above photo was taken. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.

The dues increase since Stewart took office is $80. That’s 5% per year. “What was our raise again?” Delegate John Kugler of Hyde Park High School asks.

The dues in 2006—2007 were $832 for teachers.

In 2007—2008, $870.36, an increase of $38.36.

In 2008—2009, the dues for teachers will be $912, an increase of $41.64.

What does that have to do with the price of gas? you might ask.

A reduced full-dues increase will be proposed for consideration by the AFT Delegates at the July convention in Chicago. The per capita dues pass through from our Union dues to the affiliates like the AFT will go up 4.4% in 2008 and 4.2% in 2009.

It will be interesting to see if our Union will pay for sleepovers for all of the staff and the over-a-hundred AFT Delegates to the convention since the convention will be held in Chicago. The AFT Delegates ran for election with Stewart and in most cases this is her way of rewarding them for supporting her campaign. Let’s see how much the Union is really tightening its belt.

Stewart promises to never do what she’s secretly already just done

At this May meeting, Stewart also blamed the six Lynch people who sued on behalf of the rest of their contracts for the budget deficit. The late former President Tom Reece had begun the practice of giving Union staff contracts that ran longer than Reece’s term. Three of his people sued the CTU to buy out their contracts. They did not succeed during the Lynch administration, but later. It was Marilyn Stewart who settled with these people for a reported $1.2 million and then rehired them for exorbitant salaries and perks. The six Lynch people who sued have recently gotten less than half the amount that Stewart gave her three people, and this is including accrued penalties for Stewart stalling on cases which she knew she could not win.

One of the problems Stewart claimed existed from both the Reece and Lynch administrations was that CTU had entered into contracts with employees that extended beyond the term of office of the officers. Both the plaintiffs who sued the union after Lynch fired them (June Davis; Audrey Mae; and Diane Sheffer) and the plaintiffs in “Schmidt v. CTU” had contracts which extended beyond the end of the term of the officers who hired them (in the case of the “Schmidt” plaintiffs, until June 30, 2005; in the case of the others, for more than one year.

The secret Stewart thought would not be found out is that while she has been promising and promising to never give contracts to staff longer than her own term in office, and did so again at this meeting, she has already secretly given the 14 field representatives a signed four-year contract, one year longer than her term in office. It is a contract totaling approximately $158,000 including a base salary averaging $112,000; with 22 percent of the base salary for an annuity of $24,000; a pensionable expense account compensation of $11,000; a pensionable holiday bonus of one week’s pay of $2,200; a cell phone allowance of $2,100, and a car allowance of $7,000 per year. The contracts run through 2011, while Marilyn’s term ends in 2010. She apparently thought delegates wouldn’t find out about these contracts that she has just signed, but her own people are turning her in these days. Otherwise, this information would also be secret.

In the opinion of a growing number of delegates and CTU members, Stewart lies about contracts, about loans, about deficits, and about surplus revenues. She violates all the rules and lies to stay in power. The Constitution and By-laws of the Union say that multi-year contracts must be brought to the House for approval, something she hasn’t done. In Stewart’s world when we approve her lumped-together proposed budget that spells none of this out, we will have also approved her secret contracts.

“Fight the Lies”—More on how Marilyn blames VP Dallas and Treasurer Porter

As Delegates entered the meeting, Marilyn’s political party, the UPC, passed out an unsigned flyer titled “Fight the Lies” which smeared Vice President Ted Dallas and Treasurer Linda Porter with all the gossip that Marilyn pretended to be above telling when asked by Delegates at meetings about the dissension among the officers. Marilyn’s answer was always that it was a private personnel matter.

However, this leaflet which really lets it rip declares the “truth” to be that there is only ONE (underlined) United Progressive Caucus and it’s the one headed by CTU President Marilyn Stewart and CTU Board of Trustees Chairperson Leslie Barron (both claiming to be newly elected as opposed to Dallas who was the elected chair with Porter the treasurer and Diana Sheffer the secretary). There is just such a “truth” told in every paragraph of the leaflet, and Delegates are urged to go run and tell that to the members at their schools.

Dallas and Porter are accused in this flyer of putting $50,000 of UPC money in another account (possibly while a judge was still agreeing that Dallas and Porter were the elected officers of the caucus, according to Dallas). The flyer calls it “their own account.”

Dallas is accused of cashing out sick days for himself and another employee. He’s accused of spending “hundreds of dollars” (peanuts to Marilyn, as we’ve seen) on late night and weekend dinners “with huge liquor bills.” Two sentences later, using the recognizable techniques of propaganda, the flyer says, “We’re talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on these kinds of things!” leading you to think that Ted Dallas spent the hundreds of thousands of dollars, where in truth the writer of this propaganda piece can later say she never said Ted spent the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Such deviousness. One of the dinners in question, he says, was with Pam Massarsky, Lobbyist and Consultant for the Union.

The UPC flyer that fights lies really tells some whoppers

One “truth” told here is that “Debbie & Dallas” have joined ranks and that “these two opportunists now are in partnership to take over the Union.” Does the writer want you to think “Debbie Does Dallas”? Shame!

I can testify that Debbie Lynch and Dallas have never had anything to do with one another in any terms of partnering up. I’ve spoken at length to Lynch interviewing her for many years. I’ve been a member of her caucus PACT (ProActive Chicago Teachers and School Personnel), have run on the slate as an AFT Delegate for her caucus, and have attended many meetings. I attended only one Dallas meeting, and I know that n’er the two, “Dallas & Debbie”, have met eye-to-eye politically.

In an interview with me, Dallas told me that while he had been a UPC team player in public, privately, he has deplored the appalling contract that Marilyn and Pam Massarsky, Lobbyist Consultant and formerly Recording Secretary under Reece, stuck the Union members with for a record five years. Also, he said he had gotten salty with the field reps for not doing the work they were so well paid to do, as well as with Marilyn for the same reason. He’s also accused of getting salty with a Board official one time.

Dallas said that when Marilyn ran against Debbie, she thought that Debbie was too into teacher development and not enough into teacher protection. I too had that criticism at first. Dallas says he doesn’t know what Marilyn is into because it hasn’t been teacher protection.

Vice President Dallas will work to get President Stewart out of office

Dallas told me, “I’m just going to do everything to get Stewart out of office.”

He believes that in the “trial” coming up before her “court” (in the royal sense, I feel) on Thursday, June 12th, Stewart wants to throw Linda Porter and Dallas out of the Union so that they would not be able to run against her in 2010. They would then not have the required uninterrupted membership (three years) in the Union to be slated for office.

Dallas says that even if he can’t run for office himself, he will work his hardest to help someone overthrow the misleadership of Marilyn Stewart.

Ted Dallas says he is now busy helping teachers file grievances that they could not get their Union field reps to help them with. Judging by the meeting he held at the Parthenon Restaurant last week that I attended, he has a large and loyal following.

While in 35 years of Union activism I have not had much in common with Ted because of my differences with the policies of the UPC, I do agree with him that Marilyn has got to go. She is the worst Union president it has been my grief to know.

Is it “Fight the Lies” or “Light the Flies”?

This UPC “Light the Flies” flyer (my spoonerism switching the first letters of the title “Fight the Lies”) absolutely has the Pam Massarsky style I’ve recognized over the decades, though I could be wrong. Whoever wrote this flyer, her nose must be growing longer and longer. Can you say “lying opportunist,” Pam? While some have become millionaires while working for the Union, I’m proud to say I’ve never taken a penny for my Union activism. I wonder if the writer of this leaflet — whoever it might be — was indeed the kind of a person who as a kid lit up flies (as in setting their wings on fire). I’ve always thought that some people looked the type.

It saddens me to hear that Consultant Gail Koffman will be retiring with finality at the end of the month. I had always admired her. It saddens me even more that one of her final acts will be to be one of two people pressing charges against Dallas in what seems to be a political move on the part of President Stewart. The other person pressing charges is Patti A. Walsh, still an active teacher, according to Dallas.

It’s a mystery, Dallas says, as to how these two people, especially a teacher out at a school, could have gotten hold of a Vice President’s receipts which go to an accountant for approval or rejection. He says they are questioning an amount of approximately $3,000 as questionable expenses. One of the contested receipts, he says, is his share of a dinner for supporters after a House meeting. The five officers split the expense of hosting these dinners at restaurants like Le Luce.

The House of Delegates should be able to scrutinize the expense accounts of all Union officers and staff, and I agree with Dallas that it should be brought to the House as an Item for Action.

Stewart lies about her own paid expenses

When Delegate Lisa Demberg asked Marilyn Stewart what the amount of her expense account was, Stewart cheesed to say that, unlike the other officers and the field reps, she didn’t have one.

Didn’t Stewart enjoy that lie by omission? I think she did a Bill Clinton word game there. She must have thought that there’s a way to manipulate the words so you can lie and claim you’re not lying. The truth of the matter is that unlike the expense accounts of the others which have a limit, Stewart has no expense account in that she can have unlimited expenses, according to Dallas; there are no limits on her expenses.

This kind of word play permeates the work of the Stewart administration. When a motion that Contract books be immediately given to the Delegates was made in the April House of Delegates meeting and was “deferred to committee” instead of being voted on right then and there, the committee’s response as printed in the minutes of the May packet was that “the motion was physically impossible, as the President did not have 1,000 copies of the contract book with her.” BA DA BOOM. Can we say Stewart has any respect for the Union members she serves?

Sources say that our Union dues pay $2,000 on her monthly car note and even the $40 for the On Star guide and emergency feature. With her base salaries from the CTU and the IFT and the annuities from both, Stewart makes $272,000 a year and should be able to afford her own car and On Star.

While Marilyn feuds with her officers and seemingly works a witch hunt for political reasons, Union work is not getting done. Maybe it’s a tradition with her. Her record as a school Delegate shows that she never filed one grievance, according to Dallas.

Other meeting items and events

The only Item for Action was to approve the endorsements for state senators and representatives in the November 4th, 2008 elections. Lobbyists Traci Cobb-Evans and Pam Massarsky moved that these endorsements be put on hold and made tentative until we could see how the senators and reps voted on the bill to extend the number of charters to 125 schools. Cobb-Evans has been accused of being a scab during a strike in the past, but has issued no denial, saying merely, “No comment.”

Lou Pyster, Retiree Delegate, again asked in the pre-meeting question period when the officer contracts would be available. Pam Massarsky said any member could come to the office and see the contracts. As Delegate Karen Lewis of King High School so cleverly said in her recap of the meeting to the members at her school, “The member who asked the question asks this at almost every meeting” because he has attempted to see the contracts for years whenever the UPC is in power. He had made a motion about this at the April meeting and there was no resolution written into the minutes presented at this meeting.

Bob Schubert, Delegate at Marquette School, also had a sharp retort to this Alice-in-Wonderland situation. “Which is it?” he asked. “You can’t have it both ways. Either the contracts are a private personnel matter as President Stewart said earlier this meeting, or the contracts can be viewed as we’ve been told over and over.”

Lou Pyster also asked, as he had done at the previous meeting, for an update of what had happened to teachers at the closed and turned-around schools. Dealing with the figures for some eight schools including the three schools at Orr High School, he asked what the Union was doing to save the jobs of 99 Probationary Assigned Teacher, 106 tenured teachers, and 30 Paraprofessional School Related Personnel before June 30th. He said that if displaced teachers don’t have a job by October 1st (not ,September as the Union officers keep saying), they are reassigned to 210 vacancies if there are any. These are interim positions because the principal can make a determination to let them go at the end of sixty days. When President Stewart said, “Louie, Louie, Louie, Louie, talk to me, Louie,” he told her to read the Contract.

He also brought up that the Contract has no language that keeps a principal from displacing a teacher whom he/she has not observed, contrary to how the House has been told multiple times that a teacher can’t be displaced without two observations, one by the principal.Koffman said that that was part of a grievance that had been filed.

Another Karen Lewis high note in her recap of the meeting: “People who work at the Union asked questions that required a simple look in the new contract book. [This is how they run out the time during the question periods and keep other questions from being asked and other Delegates from getting to the mikes.]

Dr. John Kugler of Hyde Park High pointed out in a private exchange that even when some of Stewart’s people are supposedly in line to ask a question (or merely taking up the space so someone else can’t ask a question), they won’t vote to extend the question period since questions make the leadership uncomfortable.

Safety and Security Coordinator Rick Perrote gave a special report on bomb threats. He said that no school should evacuate unless a suspicious package is found, as sometimes bomb threats are made in order to get students outside for a drive-by or “beat-down.” An emergency action plan binder must be in every school, and a handout should be in the main office instructing the person who receives the call on what to be able to note and tell the police about the call and the caller. It is very important, he said, to elicit as much information as possible from the person taking the call—gender, accent, background noises, age, voice tone.

Delegate Annette Rizzo of Lyon School spoke feelingly to Stewart asking her how she could justify those salaries and perks, and how she could justify paying out such “overtime” real monies to staff when the Contract she had just negotiated for the membership gave Union members cut-rate pay for overtime.

Union Coordinator (“Educational Issues”) Sandy Schultz announced that the copies of petitions to have an elected school board were at the front of the hall. We need approximately 43,600 signatures of residents of Chicago to sign these petitions. The signed petitions can be notarized at the Union offices.

To a question about principals being paid stipends for hiring younger teachers, it was explained that they are receiving stipends for hiring new teachers with no reference to age.

There was a complaint about the Dibels training program which told teachers to be creative in how they would work out the logistics of giving the individual test three times a year at twenty minutes for each student with the Board adding a second test next year. Could paper and crayons be provided? Stewart suggested that maybe these tests should be given on a teacher inservice day. The question period on the budget was extended once and the second motion to extend it was defeated. The meeting was adjourned at 6:30 p.m. before the usual official question/motion period could take place. No surprise. 