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CTU financial mismanagement and lack of transparency in political spending and endorsements addressed by CORE leaders in open letter

Financial mismanagement and the lack of transparency in political spending and the endorsement processes in the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) are addressed in an open letter released on May 14 by a dozen active CORE members.

Some of the leaders of CORE (celebrating the caucus's 2013 election victory on May 17, 2013) are signers of the open letter to members. Substance photo by George Schmidt.The authors, who are still endorsing CORE in the May 17 CTU election, include CTU delegates and other elected officials, as well as some of CORE’s founding members and current steering committee members. One of the signers of the letter, Drew Heiserman, a CTU Trustee, said he “expects the letter to ruffle a lot of feathers among the CORE faithful, especially since we are three days from an election,” but that sending the letter was a way for the group to try to “right the CORE ship.”

“We have tried many different times and within multiple settings to raise our concerns, and have met more opposition and vilification than would be expected in a caucus and Union that promote transparency and union democracy as much as we do,” Heiserman said. The letter, signed by 12 active CORE members, follows.

Dear Chicago Teachers Union Members, We the undersigned are union members, members of CORE, and activists in our schools. Some of us are currently serving on leadership bodies of the CTU and are running for elected positions with the CORE slate. We have decades of combined experience fighting for better schools and a stronger union, and some of us are co-founders of CORE. We are endorsing the CORE slate in the 2019 leadership election and urge all members to vote for the slate in order to register their support for organizing a strike-ready union that’s fighting for a strong contract.

We think a Members’ First victory would set the union back in negotiations and represent a move away from a fighting approach. While we respect many of the individuals in MF, and intend to continue working alongside all our union brothers and sisters, we do not believe they have the vision or the commitment to stand up to the bosses and win the schools our students deserve.

However, we recognize that many members are concerned about the direction of our union under the current CORE leadership team. We share many of those concerns. We are deeply sympathetic to members who feel that their working conditions, which are our students’ learning conditions, have been getting worse for years. As active rank-and-file teachers, clinicians, PSRPs, and school workers, we have experienced the bullying, the disrespect, the micromanaging, and the intense pressures and workloads personally.

We are not content with the state of our workplaces or the past contracts won. To be frank, our union has suffered a number of defeats in the past years. We know how damaging the REACH evaluation system is. We understand how Student-Based Budgeting and the School Rating System hurts members and students alike. We have labored under the longest school day and school year. We suffered through furloughs, skyrocketing healthcare costs, and the loss of raises.

We fully recognize that the author of our worsening conditions is the 1% and the political establishment of both major parties, who have rained down attack after attack on public education and unions everywhere. We are members of CORE precisely because of the major role CORE had pushing back against this neoliberal assault. We are proud of the organizing for the 2012 strike, for the resistance to testing, school closures, punitive evaluation systems, and the call to join our union fight with the broader needs of the communities where we live and work.

However, it’s our contention the current leadership has made a series of mistakes that have deepened the defeats and taken us off the road to fighting back. One of the most concerning was the top-down decision of this leadership to call off a strike in 2016 accepting what we consider a weak contract. We also believe our union has not done a sufficient job defending members and our contract in the buildings and that leadership has become too far removed from the everyday abuses we experience. In addition, we are in deep disagreement with our leadership’s turn towards funding Democratic establishment politicians, like our endorsement of Toni Preckwinkle, with the aim of buying influence and cutting deals. We believe that we need an electoral strategy that challenges the status quo, but to win gains we need to rely primarily on the power of our members and the broader communities we work in.

Alongside these errors, this leadership has seriously mismanaged the internal finances of our union.

As CORE activists and in our capacity on union leadership bodies, we have been raising these concerns for some time inside CORE, on Executive Board, within the Trustees, and among fellow union members. The drafting of this letter was not our first recourse and was not taken lightly.

Before now, we’ve taken practical action to correct course. Undersigned Trustees were those that brought financial mismanagement to light. We’ve also called for Open Bargaining, so our rank-and-file can directly observe and participate in this round of negotiations. Undersigned Executive Board members have made motions to stop some of the political spending in order to focus union time and resources on the building-level fights we must win. We led the fight to stop the dismantling of special education services. Through these actions and more, we have called for a return to the CORE’s founding principles: Member Driven Union, Transparency & Accountability, Education for All, Defense of Publicly Funded Public Education, and a Strong Contract.

However, now we feel that it is necessary to bring these concerns openly to the whole of the membership. After fighting to be heard inside CORE and within leadership bodies, we have been met with opposition, and in some cases vilification and isolation. We feel that this letter stating our current reality is a necessary first step to turn the tide from recent defeats to gains for our members and students. The undersigned stand against the very real pressure under 1% attacks towards top-down union bureaucracy, insider political dealings, and the call for secrecy. We are fighting to be strike-ready this fall and to build a union that is truly led by the rank-and-file. We believe that we must rebuild trust with membership around a way forward that can win victories. We know we must build unity and power within our union and base ourselves on wider solidarity with local school communities and working people. We must win smaller classes, more clinicians, nurses, case managers, and the time and resources to do our jobs well. We can no longer settle for smaller, symbolic wins. Our students and communities depend on it.

We hope that CORE is reelected and plan to support the new CORE leadership with words and deeds whenever they take positive action. However, we the undersigned intend to take steps starting immediately to fight for the type of union that we think is necessary. Union members who support these ideas should reach out to us to get involved and sign on to this letter in support. Email: CTUFAIRCONTRACTNOW@gmail.com and be sure to join the #CTUFAIRCONTRACTNOW facebook page (bit.ly/FBCTU19).

We can win. And we will win. Together.

In Solidarity,

Kenzo Shibata

HS English and Civics Teacher

CORE Founding Member

President, Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance- Illinois

Past CORE steering member

CFL Delegate

Past CTU Delegate

Past Media Director, IFT

Past Digital Communications Director, CTU

Erin Young

SpEd Teacher, CORE Steering Member

CTU Delegate

Tammie Vinson

SpEd Teacher, CTU Trustee, CORE Steering

Nick Wozniak

SECA, SEIU 73 Steward

Emily Penn

School Social Worker, EBoard Clinician FVP

Katie Osgood

SpEd Teacher, EBoard Elementary Functional VP

Kristine Mayle

Former CTU Financial Secretary

Drew Heiserman

HS Math Teacher

CTU Trustee

Kimberly Goldbaum

Middle School Teacher

Alison Eichhorn

HS History Teacher

CTU Trustee

CTU Delegate

Natasha Leigh Carlsen

K-4 SpEd Teacher, EBoard Elementary Functional VP, CORE Steering

Xian Franzinger Barrett

4th-6th Grade SpEd Teacher, EBoard Elem Functional VP

CORE Founding Member



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