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PACT draws large group to Connie's Pizza after raucous September 9 CTU House of Delegates meeting

The ProActive Chicago Teachers and school workers (PACT) caucus of the Chicago Teachers Union drew more than 50 people to a campaign meeting on September 9, 2009, following the controversial CTU House of Delegates meeting a few blocks away. The CTU meeting was at a new site, the private property of Local 399 of the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE). The PACT event took place after the meeting at the famous "Connie's Pizza" on Archer Ave.

Former Chicago Teachers Union President Deborah Lynch (second from left, above) told a crowd of more than 50 union delegates that PACT would be running a slate in the CTU election, which will be held on May 21, 2010 (if there are no radical changes in the union's election rules). Lynch currently teaches at Gage Park High School. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.While the PACT event drew a number of people who had come out of curiosity, the caucus also has a growing cadre of members committed to slating candidates in the 2010 CTU election.

A number of people spoke at the Connie's Pizza event, including Deborah Lynch and the four PACT members who seem poised to join her in a slate to contest for the top offices in the 31,000 member union, which is the second largest K-12 local in the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).

Some of the group that came to the PACT campaign event at Connie's Pizza on September 9, 2009. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.In a letter distributed to delegates, Ms. Lynch asked delegates to schedule meetings at their schools. Lynch wrote: "My agenda for this meeting would include a summary of what we as CTU members have lost over the last 5 years, the impact on our union and on our working conditions, and PACT's agenda for 2010."

Lynch's letter, distributed at the Connie's Pizza meeting as well as at the tumultuous union meeting held earlier, reminded the delegates that management is not allowed to interfere with delegates who schedule these meeting. The "PACT Campaign Team" introduced at the Connie's meeting numbers 31, according to PACT campaign literature.

While PACT was hosting what amounted to a celebration at Connie's Pizza, a much smaller group, estimated at no more than 25 people by observers, was also at the restaurant from Marilyn Stewart's United Progressive Caucus (UPC). Teachers arriving at the restaurant who told the staff that they were there for the "teacher group" were given a choice between "Debbie" (for Debbie Lynch and the PACT party) and "Nick" (for Nick Cannella and the UPC group). According to those who remained, no one from the PACT group went to mix with the UPC group, while one person from the UPC group stopped by PACT. As the school year begins, the different opposition caucuses within the CTU are beginning to develop both their character and their programs. The first PACT tee shirt of the 2010 election season reads, "Stop Million Dollar Marilyn", a reference to CTU President Marilyn Stewart and her numerous interests. In addition to being President of the Chicago Teachers Union (with a package, including benefits, in excess of $200,000 per year), Stewart had herself made "secretary treasurer" of the Illinois Federation of Teachers (with pay and benefits nearing $150,000 this year). Stewart also receives benefits as a vice president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), according to federal government documents. Above, left to right: Mary Edmonds (McDale Elementary School), Kevin Conlon (Stevenson Elementary School), Josephine Perry (Tanner Elementary School), Tanya Leiser, holding a copy of the September Substance (Hanson Park Elementary School), and Cynthia Smith (Hanson Park Elementary School). PACT charges that Stewart has cost the union millions. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.PACT listed 31 people as part of the "PACT Campaign Team." These were (in order they were listed): Deborah Lynch, Chair (Gage Park High School); Myrtise Allen-McGhee (City-wide specialized services); Allen Bearden (Bronzeville High School); Maureen Callaghan (Curie High School); Carolyn Carroll (Dyett High School); Kevin Conlon ((Stevenson Elementary School); Diane Dennis (Julian High School); Mary Edmonds (McDade Elementary School);Susanna Fandl (Hurley Elementary School); Chuck Feeney (Jamieson Elementary School); Rosemary Finnegan (Wity-Wide psychologist); John Foley (Marsh Elementary School); Julie Gabrick (Darwin Elementary School); Darine Green-Gates (Parkside Elementary School); Cindy Haywood (Vanderpoel Elementary School); Tanya Leiser (Hanson Park Elementary School); Frank MacDonald (George Washington High School); Cathy Manno (Hurley Elementary School); Lawrence Milkowski (Carver Military Academy High School); Carol Moriarity (Barnard Elementary School); William O'Malley (Dawes Elementary School); Regina O'Connor (Sutherland Elementary School); Sandy Pardys (Sullivan High School); Josephine Perry (Tanner Elementary School); Louis Pyster (Retiree Delegate); Sue Real (Washington Elementary School); Robert Schubert (Marquette Elementary School); Marlene Slavitt (Northside Special Education High School); Cynthia Smith (Hanson Park Elementary School); Danny Vanover (Taft High School); and Jacqueline Price Ward (Marquette Elementary School). PACT's banner summarizes the group's "short platform" at the September 9, 2009, event at Connie's Pizza. All of the groups organizing to unseat incumbent Marilyn Stewart are critical of Stewart's collaboration with Mayor Richard M. Daley and his "Renaissance 2010" policy of closing and privatizing as many Chicago schools as possible as quickly as possible. Of the three largest groups, CORE has been active since its founding in direct opposition to the closings, with people in attendance at every school closing hearing in 2009, while Deborah Lynch can point to the fact that under her administration (2001 - 2004), the Board of Education was afraid to close schools because of organized union opposition. The juggernaut of school privatizations through "Renaissance 2010" only began when Marilyn Stewart defeated Deborah Lynch and took power in the union in August 2004. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. A PACT banner summarized the group's "short platform" at the September 9, 2009, event at Connie's Pizza. All of the groups organizing to unseat incumbent Marilyn Stewart are critical of Stewart's collaboration with Mayor Richard M. Daley and his "Renaissance 2010" policy of closing and privatizing as many Chicago schools as possible as quickly as possible. Of the three largest groups organizing against Stewart, CORE (the Caucus of Rank and File Educators) has been active since its founding in direct opposition to the closings. CORE had people speaking against the closings (called "Phase Outs," "Consolidations," and "Turnarounds" depending upon the pretext used) at every school closing hearing in January and February 2009.

CORE members also organized the largest demonstrations against the attacks on the public schools.

Deborah Lynch points to the fact that under her administration (2001 - 2004), the Board of Education was afraid to close schools because of organized union opposition. Although Arne Duncan (then CEO of CPS) announced the first three school closings (Dodge, Terrell, and Williams, which he referred to as a "renaissance") in April 2002, Lynch mobilized more than a thousand teachers to attend a Board of Education meeting at Herzl Elementary School on the West Side in April 2002 and oppose the Board's action. The Board closed down Terrell, Dodge, and Williams, eliminating almost all of their teachers, despite the union protests. But the shut down lasted a year (from the end of the 2001 - 2002 school year until the beginning of the 2003 - 2004 school year), unlike subsequent closings. The juggernaut of school privatizations through "Renaissance 2010" began to escalate when Marilyn Stewart defeated Deborah Lynch and took power in the union in August 2004. The first two high schools to be phased out (and later privatized to charter schools) were hit by a freeze in 9th grade enrollment in September 2004, the month after Lynch was defeated by Marilyn Stewart. This was despite unanimous opposition, organized by the union, at the hearings on the closing of the two schools. The year after Austin and Calumet were put on the "Renaissance 2010" hit list, Englewood High School was added to the list.

Marilyn Stewart's lukewarm opposition to the closings, coupled with her support for charter school creation despite the loss of union jobs, led to the growth of widespread opposition to her both inside and outside her base, the United Progressive Caucus. By the time Stewart fractured the labor union alliance that had brought in contracts for more than a quarter century in 2007, the troubles facing the CTU's members were widespread. Stewart ignored the other unions in the so-called "coalition" during the bargaining sessions in the summer of 2007, leading to the other unions signing an agreement with the Board of Education two weeks before Stewart's contract was presented to the CTU House of Delegates on August 31, 2007. The House of Delegates meeting on August 31, 2007, ended with Stewart's unprecedented refusal to count the "No" votes on her proposed contract and a large demonstration of delegates that disrupted Stewart's attempt to host a press conference to proclaim that the contract she was proposing had large support.

Following the debacle of the House meeting, Stewart made sure that she got the votes in a city-wide referendum in the schools, which was held on September 9, 2007, leaving the teachers with a five-year contract that seriously diminished their union rights. Within a year after she negotiated the 2007 - 2011 contract, Stewart was purging the ranks of her own caucus, first working through her executive board to terminate Vice President Ted Dallas's union membership (thereby eliminating him from the office) and then trying to intimidate Treasurer Linda Porter into resigning from office less than two years after she had been elected to a second term as part of Stewart's own ticket and part of the leadership of the United Progressive Caucus.

The PACT Web site is being updated often as the 2009 - 2010 school year begins. It is at Pro?ActiveChicagoTeachers.com. 

Final edited version of this article posted at www.substancenews.net 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., www.substancenews.net. 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.



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