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Board wants a strike? '... As we entered the room to resume negotiations today, CPS immediately withdrew the ... extension proposal without bothering to hear the Unions response, and now falsely suggests that we were at impasse...' CTU responds to lies as Board of Education withdraws contract offer

By August 7, 2015, it became clear to the 400,000 students and 25,000 teachers in Chicago that Mayor Rahm Emanuel's new "team" was filling the air waves with bullshit, as discussed by Jon Stewart on the final showing of "The Daily Show," and giving collective bargaining a typical Rahm "Fuck You!" Above, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announcing the new leadership at Chicago Public Schools. Left to right: Rahm Emanuel, Frank Clark (new president of the Board of Education and formerly Mr. Bullshit about school closings); Forrest Claypool (who undermined the services of the Chicago Transit Authority and then destroyed the viability of Chicago's parks during his privatization years as head of the CTA and Chicago Park District); and Janice Jackson, whose "doctoral" writings are now the subject of laughter across the city's schools as she pushes the silliest merit pay and merit principals proposals of the ruling class that proclaimed her a "star". In an unprecedented communication in the history of collective bargaining between the Chicago Teachers Union and the Chicago Board of Education, the CTU on August 7 issued a press release containing the letter that the union's lead counsel, Robert Bloch, had sent earlier to James Franczek, the lawyer handling negotiations for the Board. Since the CTU began negotiating with the Board in 1966 and 1967, never has the union faced such a campaign of mendacity and public nonsense.

At a grim press conference at the union's Merchandise Mart headquarters, union president Karen Lewis blasted the Board's lack of good faith and suggested that the Board was trying to force the union into a strike by demanding a pay cut. The so-called "pension pickup," which has been part of the union members' compensation package since 1981, is now, according to CPS rhetoric and the mayor's office, off the table, and according to some union sources, the Board will simply stop paying the pension pickup with the first staff payrolls in September 2015. The result will be an immediate real pay cut of seven percent to all teachers.

The Board's actions actually surprised the union's leadership and most of the membership. The union immediately dispatched an irate letter from the union's top lawyer, one goal of which is to keep the collective bargaining open.

LETTER FROM CTU ATTORNEY ROBERT BLOCH TO BOARD ATTORNEY JAMES FRANCZEK...

Mr. James C. Franczek

Franczek Radelet P.C.

300 South Wacker Drive

Suite 3400

Chicago, IL 60606-6785

Dear Mr. Franczek:

The Chicago Teachers Union has directed that I promptly respond to the maliciously false letter you issued today purporting to justify the decision by Chicago Public Schools to precipitously withdraw from its proposed one-year contract extension.

The misstatements in your letter are profound and disturbing. As you know, our last meeting on July 30 ended on the verge of an agreement pending resolution of two issues. President Lewis then met with the Mayor on August 2 to hear the Mayors concerns. As we entered the room to resume negotiations today, CPS immediately withdrew the entire extension proposal without bothering to hear the Unions response, and now falsely suggests that we were at impasse.

How far were we apart? The Union had proposed that for one year a small subgroup of tenured teachers be added to the much larger group who, in the event of economic layoffs unrelated to pedagogy, would be laid off in order of seniority. Already, CPS currently provides over 80% of tenured teachers such protections. To contend that this small addition for a single year would irreparably undermine the effectiveness of our evaluation system is flatly untrue though we had not in any event concluded our negotiations on this subject.

And the remaining issue?

The Unions proposal that CPS commit $10 million to a community-based anti-violence initiative at 20 local schools - a proposal your team heartily endorsed from the moment it was raised, and required only agreement on where to secure the funding. You now call it an issue that divides us, but you know better.

Your misstatements continue with the false claim that we disagreed over matters about which total agreement was already achieved. Most particularly, you claim we have disagreement over pension pick-up, when you know that CPS had proposed, and the Union had agreed, that CPS would maintain the pension pickup for another year. How can you claim this issue divides us when the CPS itself proposed to maintain it?

CPSs tragic shortcoming over the years has been its penchant for distortion and deception, and its well-earned lack of credibility in all corners of this State. Regrettably, once again CPS proves true to form in making more specious claims to support its perceived short term interests.

Sadly, CPS walks away from agreements that the Union was prepared to accept and submit to membership ratification, including no increase to base salaries, a commitment to achieve significant healthcare cost savings, mutually agreed reforms to evaluation practices, grading practices and student testing, plus CPSs promises not to unilaterally open new charter schools, not to close more neighborhood schools or to impose disruptive school turnarounds agreements CPS now throws out the window.

After four months of bargaining over an extension agreement that CPS requested and proposed to the Union, it has evidently decided to seek confrontation rather than compromise, setting us directly onto a collision course. We have no doubt that CPS will now seek to impose a 7% educator pay cut, destroy more neighborhood schools, and continue its ranking and sorting of teachers and children by unproven educational methods all at the expense of CPS students and the dedicated professionals who educate them.

Sincerely, Robert E. Bloch, CTU General Counsel

TRIBUNE STORY, ON LINE AND IN PRINT, AUGUST 8, 2015:

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis said the district's withdrawal of a one-year contract offer was "disingenuous, disturbing and destructive" and called efforts by the city to have teachers pay their full pension contributions "strike-worthy."

The district's decision essentially hits the reset button after months of talks. Both the union and Chicago Public Schools officials agreed to resume work on a new contract next week.

At a news conference Friday [August 7, 2015] at CTUs Merchandise Mart headquarters, Lewis repeated her belief that agreement on a one-year contract had been within reach.

If (district CEO Forrest) Claypool and the mayor are telling the citys public school educators to go on strike, then they should just come out and say it, Lewis said. Otherwise we expect the Board to honor its agreements and work with us to give our students the schools they deserve.

The district on Thursday [August 6, 2015] said it would begin a push for a multiyear deal. Before that, both sides had said they were working toward a one-year deal with no across-the-board salary increase but some bumps based on seniority and experience. A major point of dissension was the union's desire to protect more teachers from layoffs based on performance, according to letters exchanged by attorneys for the two sides.

New Chicago schools chief calls for teacher concessions

A bigger issue going forward may be the city's desire to have teachers pay a greater share of their pension contribution. Under the one-year offer, the district had agreed to maintain the long-standing practice of paying the lion's share of teachers' contributions to their pensions. Teachers have been paying only 2 percent of their total 9 percent contribution.

However, Claypool said earlier this week that he doesn't see a long-term solution to the district's budget crisis that doesn't involve the teachers covering their full share.

Lewis said Claypool has "apparently directed CPS not to honor the deferred payment pickup, (and) will impose a 7 percent pay cut in an effort to force us into another strike."

"I'm saying that to take a 7 percent pay cut is strike-worthy," she said. "That is not acceptable to our members. No one has agreed to that."

The union has not taken a strike authorization vote, though it can at any time. However, a number of legally required steps including mediation have to come before any walkout. That means a strike couldn't occur until late fall or winter at the earliest, CTU officials acknowledged Friday.

Whether a work stoppage happens this school year "will be decided by our members at the appropriate time," Lewis said.

The district said talks reached an impasse over proposed changes to how teachers' work is evaluated.

"We will continue to negotiate in good faith at the bargaining table to reach an agreement on a broader and longer contract that is beneficial for our children, their teachers, the taxpayers and the entire system," district spokeswoman Emily Bittner said in a statement Friday.

The city agreed in the 1980s to indefinitely pick up most of the teachers' pension costs in exchange for lower pay raises. The union has said removing that agreement would amount to a 7 percent pay cut.

According to district records, the 9 percent employee contribution totaled nearly $164 million in the 2014 fiscal year. CPS, according to its financial records, picked up about $127 million of that amount and paid $613 million for its own contributions to the pension fund.

Despite the setback on contract talks, Lewis sounded optimistic about prospects for a deal.

"If we come to an agreement, then there's no strike," she said. "So that's the whole point. Here's the deal: We will eventually land an agreement. It will happen, you know? It will happen. So I think we need to look long-range at how that's going to work, and short-range benchmarks along the way."



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