CTU ends House of Delegates meeting with controversial 'vote' after a quorum call... Vice President Jesse Sharkey calls out his 'resignation'!...

Was the budget legitimately passed at the June 2017 CTU House of Delegates meeting? That was one of several questions that came up during the brief meeting of the union's House of Delegates on June 7, 2017. Given that the union's elected delegates were supposed to be discussing a budget for the upcoming 2017 - 2018 fiscal year (July 1 - June 30), a major question was why the delegates didn't even get to discuss the vote until very late. [Full disclosure: I am a Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) delegate.]

The four officers of the Chicago Teachers Union are also four of the five officers of the "Chicago Teachers Union Foundation", which has been subsidizing the "community partners" of the CTU with grants based on the foundation's 501(c)3 status. At the June 7 2017 meeting of the union's elected House of Delegates, the officers tried to ramrod through the proposed union budget while overriding questions and in some cases demeaning delegates who challenged the spending priorities and statements of the officers. Although the union's delegates are supposed to debate an vote on the union's budget at the June meeting, the officers stalled the actual debate until 6:00 with other events, and then ignored a quorum call that should have ended the meeting before a vote on the budget. Above, the officers of the CTU: Maria Moreno (Financial Secretary), Karen Lewis (President), Michael Brunson (Recording Secretary) and Jesse Sharkey (Vice President). Photo from the recent City Club meeting at which Lewis spoke. I arrived at the June 7, 2017 CTU House of Delegates (HOD) meeting shortly after 5:00. The agenda states that there is a "pre-meeting question and answer session" to begin at 4:15 (the usual practice). When I arrived, I was surprised that pre-meeting question-and-answer was still in progress. This was being conducted as per usual by Vice President Jesse Sharkey. That question and answer session is generally scheduled until 4:45 before the official meeting begins.

But on June 7, 2017, the Q & A continued until almost 5:30. Apparently, everyone was waiting for President Karen Lewis to arrive at the meeting. Shortly upon her arrival, CTU President Karen Lewis called for a "special order of business." Instead of beginning the all-important discussion of the proposed budget, the delegates were ordered to being honoring politicians. This began with “acknowledgment of the work of Illinois State Representative Monique Davis.”

President Lewis pointed out among many other noteworthy accomplishments that Representative Davis had a 100% voting record for CTU. Monique Davis spoke to the gathering.

Then an official ceremony to dedicate the hall to Jacqueline B. Vaughn followed. Vaughn's name -- in huge lettering -- was revealed after giant coverings were removed across virtually the entire front top wall of the meeting hall. Vaughn died in January 1994. husband spoke to the June 2017 House of Delegates meeting.

President Lewis then changed the order of the agenda to give her what is called the "President’s Address." Her report consisted mostly of a review of many legislative and related victories, including helping elect Alderwoman Susan Sadlowski Garza to the 10th Ward of Chicago. When she spoke of Senate Bill 1719, Daniel Biss, Illinois Representative District 9, presently running for governor, was pointed out in the audience; he stood to cordial applause. [SB 1719 passed the House committee; it proposes to close “the carried interest loophole that enables ultra-wealthy hedge fund and private equity managers to avoid paying millions of dollars in Illinois taxes,” according to his website.]

President Lewis spoke of HB 1253, regarding collective bargaining rights. She then introduced and asked Illinois Representative Silvana Tabares, 21st District, to please stand to cordial applause.

When she spoke of the Speaker of the House, Michael Madigan, Lewis asked him to stand to the cordial applause. She noted that there was NOT “equal responsibility” for the budget crisis in Springfield, whatever anyone might think or hear on that account. Madigan's wife, Shirley, was also asked to stand.

The delegates, who had come to discuss a highly controversial budget for the union's 2017 - 2018 school year, were waiting patiently and applauding politely.

The offices of the Chicago Teachers Union at 1901 W. Carroll St. on Chicago's West Side have been home to the union for several months, but only in May and June 2017 did most union delegates begin to learn that the union does not own the offices the union's in. The offices are owned by a recently created entity called the "Chicago Teachers Union Foundation" which was created with the profits from the sale of the Fewkes Tower building on Chicago's Gold Coast. The "CTU Foundation" is a philanthropic foundation (a "501(c)3" organization), which supposedly means that the Foundation can bankroll dozens of the "community organizations" that support the CTU and also pay for the staff of some of the CTU Quest Center. With all that, the delegates from the schools demanded to know about the budget of the Foundation at the June 7, 2017 meeting of the House of Delegates -- and were berated by CTU President Karen Lewis and Vice President Jesse Sharkey whenever they tried to get clear answers.At approximately 6:00 PM, things shifted around as the first two rows of "reserved seats" for guests were cleared for the union meeting.

Many delegates also left at this time. I estimated approximately 360 remaining in the seating when the meeting resumed and the actual business of the meeting began. While the majority of the delegates arrive at the monthly meetings after having worked a full day in classrooms and schools across the city, the union's officers (and some staff) have spent their days preparing for the meeting.

Recording Secretary Michael Brunson gave a very brief report. A brief financial overview was given by James Gillmeister.

At the May HOD meeting, the proposed budget presented to the delegates had a deficit of approximately $700,000. There had been a great deal of discussion about the proposed budget in the schools and in the union's executive board during the previous four weeks. But the actual discussion with the delegates, who are elected to represent the union's 25,000 members from the schools, was still being postponed on June 7 as the clock continue to run and more people left the meeting.

The union's trustees were called to the stage. The union has six elected trustees, but never before in CTU history have they been included in the budget report and the June debates. The trustees basically took turns reviewing the numbers from an additional sheet attached to the tentative budget, noting budget revisions – revenue changes and expense reductions – that reduced the expected deficit.

Also listed on a sheet attached to the tentative budget were two expense increases. The trustees are Al Ramirez, Chair; Bernie Eshoo; Michelle Gunderson; Brian Holberg; Lois Ashford; and Tammie Vinson. They recommended that the HOD pass the budget.

The Q & A on the budget started with Theresa Boyles, citywide clinician, who sought information on the CTU Foundation. Delegate Boyles expressed concern for any CTU deficit. However, her question pertained to a budget shift in $380,000 paid to the Foundation for Quest Center salaries. The delegates didn't receive any information about the complete CTU Foundation budget, despite the fact that the Foundation was established with the assets of the union, and the union leases the union's offices from the Foundation.

How could that be the amount if the salary information she obtained for only two employees combined, Lynn Cherkasky-Davis and Walter Taylor, amounted to close to $500,000? Delegates and others had previously noted that Charkasy Davis, who is head of the Quest Center, is the highest paid person working for the Chicago Teachers Union.

President Lewis replied that CTU was not paying all of the salaries; the info there only represented a half year, not from the start of the year.

Jesse Sharkey informed the delegates that CTU dues money does not go to the CTU Foundation, and CTU does not use the money from the Foundation.

[Note: There appeared to be confusion with this issue. At another point, Vice President Sharkey appeared to say that if the Foundation did not exist, CTU would have lay-offs?]

Theresa Boyles asked if anyone would ever be able to see the Foundation’s budget. VP Sharkey spoke of by-laws that did not give the HOD voting power on the Foundation, only the officers could vote. He said that the Foundation’s 2018 budget was not yet ready. When Delegate Boyles asked about being able to see last year’s budget, one or two other delegates began yelling out “TIME!” because her 2-minutes were already up.

I estimated at some point during the Q & A that there were not more than 125 delegates remaining near this time. It should also be noted that at one point during the Q & A, President Lewis looked over the room and generally remarked on the need to get to a vote, using the word quorum.

Tom Lalagos, retired citywide delegate, criticized the AFT and asked about CTU expenses there. President Lewis stated that the expenses he referred to were for dues to the organizations we belonged to, and we needed to focus on the budget.

Frank McDonald, George Washington High School delegate, said he had two questions. President Lewis said he could only have one. He asked about the subletting of the Merchandise Mart offices where the CTU used to have its offices. He was told that basically the sub-leasing of the Mart space was not as successful as anticipated. He then asked did we have a back-up plan in case there were any CTU members laid-off.

A delegate named Gabriel [I did not hear his last name or school] spoke of the Shock Doctrine, with his point being he did not want to see any positions for organizers in CTU eliminated. He tried to make a motion, but VP Sharkey ruled that out of order, first asking if the “will of the body” wanted that, with the response being a negative.

Jim Vail, delegate from Hammond School, expressed concern with the possible lay-offs of school clerks if there were less than 300 students in a school, and was there a plan in the budget for that. President Lewis remarked that we were going to be doing a lot of door-knocking this summer.

Around the time I had been waiting at the mic, the time ran out. President Lewis asked if those remaining wished to extend the time. I could hear that the ayes had it, and she said so. But because there were challenges to this, those in favor were instructed to stand for a count. Approximately 65 ayes won. Q & A on the 2017-18 CTU budget would continue for 15 more minutes. The vote on the extension also made it clear that there was no longer a quorum at the meeting.

At the May HOD meeting, I recalled that VP Sharkey had mentioned that though the Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT) pays for a field rep for the purpose of assisting charter school teachers, CTU dues money had also been used.

I expressed concern regarding our own grievances not being taken to arbitration due to the expense. President Lewis responded that money was not the main consideration for grievances. My question also pertained to the CTU Budget Revisions sheet from which the trustees spoke. I noted that the sheet reported the following: “An increase to Other Income of $20,000, resulting from an ask for reimbursement from ChiACTS of certain CTU expenses made for their benefit.”

I asked if there was more than this from CTU dues. VP Sharkey said that if CTU field rep time was counted, the amount would be hundreds of thousands of dollars, which he thought to be worth it. As the clock for the extension ticked away, another delegate [I did not hear her name or school] spoke of the irony of CTU needing to furlough employees when we were against that for CPS; no one should be furloughed.

When there were comments from the seats, President Lewis pointedly asked if they wanted to donate their delegates’ stipend to help those laid-off. Two other delegates had jumped in front of Frank McDonald, who was waiting at a mic with a second question: Garth Liebhaber and a PSRP. When it was Frank McDonald’s second turn - one must cede the mic if someone who has not spoken yet wishes to speak - he quite clearly asked if there was a quorum. It was obvious that there was nowhere near a quorum present for quite some time.

Instead of following Robert's Rules of Order (which require the chair of a meeting to assist someone who wants to bring business before the meeting), Sharkey ignored what was clearly a quorum call.

At this point a mini-hell broke loose. [My notes are scarce and my sequence recall is a bit of a blurr because I ended up in the middle of it, so what follows is a gist. Others please need to correct or fill in the gaps in this account.]

VP Sharkey began shouting very loudly, some might say screaming, from the stage at Delegate McDonald. He was yelling about such as the need to pay his staff, and basically did Frank really want to shut that down?

A few began yelling out about the quorum. VP Sharkey quickly remarked something to the effect that McDonald only asked about not asked for a quorum count. Then VP Sharkey quickly asked/yelled out re the budget vote, “ALL THOSE IN FAVOR?” To which a large majority of the remaining delegates (under 100) yelled, “AYE!” A few “NO” votes were outnumbered. Yelling all around followed that.

Everyone who has studied Robert Rules of Order knows that if a person chairing a meeting wants to enter into the debate, instead of trying to follow the Rules by facilitating the work of the people at the meeting, he or she must leave the chair and take the floor. Sharkey himself has done this in the past, but instead of either helping McDonald make a quorum call or taking the floor for the debate, Sharkey called the question himself, took the vote, and then ended the meeting.

I went forward with, “Point of Information!” which apparently that should have been a Point of Order, but I was given a mic. I asked for clarification on what happened when a member asked about a quorum; I was concerned/confused as to why/how rules appeared to be applied here and there so differently at these meetings. There was more shouting from the seats. As I was walking out shortly after my point, basically all hell broke loose.

I am not sure what was being shouted from delegates remaining in the seats directed at the stage, but Vice President Sharkey yelled into the mic something to the effect of, “YOU WANT ME TO RESIGN?!? I TENDER MY RESIGNATION!!” and he stormed off the stage.

In addition to saying that he was resigning to the remaining people at the meeting, Sharkey also made the same statement to a group of delegates who had remained in the room trying to discuss what had just happened.

From the back, I needed to move to another room to speak with my field representative about another pressing matter. I do not know what happened after that in the hall.

[Full disclosure: This reporter, who has been writing for Substance for decades, is currently teaching and a union delegate at Taylor Elementary School on the far South Side. She has also been attending meetings of a new rank and file group called "Members First" which has been organizing to try and strengthen the CTU and contract enforcement in the face of what a growing number of the union's members and delegates consider ill-advised directions taken by the union leadership. Leaders of Members First include delegates Frank McDonald and Theresa Boyle. The group's meetings have included as many as 50 people, most of them dissatisfied delegates].


June 8, 2017 at 9:30 AM

By: Jo-Anne Cairo

HOD meeting

Thank You Susan, Yes they kept delaying in the beginning of the meeting, they did a second 45 minutes of questioning, Karen hadn't arrived, and the politicians hadn't come in for the first question session. But the rest you wrote was right on key.

Thank You Again.

June 8, 2017 at 6:39 PM

By: Edward F Hershey

End of Meeting

Adding a bit:

After Jesse Sharkey spoke about the need for a budget, and a few other said "quorum", Karen took the Mic. She said Frank asked about a quorum, did anyone want to make a quorum call. There was a beat for a few seconds, nobody went to the Mic to call quorum. Karen then called for a vote -- it was like 40-8 out of 100 or so left in attendance.

John Surwillo, delegate at Gage Park, shouted "that's BS" from the floor after the vote was taken. The delegate objected that leadership "rammed through" their motion, he contended that Frank had made a quorum call.

June 8, 2017 at 6:45 PM

By: Edward F Hershey


After Surwillo said that Jesse said something like: "you think I'm corrupt? Ok, then I resign" he then stormed off stage.

There was an audible "Nooo" from many in the House.

Michael Brunson then took the podium, and moved to adjourn.

I saw Jesse speaking to people in the house after the meeting.

June 12, 2017 at 3:35 PM

By: Jean Schwab


Susan- I was there and your account is very good. Jesse tried very hard to answer all questions and deal with everyone's concerns. I think that too much was planned for this meeting and we probably needed just a budget meeting. Many people said" no" when Jesse left the stage because they understood Jesse's desire to answer all the questions and when the person accused him of rolling over on the delegates it was clear to me that was not the case. He had spent a lot of time answering questions and many people had wanted to keep the discussion going while others wanted to leave. Jesse was angry about the comment about rolling over delegates when there was not a quorum. I felt the comment was uncalled for and the delegate did not appreciate the time and effort already given. Next time a whole meeting needs to be taken for the budget.

June 13, 2017 at 2:10 PM

By: Susan Hickey, LCSW

my take of the meeting

I disagree with you, Jean. He did not have to pull a tantrum, screaming, saying "I resign!' He gets unions dues to answer the questions and be patient. He most certainly wasn't when he was opposing UPC- not to say they were anything but needed to be questioned! The budget should have been given to delegates prior to the meeting so they can look it over. Doesn't CTU have a way to do that without anyone else seeing it? Or are they afraid that they would have opposition? The members have a right to ask for quorum or say whatever they want about the budget! I will be writing soon on how CTU leadership has lost support from most clinicians.

The stuff about the politicians I thought was done at the LEAD dinner in October which did not happen this year.

There was no asking of those delegates to stand who were retiring this year to be honored which I believe was wrong.

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