Sections:

Article

MEDIA WATCH: SCABUNE doesn't get it about how Chicago Teachers Union democracy works... The Chicago Tribune reminds everyone of its historical role as a union-busting scab herding reactionary entity that promotes SCABs into punditry and works to break unions...

Chicago Tribune pundit John Kass was a SCAB during the 1985 CTU strike against the Trib and thereby solidified his future with the scab news organization. By Easter Sunday, March 27, 2016, anyone who bothers to read the Chicago Tribune -- on line or in print -- knew that once again, the news entity that Substance used to call the SCABUNE is at it again. Both editorially and in its "news" columns, Chicago's most powerful scab entity was playing the GOOD TEACHER/BAD TEACHER game (again). According to the Tribune, a GOOD TEACHER is a SCAB, while any teacher who honors union picket lines is by the Tribune's definition, a BAD TEACHER.

In one recent editorial, the Tribune proclaimed that Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis shouldn't go around calling a SCAB a SCAB. Although Lewis was a bit soft on the question (she referred to the use of the term SCAB as "name calling", whatever that means from a union leader whose ability to be precise is legendary), once the CTU House of Delegates votes to do a strike, everyone is committed. Any worker who crosses the line is a SCAB. Period, and just about forever (even those who "reinstate" are never viewed the same by fellow workers...).

During the opening years of Chicago Teachers Union strikes (from the 1960s into the early 1980s, see the Substance articles on various strikes earlier this month and in our BACK ISSUES), the Tribune and other corporate media entities routinely sought out the dwindling number of scabs crossing CTU picket lines. It was how a person woulc get on TV. Corporate media, Chicago, always gave the scabs a brief moment in the media sunlight. But that didn't stop the strikes or weaken the powers of the union. (That weakening had to take place from within during the 1990s, the Tom Reece years, and into the early 2000s, especially the Marilyn Stewart years, but that era is ended now, too. Let's never -- NEVER -- forget that Marilyn Stewart hired a SCAB to be the union's lobbyist in Springfield, then tried to cover up the SCAB's union history!).

The Tribune's scab history goes way back, to even before the Great Depression, when the Tribune's rabid "isolationism" helped Nazi Germany along (by opposing U.S. intervention against Nazi Germany and its allies).

When members of three printing trades unions went on strike against the Tribune in 1985, the Teamsters Union refused to honor the picket lines, helping Tribune management to break the last unions at the notoriously anti-union media giant. Chicago teachers and other union workers supported the "CTU" (Chicago Typographical Union) and the other unions on the 1985 picket lines, while SCABs include Mike Royko, supposedly a voice of the working class, and the ambitious reporter John Kass.After Pearl Harbor (the Day of Infamy" on December 7, 1941) and Hitler's subsequent declaration of war against the USA, the war was finally on. The USA declared war against Japan, but not be fighting Germany directly until Hitler and Mussolini declared war on the USA. Only after that could Roosevelt be certain we could also be fighting Germany and the rest of the "Axis".

During those days (and before and later), the Tribune and its owner (then Colonel McCormick, today an equally reactionary bunch, most recently that Sun-Times guy), the Tribune was always looking for ways to undermine both New Deal, the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and the unions. The Tribune was also (as portrayed dramatically in Richard Wright's novel "Native Son") viciously racist.

Racism and rabid "nationalism" didn't begin with the era of Donald Trump, any more than reactionary economic policies began with the Reagan and Clinton years (or the era of Alan Greenspan, the Atlas Shrugged guy, as America's chief "economic" guru).

Those decades are today ancient history compared with the current era of union busting and scab herding on the part of the various owners at the Tribune -- and most other corporate media, not just FOX -- since the beginning of the Reagan years. The union-busting work of the Tribune in 1985 against the venerable (but weak) Chicago Typographical Union (another "CTU") and its allied unions is still remembered for its vicious scab herding.

Chicago teachers were marching and striking for the city's public schools as early as the first official CTU strike (1969, above). Chicago's corporate media, in 1969 all the way to 2016, urged teachers to show they cared about "the children" by crossing picket lines, and SCABs received spotlight treatment from many corporate media leaders. It wasn't until the 1990s that a faction of the union leadership went soft on strikes ("... don't use the S word," Tom Reece would say) and even soft on SCABs (CTU financial secretary corrected this reporter when I used the word SCAB during a meeting of the House of Delegates and said "replacement worker..." -- and not with irony!). The austerity version of Chicago and Illinois economics has been used to starve the city's public schools (and many other public services) since the CTU began striking in the 1960s (first with the 1968 wildcat and then after 1969 with official CTU strikes). And the scabs were in most cases rewarded, especially on the "editorial side." One prominent example today is John Kass, the Tribune pundit who kept his reporting job by crossing union picket lines in the 1980s. That act made Kass a prominent SCAB. It was also then that he began signing on to craft his version of "news" reporting to fit the Tribune's editorial slants. Long before he was slipped into the Mike Royko slot as a Tribune columnist, Kass was slanting the news in favor of corporate "reform", against the union, and railing against the rights of teachers. Kass's pseudo-working class posturing is actually the posing of a card carrying lifelong member of the petit-bourgeoisie. And, like so many of those white petit-bourgeois, Kass couldn't wait to move outside Chicago. After a few years of slumming as a renter in Logan Square, Kass decamped to the suburbs, from which he has been pontificating ever since. SCAB heave?...

And so, long after the Tribune's union busting work in 1985, in 2016 the Tribune doubles down on its union busting, pretending to support "education" while calling on teachers to scab on April 1, 2016. Taking up with the notion that those who voted against the April 1 strike in the CTU House of Delegates were therefore going to scab (it's never been that way in CTU history; once the union votes to strike, ranks close and picket lines are tight), the Tribune is banging the scab drums in its editorials and in its news columns. Before we note those, let's take a long look into history, not as far back as the Great Depression, but to the historically recent Tribune strike of 1985.

Back before Substance stopped putting out a print edition (last one, September 2012), our monthly "Sister Grim" column satirized, among much else, the SCABUNE. Over the years from the 1970s on, we were regularly reminded how the Tribune made sure the scab message was included in both its "news" reporting and its op eds and editorials. As late as 2013, we must remind our readers, the Tribune gave both its "news" (front page) and Op Ed space to the group within the CTU that opposed CORE. That bunch wiped itself out getting less than 20 percent of the vote in the contest for CTU leadership in May 2013. {Disclosure: This reporter is a founding member of CORE, a longtime CTU delegate -- currently representing retired CTU members -- and currently a candidate, again, for the delegations from Chicago to the conventions of the American Federation of Teachers, AFT, and the Illinois Federation of Teachers, IFT].

1985 TRIBUNE STRIKE SHOWED THE WAY...

NEW YORK TIMES REPORT ON HOW A DIVIDED UNION MOVEMENT LET THE TRIB BREAK THE CTU...

STRIKE AT TRIBUNE RAISES ANGER AT TEAMSTERS, By E. R. SHIPP, Special to the New York Times, Published: August 10, 1985

CHICAGO, Aug. 9 [1985]— While members of the country's oldest national union, the International Typographical Union, are voting on whether to merge with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, union printers here are striking against the Chicago Tribune, and teamsters are crossing the picket line.

The conflict has angered some labor leaders as well as the printers, mailers' union and pressmen's union, who began the strike July 18 over hiring practices, job classification and transfers all necessitated by changes in technology.

''There's a lot of hard feelings, a lot of grumbling,'' said Dennis Doyle, a pressman who is acting as a spokesman for the three unions, Local 16 of the I.T.U., Local 7 of the Chicago Web Printing Pressmen's Union and Local 2 of the Chicago Mailers Union. ''Some are saying, 'I wish I hadn't mailed my ballot back.' ''

A Fear for Loss of Identity

Proponents of the merger contend that the teamsters will bring more power to the typographers' union, but opponents contend, among other things, that the I.T.U. would lose its identity in a merger.

The truck drivers who deliver the newspapers here are members of the Teamsters' Local 706. They have said their contract prohibits strikes or other job actions in sympathy with other unions. Others, however, said the provision had not always been strictly observed.

No teamster officials here would discuss their decision not honor the picket line.

Edward F. Brabec, president of the Chicago Federation of Labor, an affiliate of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., said of the striking workers, ''Openly, they're saying, 'Oh, that's all right.' But I think they're pretty disgusted because there had been promises made.''

Out on the picket line under a broiling sun, Jesse A. Alston, a typesetter, said many of the strikers were upset that the teamsters' president, Jackie Presser, who supports the merger, did not intervene in the strike.

Disenchantment With Teamsters

''When Presser didn't really come through, that bothered some people,'' Mr. Alston said. Ballots on the merger question, which has been bitterly debated for two years, were mailed out to the typographers on July 8. More than 44,000 ballots had been returned within the first two weeks.

The ballots, which are still being returned, will be counted in Denver on Aug. 21, by the American Arbitration Association.

Mr. Presser has lashed out at Robert S. McMichen, the typographers' union leader, over the strike. In a letter recently sent to Mr. McMichen, who opposes the merger, Mr. Presser said the Tribune strike was a tactic to arouse ''anti-teamster sentiment'' in the election.

Strike Called Tactical

Mr. McMichen has said that the teamsters are not run as a democratic union; as an example, he said teamster members were not given an opportunity to vote on the merger question.

The typographers, one of the founding members of the American Federaton of Labor, would be expelled from the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations if the merger passed. The teamsters were expelled from the federation in the 1950s over questions of corruption.

Like other craft unions, the typograhers have found that technological advances have made many of their jobs obsolete, which has caused membership to decline. Plans to merge with larger, more viable unions, have fallen through in recent years.

At the Tribune, the 1,000 striking workers contend that at least 19,000 Tribune subscriptions have been canceled to show support for the pickets and that newsstand sales and advertising has declined markedly.

But Ruthellyn Roguski, a spokesman for the Tribune Company, disputed that. ''Essentially things are normal,'' she said.

Miss Roguski refused to comment on reports that the Tribune had brought in workers from other cities to help put out the paper.

Editorial employees at the Tribune are not unionized

CHICAGO TRIBUNE EDITORIAL (on line, March 27, 2016, in print March 28, 2016)...

On Tantrum Day, will teachers rebel against CTU?. EDITORIAL, Chicago Tribune, online March 27, 2016

Chicago Teachers Union executives have spent weeks whipping their members into a froth over this Friday's planned classroom walkout.

They've stoked members' anger over Chicago Public Schools' bid to phase out a generous pension deal the near-bankrupt district can no longer afford.

They've whipped passions over the district's decision to order furlough days because of a huge budget shortfall, and over its move to withhold a category of raises that's based on teachers gaining further education and experience.

Still, the vote in the union's House of Delegates to authorize the April 1 strike was a lopsided but far from unanimous 486-124. The Chicago Teachers Union voted in favor of a one-day teacher walkout on April 1 in an effort to push Gov. Bruce Rauner and state lawmakers to provide a new funding plan for the district. March 23, 2016. (CBS Chicago)

That's 124 union officials rejecting their leadership's proposed one-day strike. That's a big contingent of CTU delegates saying no, let's teach our students that Friday, not spend the day brandishing banners and hollering slogans in the Loop for ... what?

The hastily planned, unfocused Day of Tantrum that union leaders demand evokes a famous line in the 1953 movie classic "The Wild One." Motorcycle gang leader Marlon Brando is asked what he's rebelling against. "What have you got?" he retorts.

For those 124 union reps to stand against CTU leaders took courage. We applaud those delegates. We also hope their refusal to bow to leadership's student-cheating stunt will spread through Chicago classrooms. Most of all we hope they'll be working April 1 at their schools, teaching Chicago students who need all the guidance they can get.

Yes, 80 percent of members voting for a wildcat strike is impressive. But not as impressive as the 88 percent of eligible members who in December authorized union leaders to call a strike. This is a union usually in lockstep with President Karen Lewis. "This house is ready and united," Lewis said after last week's vote.

Is that so? Or, come Friday, will some gutsy educators put their classroom service to Chicago's children first? Will they defy their fellow members, and rebel against misguided leadership, perhaps by crossing picket lines?

That is, if they feel a need to protest, will they do so after they've devoted the workday to the kids who rely on them?

Extrapolate for a moment that 4-1 vote ratio across the district. The CTU says it has 25,000 active members but not all are educators. If the dissenters were paying more than lip service and if that ratio holds, some 4,400 of the district's 22,000 teachers would show up for class and teach students on April 1, instead of heeding the union call to "Shut It Down."

Why shut it down, the "it" evidently being Chicago? The CTU's stated motivation keeps changing. One sensible voice amid all the noise:"No effective teacher gives an assessment to students without explaining what success looks like," writes CPS teacher Ray Salazar on his blog, The White Rhino. "Yet we still cannot consistently — as rank-and-file members — communicate what policy or social or political changes will indicate success on April 1. ... An effective educator knows the pulse of his or her classroom. Yet ... the pulse of the rank-and-file membership seemed discounted."

Last week, after the vote, Lewis acknowledged the frustrations of members who question the strike. Some don't want to lose a day's pay; some are concerned about students who soon will start Advanced Placement testing.

Lewis conceded that some educators may cross picket lines. "We're hoping that between now and April 1 we'll have a chance to talk to them," she said. She was asked if those teachers who go to work Friday would be labeled "scabs."

"Can we not call people names yet?" she said, according to Catalyst Chicago. "They haven't done anything yet."

Talk fast, Ms. Lewis. You haven't made a compelling case to a significant chunk of your membership that this walkout is a smart move. You haven't told the educators how this will help students.

Because everyone knows it won't.

Those 124 dubious members also can do some talking. They can convince their colleagues that shutting classrooms out of pique at district CEO Forrest Claypool, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Gov. Bruce Rauner and ... "What have you got?" ... is shameful. That teaching kids is their calling and should be their priority.

Eventually, educators will get a new contract. They'll get raises and perks.

But children won't get back the day teachers rejected them. What kids miss can't be regained.

Call the grown-ups who come to work "scabs," Ms. Lewis?

No. Call them Chicago teachers.



Comments:

March 28, 2016 at 8:09 AM

By: Larry Duncan (ret. CWA 14408/Chicago Typo. Union Local 16)

Mike Royko

While visiting the Tribune Strike picket line in 1985 (I was member of Chicago Typographical Union Local 16, but not at the Tribune) we watched Mike Royko cross the picket line too.

March 28, 2016 at 8:43 AM

By: Larry Duncan (ret. CWA 14408/Chicago Typo. Union Local 16)

Mike Royko

While visiting the Tribune Strike picket line in 1985 (I was member of Chicago Typographical Union Local 16, but not at the Tribune) we watched Mike Royko cross the picket line too.

March 28, 2016 at 1:03 PM

By: Susan Hickey, LCSW

1985 Tribune Strike

You mentioned the Typesetters but not the other two unions involved in the strike/lockout of 1985. Another part of your article did have them listed in a reprint of a 1985 NY Times one. Although I was living in Wales at the time of the strike/lockout, I was following it due to personal interest. My father, a paternal uncle and a paternal great uncle (back then you got a union job through a relative and it was only white men ) were members of the Web Pressman Union Local 7. I grew up knowing union rules and regs as my father was a strong union man but politically extremely conservative- as was their union. [I remember in the 60's when I was in SDS- Students for a Democratic Society- that I told him that if Hitler was on the Republican ticket, he would vote for him, that is how loyal he was to the Republican party]

My brother told me after I came back here in 1989 how it went down for the pressmen. My father refused to talk about it. They were locked out and the Trib set dogs in the press-room to get them out. My father was on that shift. My father was a broken man and had to go back after the long time out in order to get his pension (he was 57 when it happened and I had a sister still in middle school at that time). My family had very little money and he was never the same. The union would give him picket line money which was about $100, i believe. My two uncles retired as they were past 60 (pressmen stayed at the job well past 65). I heard of how many of his friends dies prematurely from that strike/lockout.

What struck me when I used to go and visit him and my uncles underneath the Tribune Tower was how many of the men had a missing arm, hand or fingers. My dad pulled his back out once and broke fingers from the dangerous presses. The Trib gave them a good contract and I remember that their birthday was a paid day off which was unheard of then! He made a good wage once he became a journeyman which took years as they only were allowed so many and they would not retire! I could not get that the Trib was that generous as they were so anti-union in print. Little did I know they were ready to break the unions there during the Reagan period. I saw that mood in Britain with Murdoch and Wapping among other clashes with unions and the Conservative government under Thatcher.

At least my father would not buy a Tribune after that and he questioned his old political views.

March 28, 2016 at 5:59 PM

By: Rod Estvan

Preparing for a war, not one battle

I would suggest that Juan Perez’s article in the Tribune published on March 25 titled “Chicago Teachers Union walkout leaves some members weighting options,” was far more important than the editorial. The article by Perez discusses some of the confusion of CTU members over the April 1, day of action, also discussed in George Schmidt’s excellent article on the debate at the House of Delegates meeting on March 23. Unfortunately within the CTU there may be a belief that the April 1 action might somehow cause the CPS Board to back off some of its most outrageous proposals and prove militancy of the union to Rauner, Claypool, Emanuel, and possibly the entire ruling elite of Chicago.

The Tribune editorial is nonsense on many levels, because the vast majority of CTU members realize they can hang together or separately in the situation they face. Losing 7% of your income and steps/lanes is to put it simply a kick in the face. The question of crossing the line except for a few rare individuals is not real. The action being called by the CTU is not a “tantrum” as the Tribune editorial Board characterizes it, it is a mistake however because the union could face an extensive protracted strike in May that could effectively just end the school year. The union needs to adopt a strategy to prepare its members for a long, long strike not a show of militancy. I would rather see teachers each putting in each a day’s wage into a strike fund than handing it over to Claypool for this April 1 action.

Rallies and marching about banks is all fine and good, but preparing to maintain picket lines at schools into August is more important. This union is not just in a war for a contract, it’s in a war for its very survival with our anti-union Governor itching to take control over the district to show the Democrats how breaking a union is really done.

Before a war the General staff of an Army organizes forces for action, tactics is the employment and ordered arrangement of forces in relation to each other. The tactical level of war or a strike is the level of war at which battles and engagements are planned and executed to achieve objectives assigned to your forces. There will be many battles in the war the CTU is soon to face.

But union leaders, like military professionals, cannot ignore the human aspect of tactics. They need to seek to recognize and exploit indicators of fear and weakness in their enemies, and to defeat their enemies’ will. More than any other human activity, continuous combat operations against an intelligent enemy or a prolonged strike against this school district will likely take a toll on teachers, severely straining their physical, mental, and fiscal stamina. This creates the tangible and intangible effects of courage, fear, exhaustion, isolation, confidence, and anger on the part of strikers. A one day strike does not prepare the CTU membership for what could be coming, but like good soldiers the members will overwhelmingly close down CPS, then declare it a great victory. But the war is coming, and Chicago’s ruling elite intends on destroying the CTU, the first teachers union in our nation as a lesson to all who stand up against them in the midst of fiscal crisis.

March 28, 2016 at 10:52 PM

By: John Kugler

Talk is Cheap

There is a lot of armchair quarterbacking going on here, but as far as I remember, me and the brothers and sisters in the union offices now, are the ones that threw out the last do nothing union regime. Everyone else sat back and collected their checks. There was a lot of talk back then too.

We just won 8 out of 9 legislative races. Again lots of talk and grumbling.

Where were all of the educators and unionists that allowed us to get ripped off in the 80s and 90s in the "labor peace era" that got us in this mess? Now we are fighting to get out of. More talk.

Get off the couch to join the fight and stop second guessing our Union. The more of us there are, the less chance the ruling class has to win!

See you on the streets!

Előre

Dr. Kugler

March 30, 2016 at 11:51 AM

By: Edward F Hershey

R Gonzalez comment

Two delegates from Kennedy HS both spoke to the effect that their school was opposed to the union's proposed action. They said their opinion's reflected those of the school.

March 31, 2016 at 6:47 AM

By: George Schmidt

'R. Gonzalez' Kennedy HS comment removed...

Whenever we received a comment from a "reader" who doesn't provide our readers with his or her full name, as editor I write to that person at the email address provided. When we received a comment from an "R. Gonzalez" supposedly at Kennedy High School, I followed our procedure, telling that entity that I needed to hear from her within one day or the comment would have to be removed because it provided our readers with a false or partial name. We have not heard back from "R. Gonzalez" and cannot locate the entity, so that comment has been removed.

May 28, 2016 at 9:07 PM

By: Anthony Ehredt

1985 Tribune strike

Susan Hickey, I too remember it the same. My father was a Local 7 pressman and was on shift that night also. He told me about the dogs. He said they were trying to gather their stuff in the locker room as they were being chased out/locked out. My mother and I walked many hours with him on the picket line. That strike changed many lives forever. We eventually packed up, sold the house, and moved to Long Island because of it.

Add your own comment (all fields are necessary)

Substance readers:

You must give your first name and last name under "Name" when you post a comment at substancenews.net. We are not operating a blog and do not allow anonymous or pseudonymous comments. Our readers deserve to know who is commenting, just as they deserve to know the source of our news reports and analysis.

Please respect this, and also provide us with an accurate e-mail address.

Thank you,

The Editors of Substance

Your Name

Your Email

What's your comment about?

Your Comment

Please answer this to prove you're not a robot:

1 + 3 =