UNION NEWS: Cult-like New Age mystical nonsense begins to dominate CTU Executive Board soirees instead of attention to the functional groups represented by most of the Board's 'vice presidents'...

Despite all the talk about how the old Chicago Teachers Union calendar date book was "too expensive" for the union's supposedly increasingly fragile budget to endure, other reasons for withholding basic information from the membership are much more logical an explanation than the ones so far given by the current leadership. Among those are the fact that the leadership has gone out of its way to restrict communications among CTU delegates (see below) and now doesn't want the members to know who their "functional vice presidents" are as the crises (that's a plural) in the schools grow with each passing month.

How holding a photograph of Prince will help the leaders of the Chicago Teachers Union better represent the interests of the union's dwindling number of members has not been revealed by the union's officers, but the "special meetings" of the union's Executive Board have not been dominated by a discussion of the many problems plaguing the union's functional group members.One of the main functions of the calendar date book over the decades was to inform the members where to find their "functional vice presidents." Under the very democratic (and unusually transparent) rules of the CTU, each "functional group" has been electing a "functional vice president" to represent the members on the E Board. The functional vice presidents are elected at the rate of one per every thousand union members in that functional group. As a result, if there were 18,000 elementary teachers (once upon a time there were) in the CTU, the CTU would have 18 elementary functional vice presidents. Their job was to bring regularly to the E Board the major concerns of the members of that group. Similarly, the VPs for the high schools and other groups were tasked to do the same. The result was supposed to be that the E Board regularly set the agendas for the meetings of the House of Delegates based in a large measure on what was hurting the members in those groups.

Slowly, since the CORE group (of which this reporter is a dues-paying member) took over, the E Board has been more and more cut off from its base and tasked instead with representing the whims of the union's leadership "downward" to the members. At least in the days of the calendar date book, the union's rank and file members in the schools were able to locate and communicate their concerns with their functional vice presidents. All of their names were listed in the front of the calendar date book.

It was also true for most of the CTU history that the members and school delegates could communicate directly with other school delegates because the union, annually, published a directory of the delegates, listing (unless the delegates specifically requested otherwise) the home phone number of each delegate and every other union leader. During the four decades that this reporter represented various schools and finally retired members in the HOD, I always listed my home phone number, as did the vast majority of the delegates (as a review of the old directories shows). The notion that delegates needed to keep their home phone information (or more lately email information) secret from the members was not a thought that was usually given when the roots of democracy were strengthened each year with the publication of the calendar date book and delegates' directory.

The current CTU leadership has abolished both roots of union democracy, just as they have decided that the union should hire workers for the union's central offices who have no experience as local school delegates (for decades it was unthinkable that someone would get a union job without first apprenticing in union work as a local school or functional group delegate).

But even with those traditions at least temporarily abolished today, it was still unthinkable that meetings of the executive board, instead of listing the major concerns from the functional groups, would be transformed -- perhaps a better term would be "transubstantiated" -- into mystical seances where the E Board sits in a circle and communicate using magical objects which are provided by a union staffer with little local school experience and less interest in getting to the roots of the problems being raised from the schools.

At recent "special meetings" of the CTU Executive Board, the members have been made to sit in a circle like a Southern California cult (EST-like perhaps) and pass around some significant object, which they are supposed to talk about as to how it affects them. Several EBoard members (and observers) have confirmed that a number of these seances have taken place in recent months, and that among the objects of veneration distributed was a photo of Prince.

Instead of having special E Board meetings to discuss, say, the major concerns of the members in each of the functional groups, the current top-down version of unionism practiced at Carroll Street is tilting towards what more and more E Board members (anonymously for fear of retaliation) laugh about as a strange kind of veneration. Substance will continue to try and learn why a photo of Prince is a better way for the high school "functional vice presidents" to represent high school teachers, and we will report on our findings as they arise.


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