CTU caucuses begin to respond to Marilyn Stewart's police state... CSDU charges Stewart is attacking 75-year tradition of democracy in Chicago Teachers Union

The Coalition for a Strong Democratic Union (CSDU) has issued a press release on September 10, 2009, charging that Chicago Teachers Union President Marilyn Stewart is trying to end union democracy. The tradition of robust democratic debate within the CTU dates back to the founding of the CTU as Local 1 of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) in 1936.

Chicago Teachers Union officials changed the location of the CTU House of Delegates meetings on September 9, 2009, from the Plumbers Union Hall at 1340 W. Washington in Chicago to the offices of Local 399 of the International Union of Operating Engineers, located at a remote location near the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal on the city's south side. When union members arrived at the meeting, they were ordered not to leaflet on the sidewalk in front of the meeting hall, as has been traditional. Instead, they were forced under threat of arrest to distribute literature in the street as people arrived for the meeting.

One of the CTU officials who tried ordering union members to stop leafleting at the entrance to the building where the meeting was being held was Rick Perrote (above right), whose most recent title has been "coordinator of security and safety" for the CTU. In the above photograph, taken at about 5:00 p.m. on September 9, 2009, Perrote is standing with one of four plain clothes Chicago police officers who regularly patrol inside the meetings of the Chicago Teachers Union House of Delegates on behalf of CTU President Marilyn Stewart. When uniformed officers arrived and threatened to arrest George Schmidt for selling Substance on the sidewalk near the building, Perrote was one of the people waiting to sign a complaint were the arrest made. Schmidt walked to what the police officers described as the "free speech zone" following the threat of arrest by the officers who responded to the call on behalf of CTU President Marilyn Stewart. Substance photo by Judy Dever. Union officials continued to threaten anyone who tried to distribute information to the arriving delegates beginning at a little after 3:00 p.m.

Most of those distributing literature prior to the beginning of the meeting were forced under threat of arrest to do so in traffic as cars arrived and tried to find parking at the remote location. A small number of teachers, including this reporter, challenged the claim that the CTU could restrict political activity and the First Amendment rights of members by claiming that the location was "private property" (i.e., the property of Local 399 IUOE). When asked by this reporter why he and the other members of the union leadership were restricting the right of union members to distribute literature at the union meeting on the sidewalk in front of the Local 399 building where the meeting was taking place, CTU Chief of Staff John Ostenberg said, "But this is private property," smiled, and hastened inside the meeting.

Although all of the members of the various union caucuses opposed to Marilyn Stewart were asked to challenge the growing police state tactics of the union leadership, most continued to try and get information to the delegates by distributing literature to cars on the street, rather than at the sidewalk right in front of the meeting. Prior to the September meeting of the CTU House of Delegates, the meetings had been at Plumbers Union Hall at 1340 W. Washington. A long tradition of democratic leafleting had developed at Plumbers Hall, with various people lining up at the entrance (inside and outside) in what came to be known fondly as "the gauntlet" of literature distribution at each union meeting.

For at least the past four years, CTU President Marilyn Stewart has used union money to pay off-duty Chicago police officers to intimidate members of the union's House of Delegates. Two of the four individuals in the above photograph (second from left and far right) are police officers who routinely patrol inside the House of Delegates without any identifying information. At various times since 2005, they have been used to harass members who disagreed with Stewart on the floor of the House meetings. At all times when asked they refuse to identify themselves. Stewart does not disclose their employment by the union in the union's annual budget reports. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Most leaders of the opposition groups were surprised to find themselves threatened with arrest by Marilyn Stewart's supporters when they arrived at the Local 399 building and tried simply to continue the same traditions.

As of September 11, 2009, two days after the controversial meeting, the official CTU Web side ( contained no information about why the union had abruptly changed the location of its most important meeting. All the CTU said was: "The CTU House of Delegates will meet at a new location. The meetings will be held at the International Union of Operating Engineers building at 2260 South Grove Street. Click here to view a map..." No mention was made of the fact that the Stewart administration would invoke the claim that the site was "private property" and threaten to arrest anyone who disagreed with Stewart and tried to distribute leaflets.

The Plumbers Hall where the CTU had traditionally met is also, in a technical sense, "private property," but the union brothers and sisters from the Plumbers Union never allowed CTU leadership since Marilyn Stewart took office to restrict the free distribution of literature immediately outside the meeting and inside the lobby itself.

Officials from the Operating Engineers Union were unwilling to comment on why they decided to harass union members in front of their building and threaten to arrest this reporter. Marilyn Stewart has refused for five years to talk to reporters from Substance.

Below is the statement issued by CSDU on September 10, 2009. Substance editor George N. Schmidt is escorted down Grove Street away from the September 9, 2009, Chicago Teachers Union House of Delegates meeting. The police officers had been called by CTU officials after the CTU officials tried to order Schmidt to stop selling Substance at the entrance to the new union meeting hall earlier that afternoon. Schmidt pointed out that leafleting and Substance sales had been traditional at union meetings for more than half a century, and refused to leave the area in front of the meeting for a "protest zone" (the words of the police officers) a quarter mile away. Someone finally called "911" and Schmidt was told by the officers who answered the "911" call that if he didn't move away from the meeting he would be arrested. The charges were not made clear, and when he asked what the charges would be and who would be the complaining witness, the police officers told Schmidt to shut up because he was talking too much. Substance photo by Judy Dever.



In the most egregious and overt attempt yet to eliminate democratic action and take control over delegate meetings, CTU President Marilyn Stewart has instituted a new microphone procedure wherein she can hand pick who goes to the microphones. Delegates must raise their hands and wait to be chosen by Stewart who will decide who will be allowed to speak. This procedure was initiated without a vote of the delegates who by the CTU Constitution are the supreme and final authority of the Chicago Teachers Union. Two Chicago police officers who responded to a "911" call from Marilyn Stewart of the Chicago Teachers Union arrived and ordered Substance editor George N. Schmidt to stop selling Substance in front of the building where the union meeting was being held on September 9, 2009. Schmidt told the officers that he was both covering the meeting as a reporter, attending the meeting as a delegate, and selling newspapers at the meeting as one of the staff of Substance. The officer above said that Schmidt was being a "jagoff" and would be arrested if he did not leave the area in front of the building where the union meeting was being held. The officer later added that Schmidt should stop asking who was going to be the complaining witness should the police proceed with the threatened arrest. Substance photo by Judy Dever.Those delegates are the members' representatives and their voice in the Union. Stewart has been unable to control which motions get presented for consideration since last year when, in order to assure an honest vote count on motions, a motion was presented on the House floor that would assure a visual and honest vote count. The motion passed. At this point delegates began to assert the authority given to them by the Constitution. The House of Delegates operates under Robert's Rules, which state that an organization can adopt and add its own supplemental rules to those in the book.

Such an established procedure exists, one that was voted on by the CTU House. It is included in the CTU delegates' packet each month entitled "Procedures for House of Delegates' Meetings" with an adoption date at the bottom. Further, the microphone procedure that has been eliminated, which has allowed the delegates to line up at the microphones to speak, has been the past practice of the House for 60 years. Any change in this established procedure must be voted on and adopted by the House itself. Stewart should not be allowed the authority to change this on her own. This action by Stewart is the most dangerous action to occur within the Chicago Teachers Union in the entire history of the organization. Delegates must act at the next meeting to stop this from taking place. They must assert their rights and insist that this procedure not be put into effect without their vote. If not, they will be condoning the demise of the democratic principles set forth seventy odd years ago by the writers of the CTU Constitution. Linda Porter - Candidate for President (708-516-1429)

Jack Moran - for Vice President (773-775-2634)

Lisa Dimberg - for Recording Secretary (773-704-8417) Lawer Dixon - for Financial Secretary (708-473-0644)

Jose "Jay" Jimenez - for Treasurer (773-451-6984)

Look for us on Facebook: The CSDU, sign up for our "tweets": the csdu at Coming soon - our new website at"

Final edited version of this article posted at September 14, 2009, 1:00 a.m. CDT. If you choose to reproduce this article in whole or in part, or any of the graphical material included with it, please give full credit to SubstanceNews as follows: Copyright © 2009 Substance, Inc., Please provide Substance with a copy of any reproductions of this material and we will let you know our terms — or you can take out a subscription to Substance (see red button to the right) and make a donation. We are asking all of our readers to either subscribe to the print edition of Substance (a bargain at $16 per year) or make a donation. Both options are available on the right side of our Home Page. For further information, feel free to call us at our office at 773-725-7502.


September 11, 2009 at 9:01 AM

By: Elijah Lovejoy

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment...

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for a redress of grievances..."

Didn't the Chicago Teachers Union newspaper quote John Dewey on its front page for years and years. "Democracy in education. Education for democracy." Wasn't Dewey a union member? Where did Chicago get Marilyn Stewart?

September 12, 2009 at 4:35 PM

By: Jay Rehak

It's Unfortunately a Siege Mentality

As a member of the House of Delegates, I was stunned when I arrived at the "New Union Hall" and found out that the dissemination of information from one deleage to another was "against the law." The plain clothes policeman who were standing outside of the building were evidently instructed to arrest anyone passing out literature. Why? How is passing out literature a threat to anyone's safety? Why is the Union hiring policemen and policewomen at all? The microphone policy, (members can't even hold the microphone and President Stewart decides who she's going to call on)is offensive and an insult to every House of Delegate member. I hope President Steart and her group recognize the damage they are doing by limiting Democracy. House of Delegate members need to take a stand on this in October if President Stewart doesn't see the error of her ways prior to next month's meeting.

September 12, 2009 at 8:16 PM

By: Kugler


Direct violation of the Union constitution, Roberts Rules of Order and HoD floor rules.

I am ashamed to be part of this union. I have done all that I can to protect the rights of members and now I am fighting for my own right to earn a living.

If the membership does not know the rules, does not enforce the rules, then they deserve everything they get.

To allow an elected leader to disregard the membership and their rights to democratic representation is itself a crime.

Stop complaining and do something about it!

get arrested next time!

Challenge the president on the HoD floor.

Physically have her removed with a vote of the delegates: HoD is supreme governing body of the union.

Stewart knows she can get away with what she does so she does it. For that she deserves credit. To stand by and allow her to continue her actions only gives her more power.

I bet the 2010 votes have already been counted!


September 13, 2009 at 1:23 AM

By: news

Class Size Brings Strike by Teachers


Published: September 11, 2009

KENT, Wash. (AP) — On what was scheduled to be the first day of school, students and teachers at Mill Creek Middle School here never made it through the front door. They stood or sat outside by the flagpole, waving signs and yelling at passing motorists.

The teachers have just ended a second week on strike, keeping more than 26,000 students at 40 schools out of the classroom.

The strike is not centered on wage and contract issues. Kent teachers are instead fighting for smaller class sizes, arguing that the district should spend some of the $21 million it has in reserve to alleviate overcrowding.

The district maintains that it needs to save the reserve money in this economy and that classes are not as crowded as teachers say. Some teachers complain that they do not have enough desks for students, with more than 30 children in some elementary and middle school classes.

Teachers said they were ready to stay out as long as it took to convince the school district that classroom overcrowding hurt academic achievement.

They have drawn the support of a handful of students who took to the picket lines during their extended summer vacation.

“I support them 100 percent in smaller class sizes for a better education,” said Stewart Kunzelman, a 13-year-old eighth grader.

Teacher strikes are illegal in Washington State, and a judge said each teacher would have to pay $200 a day in fines if not back in school by Monday.

It is the only teacher strike in the nation taking place this week, and experts said such strikes were becoming rarer.

But that is not necessarily the case in Washington; teachers in a city east of Seattle staged a two-week strike last fall.

Rich Wood, a spokesman for the largest teachers’ union in Washington, said strikes were not that common because most states did not allow them and some ban collective bargaining.

Mr. Wood said strikes in Washington State are about very local issues. Last year’s extended strike in Bellevue, Wash., focused on district control of curriculum. Strikes in Illinois, Michigan and Pennsylvania last fall concerned salaries and retirement.

here are some teachers not afraid!

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