BOOK REVIEW: A look back at the 2012 Chicago Teachers Strike in a recently published book by Steven Ashby and Robert Bruno: 'A Fight for the Soul of Public Education (Part 1)'...
The news in Chicago about public education has been catastrophic: looking at every governmental level: federal with the appointment of an avowed enemy of public education, Betsy DeVos, as Secretary of Education; Bruce Rauner and the state government’s many ways they are implementing to starve Chicago Schools; and to finally Rahm and his puppets on the Board with his CEO Claypool stripping schools of every resource.
With this backdrop, Steve Ashby and Robert Bruno’s book, A Fight for the Soul of Public Education, recently came out which looks at the 2012 Chicago Teachers’ Union strike. I was one of the many participants in the strike and negotiations that were interviewed by the authors and their graduate students. The book should be mandatory reading for anyone who wants to examine why CTU is in the state it is in right now on a number of fronts that I will explain in this article and in a second one, compare the negotiations of 2012 and 2015 contracts as a participant.
For me, it was difficult to be impartial on one level as I was a participant in the strike from a number of levels. I was on the Big Bargaining Team as the sole clinician and was not a member of CORE, the faction that had won the 2011 election. I was a strike captain, a district supervisor, delegate and Chair of the Clinician Steering Committee at the time of the strike. Wearing many hats, gave me a unique vantage point during this period. In looking at the lead up to the strike and beyond, I am seeing it through my own experiences. I will first comment on that before launching into a critique of their synopsis.
As a social worker, I felt we were neglected by Chicago Teachers Union, and they did not know how to advocate for us for many years. It spurred me to become a union delegate and help teach the union what we do in the schools.
During the contract negotiations under Marilyn Stewart, who was CTU President from 2004 until July 2010, the various committees that represented clinicians including psychologists, nurses, speech pathologists and social workers decided to put together the three demands each of our groups had and presented them to the CTU Professional Problems Committee as ‘Clinician Article’ demands.
We added occupational therapists, physical therapists, vision and hearing specialists to our group demands as they did not have a union committee.
It was the first time we came together and CTU had to take notice. We managed to get some of our articles in the 2007 contract. For the first time, clinicians got a field representative to be a point person for our concerns. We have had three -- Larry Laughlin, Molly Carroll and now Dr. John Kugler.
It is important to remember this. Ashby and Bruno credited CORE as the ones who gave us the recognition. The CORE leadership certainly helped in making us more involved, but we clinicians did our own organizing prior to the election of CORE to CTU leadership. The Clinicians On the Move was our grass roots organization which hosted among other things a forum for the five factions running for CTU leadership in 2010. I am sure it did not help Marilyn Stewart from UPC (United Progressive Caucus) in her bid for CTU President. You can see the forum on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hpB-ZmaXFrk).
The book does a very good explanation of the number of state legislative actions that were to haunt CTU leadership during the 2012 strike and contract -- and now the latest, 2015- 2016 contract negotiations.
The book lays out the different pieces that were put into place that would cause the erosion of public education. The charter school movement is embraced not only by the Republicans but the mainstream Democratic Party has done much to damage public schools. If you think about Obama choosing Arne Duncan, one of the inept CEOs of Chicago Public Schools, as his Secretary of Education, you can see how Democratic Party politicians helped undermine the existing schools for the sake of "choice"!
What is difficult to read is how badly Chicago Teachers Union dealt with this attack on public education under Marilyn Stewart. Karen Lewis also signed off on damaging legislation, SB 7. The book goes into detail about the way the legislative negotiations went using notes from Illinois Senator Kimberly Lightfoot along with interviews of those present in the meetings (Ashby & Bruno , 2016, pp.88-104).
The book goes into the reasons why Marilyn Stewart and the other members of UPC lost the 2010 election, but there are some worrying signs that the union is experiencing the same problems now.
In the book, the authors talk about how the CTU leadership under Marilyn Stewart was out of touch with the rank and file (Ashby & Bruno, 2016, pp. 60-62).
Today, there is the same conversation in schools as there is a growing despondency among CTU members about the latest contract that was negotiated. The CTU leadership insists that it was a good contract with gains made for members.
This article will end with the following comparison of the 2007 contract brought to the House of Delegates with the recent one in October 2016. When the authors were describing how Marilyn Stewart gave the House of Delegates only three hours to look at the contract in August 2007.
As reported by Susan Zupan on Substance: On Wednesday, October 19, 2016 the House of Delegates (HOD) officially held 17 minutes of debate for the TA (the "Tentative Agreement").
When motions are made at HOD meetings, the clock automatically sets for 15 minutes of debate. Delegates for and against motions stand in front of microphones; usually there are four mics, but there were only three for the special HOD meeting held at the Holiday Inn Mart Plaza located downtown, just west of the Merchandise Mart at 350 N. Orleans Street (Sauganash Ballroom, 14th floor).
When HOD motions are considered, motions to extend debate can continue in 15-minute increments. If both sides of a debate (for and against a motion) have been presented, at least one from each side, what more-often-than-not happens is that someone “calls the question.”
Unfortunately what has been happening for a while now under CORE leadership, gradually until it has become something of a custom again -- again, because this is what occurred under previous CTU administrations as well –- the questions often get called after a series of cheerleader perspectives in favor of a motion while only one perspective in opposition has been heard.
In fact, it is rather an exercise in futility for delegates to line up at the mics seeking a chance to speak regarding motions at HOD meetings, and especially “against” if that one voice against has already officially been heard. Unless a delegate is in the first mic positions, chances are overwhelmingly against getting a chance to speak before the question is "called."
During the first 15 minutes of debate for this special HOD meeting on the TA, both sides were represented: four speakers were in favor, and four were against. At the special HOD meeting on the TA, the House appeared to split roughly 50/50 on a vote to extend debate; this was done via the voice-shouting vote of either “AYE!” or “NAY!”
President Karen Lewis made the judgment that the ayes had it, thus extending debate. There was a ruckus heard from the floor, as those who do not wish to debate anything moaned for even this one extension regarding the TA. Vice President Jesse Sharkey, who deferred some issues from the pre-meeting Q & A session held prior to the official start of the meeting, stating at that time that some issues would certainly be discussed further during the debate period, sounded almost pleading when he pointed out that this was a ruling of the chair and as he requested that the debate just please continue for a little longer.
However, after one further speaker was given her two minutes as per custom, Big Bargaining Team and CORE Steering Committee member, Michelle Gunderson, delegate at Nettlehorst Elementary School, called the question when she got her turn in line at a mic.
[News, S., & reserved, A. rights. (2016, October 23). Zupan on the contract. Retrieved February 15, 2017, from http://www.substancenews.net/articles.php?page=6561§ion=Article]