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Stewart ousts VP Ted Dallas while teachers are on vacation... CTU Purge Trial!

The only word for it was “purge.”

On August 19, 2008, after nearly two months of internal union wrangling (and court fights that are continuing), a majority of the members of the Executive Board of the Chicago Teachers Union invoked powers they had never claimed for themselves in the 75-year history of the largest union in Illinois, fired an elected officer, and kicked that officer out of the union.

What had happened?

On August 19, 2008, a majority of the members of the union’s Executive Board held a “trial” at the union’s headquarters.

At that “trial” they refused to allow the lawyer for the vice president to represent him.

At the “trial”, they refused to allow questions about hearsay evidence against Ted Dallas to be asked, let alone answers.

And then, following the “trial,” a majority of them voted to strip the union’s vice president of his office and kick him out of a union he had been a member of for more than three decades.

Such a “trial” has historically been called a purge, and that is what Substance will refer to it as.

Specifically, the majority of the members of the Executive Board voted to find CTU Vice President Ted Dallas guilty on charges that were brought against him by three union members — Gail Koffman, Leslie Barron, and Patti Walsh — who couldn’t explain where they had gotten the hearsay evidence they presented.

Nevertheless, the union’s “functional vice presidents” (each member of the Executive Board supposedly represents a group within the union) voted to strip Ted Dallas of his union office. For good measure, they also voted to expel him from union membership.

On August 20, Dallas returned to the union’s offices at the Merchandise Mart and was told that he would be arrested if he tried to enter his own office.

The following day, boxes of his personal possessions were delivered to his home.

The executive action to purge Ted Dallas was taken less than one year after the union’s president, Marilyn Stewart, had refused to count the “No” votes on a contract she had just negotiated (in secret even from most of her own team of elected officers) with representatives of Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley.

As the 2008-2008 school year begins, Marilyn Stewart continues to ignore demands from the majority of the elected delegates from Chicago’s more than 600 public schools for more transparency in union financial affairs. She no longer answers requests for more respect for the people whose nearly $900 per year in union dues pay her salaries (which by 2008 amounted to more than a quarter million dollars per year).

She is becoming more and more isolated in her offices, and avoids meetings in the schools for fear of questions she can’t answer.

Meanwhile, the administration of the Chicago Public Schools continues to move ahead with programs that will further deplete the union and strip the members of their remaining rights.

Ultimately, it is a question for history, as well as a political question today. Who had betrayed the 75-year history of the Chicago Teachers Union and “brought the union into disrepute” will be decided by men and women other than Marilyn Stewart and her dwindling number of supporters.

But as the 2008-2009 school year begins in Chicago, some facts and a great deal of analysis are in order.

Stewart’s version of the Executive Board decision

On August 20, a statement issued by Rose Maria Genova, publicist for the union, telling the press that Ted Dallas had been expelled from membership in the Chicago Teachers Union.

Stewart carefully avoided a press conference on the issue.

But it’s best to have the official statement in full:

For immediate release

August 20, 2008

CONTACT: Rosemarie Genova, Press Secretary

Office: 312-329-6250; Cell: 312-712-4629.

EXECUTIVE BOARD VOTES TO EXPEL UNION OFFICER

CHICAGO — The Chicago Teachers Union Executive Board late Tuesday [August 19, 2008] voted 24-2 to find CTU Vice President Ted Dallas guilty on allegations of financial impropriety and other related charges and then voted 31-5 to expel him from the union’s membership.

In coming to its decision, the Executive Board explicitly followed the procedures and guidelines outlined in the CTU constitution and by-laws. Board members stated they weighed the evidence presented, then made their decision with great caution and care to find him guilty of the charges. A second vote was taken to set the penalty, in which the Executive Board voted to expel Dallas from the union.

Dallas has been a member of the union since 1970 and was a former teacher at Wells High School in Chicago.

CTU President Marilyn Stewart stated: “It’s a sad time for those of us in the CTU. It is time, however, to close this chapter and move forward by dong the business of the union and educating the children of Chicago Public Schools.” Stewart concluded by thanking the members of the executive board for their “professionalism and integrity in this entire legal process.”

The same day, the group organized by Dallas and his supporters, issued their statement on the events of the summer, which had culminated in the “trial” of August 19, 2008.

According to a statement issued by the Coalition for a Strong Democratic Union (CSDU) and posted on their Website (www.csdu.org):

“Chicago, August 20 - Yesterday the Chicago Teachers Union held what it referred to as a trial to expel Vice President Ted Dallas from the Union. Mr. Dallas has been a member of the CTU for 38 years. Since beginning with the CTU, Mr. Dallas has held numerous elected positions, eventually rising to the second highest elected position in the union.

  “The charging parties, or “accusers,” called only themselves to testify to the charges. All three accusers are members of the United Progressive Caucus, including one who is currently suing Mr. Dallas in state court in a UPC-related matter.

  “The charges addressed yesterday were contained in a two-inch binder that also included numerous documents that were not authored by or involve the accusers, such as some of Mr. Dallas’ expense receipts and correspondence between Mr. Dallas and Ms. Stewart. During cross examination, the accusers admitted that they were not familiar with most of the documents in the binder and, in fact, were unable to testify where most of these had come from.

“The parliamentarian presiding over the hearing, who had been selected by a group headed by one of the accusers, would not allow Dallas to question the accusers about who had put together the binders with the charges. Three accusers admitted that none of them had done so.

“All three are represented by CTU attorney Larry Poltrock. During cross examination one of the accusers admitted that she had actually attended an event covered by one of the receipts in the binder and then claimed that it was a “mistake” that the receipt had been included in the binder. She admitted she became aware of the error earlier in the trial. She could not explain why she waited until being asked by Dallas during cross examination about the issue before clearing up the matter with the Executive Board. None of the accusers could provide any information about the circumstances relating to the other receipts, and had generally concluded that the receipts were improper without providing witnesses to support the claims.

  “One accuser admitted that she did not know Mr. Dallas personally and was basing her charges against him on his conduct at the House of Delegates meetings, even though she was unable to identify any specific reference in the charges to House of Delegates meetings.

  “The restrictions on Mr. Dallas’ questions continued as the charges included personal letters Dallas had sent to two Field Representatives in 2006. In order to show solidarity with the membership, Dallas and other CTU officers had been attempting to get support from professional personnel to agree not take salary if the CTU members went on strike. Dallas himself had agreed to forego his salary in the event of a work stoppage. The two Field Representatives, however, refused to forego their salaries. Dallas had strongly expressed his disappointment with the Representatives and indicated that it would affect his friendship with them going forward. The adjudicator did not permit Mr. Dallas to get answers to his questions about whether the accusers thought the Field Representatives’ conduct of not supporting the membership showed a lack of character or whether Mr. Dallas’ disappointment in their conduct was appropriate. Answers to these questions would have given context to Dallas’ letters.

  “Although the parliamentarian allowed the accusers to repeatedly make claims that Mr. Dallas’ conduct was “shocking” and implied that it was uncommon for officers to engage in this type of behavior, he refused to allow Dallas to ask questions about the conduct of others at the CTU. Such testimony would have established those statements to be untrue and the allegations pretextual. When Dallas tried to call on the accusers to testify on direct examination to present his case, the adjudicator refused to require the accusers to do so. Rather, he asked them whether they would “like to testify”, after which all three refused. The adjudicator also refused to allow Mr. Dallas or his counsel, Ruth Major of Penny Nathan Kahan, to go across the hall from the trial room to get witness Barbara Latta, CTU bookkeeper, to testify.

“According to the CTU Constitution and By-laws, the House of Delegates should have the final say on this issue.

• “Constitution Article VI, Sec, 1: Subject to the final authority of the membership, the general governing body of the Union shall be the House of Delegates.

• “Constitution Article XII, Sec. 1: This union shall not promote or permit itself to be used to promote and advantage for a particular group of its members.

• “By-laws Article IX, Sec. 1: the decision of the House of Delegates on Union matters shall be supreme and final. The House may consider and act upon any matter which it regards as pertinent to the purposes and activities of this Union.

“By-laws Article IX, Sec. 2: the House of Delegates ….may act upon pertinent matters brought before it in due order by any of its members.”

Case heads back to court

At Substance press time (Labor Day weekend, 2008), many of the facts of the case were still in dispute, including whether the CTU Executive Board has the power to do what it had done. According to a letter from the CTU Recording Secretary (see this page), the section under which the “trial” was held had previously only been used against scabs (people who had crossed the pickets lines of the union during authorized strikes). Yet the union president continue to assert (including in a letter to union delegates announcing the first meeting of the school year, scheduled for September 3, 2008, that the actions she had presided over were “legal” (as if they had been adjudicated).

For four years, Marilyn Stewart has refused repeated requests for interviews from Substance. Genova did not respond.

According to Ted Dallas, he is scheduled to return to court on September 3. Previously, a Circuit Court judge had taken the case, but refused to issue an injunction against the union because, at the time (early summer) there had as yet been no damages to Dallas.

During the court proceedings, according to court records, attorneys for CTU assured the judge that Dallas would not suffer any loss of position or other rights without an “appeal.”

The August 20 refusal to allow Dallas to report for work at the CTU offices was followed by notification from the union to the Board of Education that Dallas was not longer on leave as an employee of the union. As of the opening of school, Dallas was apparently one of more than 300 “reassigned teachers” awaiting assignment (or termination).

Groups organize to protest at House of Delegates meeting

During the summer of 2008, while most of the members of the CTU were on summer vacation, members of the various caucuses protested against the planned “trial” of Ted Dallas. At least three picket lines were held at the Merchandise Mart, despite attempts by Marilyn Stewart to use Mart security officers and Chicago police to bar union members from the union offices during regular business hours.

As the new school year loomed, each of the dissident groups in the union — Dallas’s CSDU, CORE, and PACT — were firming up plans for protests and other actions against the executive assertions of power over what had once been one of the most democratic unions in the USA. 



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