'Negotiations broken off!' Chicago Teachers Union announces following continuing attacks on union by Board of Education, ruling class hacks...

Surrounded by members of the "Big Bargaining Team" (which consists of rank-and-file union members from schools across Chicago), the officers of the Chicago Teachers Union announced on June 26, 2015 that contract negotiations had broken off following the continued insults and attacks on the union by Board of Education officials. Seated at the table during the press conference are (left to right), CTU attorney Robert Bloch, Recording Secretary Michael Brunson, President Karen Lewis, Vice President Jesse Sharkey, and Financial Secretary Kristine Mayle. Chicago Teachers Union photo.Less than four days after some officials of the Chicago Teachers Union were talking hopefully that the union might reach an agreement on a new contract before the June 30, 2015 expiration of the current one, CTU officials announced late on June 26, 2015, that negotiations had broken off because the Chicago Board of Education failed to bargain in good faith and was insulting the union's attempts at cooperation. The insults included the treatment of the union at the May and June 2015 Board of Education meetings, the attacks on teacher unions by the Board, and other things.

Despite the union's attempts at a showing of good will, the Board and City Hall continue with business-as-usual. At both the May and June Board of Education meetings, CPS officials helped charter school supporters pack the Board meetings with lurid and mendacious testimonials to charters, while ignoring the growing history of charter schools' corruption and mismanagement. By limiting the number of people who are allowed to sign up and speak at the Board meetings, the Board, led by President David Vitale and Vice President Jesse Ruiz, continues to promote charters. At both meetings, the Board approved additional charter expansion in Chicago, even in the fact of community opposition.

The most dramatic example of the Board's shocking disrespect for the union came at the Board's June 24 meeting, when Board officials called "Time!" as CTU Financial Secretary Kristine Mayle was speaking, then ordered CPS security to snatch the microphone from Mayle's hands as she was outlining a listing of expensive privatization moves the Board was making, despite the claim that the Board is broke.

During the June 24 meeting, the Board also kow-towed to charter school claims, with no Board member even questioning the almost silly claims of success from organized charter school people. Meanwhile, the Board members continue their attacks on the city's real public schools, which included disrespect shown to the people who have developed plans to utilize the Dyett school building in Washington Park.

Below, we publish the CTU statement, followed by two examples of corporate media reporting...

The official CTU statement follows:

Dear [CTU Member]:

Over the past two days negotiations between the Boards representatives and our Big Bargaining Team have been extensive. Throughout this process we have always bargained in good faith and we always hope and expect that the Board will make proposals that are reasonable, flexible, and forthright. However, today we learned that the Boards bargaining rhetoric is as empty as their bank accounts. The Board has explicitly declared it will not compromise on the issues most essential to our members. Therefore, we have not reached an agreement and negotiations have broken off.

What were asking for speaks to the very heart of our profession---which is being able to provide high-quality education for our districts 600,000 students.

Instead of making a deal with us, theyve made threats:

Threats to terminate 3,000 educators

Threats to increase our class sizes

Threats to eliminate our pension pick up

Threats to enforce $200 million worth of cuts

We are sick and tired of these punitive policies and directives from CPS. We are professional educators who have been asked to work 20% longer with 20% less resources.

As we send this e-mail the Chicago Teachers Union has just completed a press briefing. As soon as we have footage of the press briefing we will post it to the CTU YouTube channel. The essence of our position is that:

The Board has given up its most grievous position and no longer demands an end to our pension pickup.

In light of the fact that CPS is broke on purpose, the CTU has said that we are willing to consider a one-year agreement with the same steps and lanes as previously established without a raise in exchange for solid language that improves working and learning conditions.

The Board has refused to consider effective language on issues that would cost the district nothing such as: reduction of extraneous paperwork, grading autonomy, elimination of excessive testing, and more reasonable evaluation provisions.

The Board is unwilling to advocate alongside CTU for progressive revenue options that would ensure the rich pay their fair share for our schools. Instead the Board has only supported regressive options that take money from those who can least afford it.

Negotiations have broken off for the time being, but the CTU remains committed to good-faith bargaining and is willing to return to the table as soon as the Board signals it will move on important issues.

As always, we include rank-and-file CTU members as much as possible in the negotiations. On Tuesday, the CTU will hold a Tele-Town Hall with our members to update you on our situation. Stay tuned for details.

In solidarity,

Karen Lewis CTU President


Changes for teachers bring CPS contract talks to a halt, By Juan Perez Jr. and Bill Ruthhart, Chicago Tribune [Chicago Tribune, on line and in print, June 26, 2015]

Proposed changes to how teachers do their jobs and are evaluated led to a breakdown in talks between the Chicago Teachers Union and the school board, officials said Thursday.

The two sides had neared consensus on the broad strokes of a one-year deal that offered no pay raises. But CTU President Karen Lewis, who expressed optimism earlier in the week over the prospects for agreement, came out firing after subsequent bargaining sessions resulted in an impasse.

Initially, we thought we might be close to a deal. But today we have found out that their bargaining rhetoric is as empty as their bank account," Lewis said during a news conference at union headquarters.

"As of right now, talks have broken off," said Lewis, seated alongside union officers and other members of the CTU bargaining unit. "We thought we could get something done today."

A CTU attorney said it was unlikely that a deal would be reached by June 30, when the current contract expires. Tuesday is also when state legislators could take another vote on a measure to delay the deadline for a more than $600 million payment to the city teachers pension fund. Chicago Public Schools' grim financial situation has both sides in the contract talks prepared for the likelihood of budget cuts that include layoffs.

We are encouraged that both sides finally acknowledge that CPS is in a fiscal crisis and lacks the resources to provide additional compensation, and that is a step in the right direction," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement.

"We urge CTU leadership to come back to the bargaining table. After years of our academic gains, now is not the time to shortchange our children by eliminating evaluations for tens of thousands of employees or lowering teachers' performance standards."

CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey called Emanuel's statement "highly misinformed.

Teachers and other school employees have never asked for less accountability or the elimination of evaluation," Sharkey said in a statement. "His comment is designed to cover up his role in running the school district into the ground."

The union's decision to walk away from negotiations comes just two days after Lewis asserted both sides were "this close" to reaching an agreement, and word that the outline of a contract was in place circulated among union members.

Union and city officials said they had agreed to consider a one-year contract that would provide no pay raises or cost-of-living salary increases, and would require CPS to continue to cover a large portion of teacher contributions to their pensions.

A negotiating session stretched late into Wednesday night, even as the school board approved more than $1 billion in borrowing to help cover bills through next year, although budget cuts remain likely.

Emanuel has had regular and productive talks with Lewis in recent days, but the mayor and his team have been unwilling to bend on the district's teacher evaluation system, said a City Hall official familiar with the negotiations. The administration contends that its changes to how CPS grades teachers has led to improved academic performance.

We were extremely close to a deal, had been having positive conversations for months and both sides had really developed more of a partnership forged by, more than anything, the district's financial situation," said the official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the negotiations.

"But the mayor is not going to simply roll back important changes that have led to educational progress because the district is broke. He's not going to do that."

Sharkey cited four areas in which he said union leaders need to show we have something for our efforts.

We want to reduce paperwork, we want to assert teachers' autonomy over grading, we want to reduce standardized testing and we want to make the (teacher) evaluation system less punitive. None of them cost a dime," Sharkey said. "We would be willing to agree to a (pay) freeze if you could give us something concrete in these areas."

Despite the harsh rhetoric from the union, both sides made clear a bargain could still be within reach.

There's really not that much that divides us," the City Hall official said. "This is just a one-year contract that gives everyone space to figure out these major financial issues at the district."

Said Sharkey: "We're not picking up our ball and going home. That's not how we operate."


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