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Coalition for a Strong Democratic Union (CSDU) picks up pieces of defunct United Progressive Caucus (UPC)

Not since the 1960s had the Chicago Teachers Union seen anything like it. Not since the early battles between 1964 and 1969 over collective bargaining and racial segregation in the certification and hiring of Chicago teachers has the Chicago Teachers Union included in its ranks so many experienced activists divided into so many different groups and caucuses.

And it appears that the caucus that was once dominant within the largest labor union in Illinois — the United Progressive Caucus (UPC) — died during the Spring and Summer of 2008 because its leaders had so betrayed their own loyalists and the rank-and-file of the union.

Following a major struggle within the United Progressive Caucus (UPC), supporters of CTU Vice President Ted Dallas formed a group calling itself the “Coalition for a Strong Democratic Union” (CSDU).

During August 2008, CSDU launched a professional Website (csdu.org) to augment its organizing against the attempt by CTU President Marilyn Stewart to kick Vice President Ted Dallas out of the union. By the week before school began in Chicago, the CSDU Website was one of two places where teachers could go for accurate information about the squabbles within the union that had dominated the union’s staff and officers for months but were largely unknown to the union’s nearly 30,000 dues paying members.

CSDU evolved from a group that called itself the “United Progressive Caucus” for a few months as former members of the UPC battled in court over who would control the caucus bank account. When CTU President Marilyn Stewart originally began trying to strip the union’s Vice President of his powers (see the numerous articles in Substance beginning in February 2008, at www.substancenews.net now on line), the situation became difficult within the union’s offices and for the UPC. Despite the fact that in May 2007, the UPC had swept Marilyn Stewart and the UPC slate into office with one of the greatest margins of victory in CTU history, but May 2008 the UPC had, in effect, ceased to exist.

Early in 2008, the UPC, according to some reports, still had more than $30,000 in its bank account. According to informed sources who asked to remain anonymous, UPC had spent more than $100,000 in its May 2007 re-election bid, but still had a formidable war chest. As 2008 began, the UPC officers were Ted Dallas, chairman, and Linda Porter, treasurer. Once Marilyn Stewart began purging Dallas from the union leadership, her supporter also tried to purge him from the caucus he had helped build. But all of the caucus financial records were still in the names of Dallas and Porter, so Stewart called a meeting (attended mostly by union staffers dependent on her for their jobs) and proclaimed that the UPC was now her group. The three new officers of the “UPC” were Rick Perrote, Sandy Schultz, and Leslie Barron. Only Leslie Barron was not a paid CTU employee.

Perrote, Schultz, and Barron sued their former colleagues, demanding control of the UPC finances. After months in court (and considerable legal expenses; who paid is not yet clear at Substance press time), Dallas and Porter refunded the dues to all UPC members. Dallas told supporters that the UPC members who had paid dues during 2007 had done so to a different entity from the one that Marilyn Stewart was creating in 2008.

With the collapse of the UPC finances, the UPC ceased to exist on line, in the schools, and for most of its former members — except among those who had been elected to serve as delegates to the national union convention in July 2008 and the Illinois convention the following year.

By the end of May 2008, after Stewart’s supporters filed charges that ultimately led to the ouster of Ted Dallas, the UPC was a shell of what it had been one year earlier. A lawsuit filed by some UPC members for control of the caucus bank account had resulted in a settlement that led to a refund of UPC dues by Ted Dallas and Linda Porter to all UPC members.

Meanwhile, Dallas began working with a group of people — some of whom had been UPC members and others of whom had been independent — to begin a new caucus. During June, July and August 2008, members of the new group constituted themselves as the “Coalition for a Strong Democratic Union” (CSDU) and launched a highly praised Web site (csdu.org). The were joined by members of two other CTU caucuses (the newly formed CORE and the PACT caucus which had been headed by Deborah Lynch since 1996).

As the 2008 – 2009 school year began, most members of the Chicago Teachers Union — including most delegates, it is assumed — were without regular information about the internecine warfare that had wracked the union for months. But as the first week of school (and the first union meeting of 2008-2009) unfolded, there were three, and perhaps four, factions vying for power and attention within the 30,000-member Chicago Teachers Union.

CSDU included many former UPC members and was chaired by Ted Dallas.

PACT included many of the supporters of former CTU President Deborah Lynch and was still chaired by Lynch

CORE (the newest group) included a larger number of young teachers and delegates than either of the other two, and was chaired by Jackson Potter, who now teaches at Little Village High School, School of Social Justice (small school).

More groups may emerge as the 2008-2009 school year evolves. And the remnants of the once-powerful United Progressive Caucus may emerge from its roots inside the bureaucracy that runs the CTU. 



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