November 4, 2009 meeting... Stewart holding on, barely, in Chicago Teachers Union House of Delegates

Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) President Marilyn Stewart tried to show she is still in control when she fielded a question from this reporter at the recent House of Delegates meeting November 4 (2009) concerning the incendiary remarks by the Reverend and State Senator James Meeks, a friend of Stewart’s, who said the Chicago Teachers Union is the worst gang in the city.

Former Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Ted Dallas (with black hat, center) and retired Wells High School teacher Anthony Aborreno (right, holding "Vote No!" leaflets) were passing out leaflets in front of the Chicago Teachers Union House of Delegates meeting on November 4, 2009. The leafleting was banned by Chicago Teachers Union Marilyn Stewart when she moved the union meetings to the remote site of the offices of Local 399 of the Operating Engineers, but the ban was removed after a fight led by Substance. Behind Dallas are (left to right) Substance and CORE leafleters Jim Vail, Nate Goldbaum, and Earl Slibar. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Question: Is it true Mr. Meeks receives money from the CTU and will this stop?

Marilyn: Yes, and we stopped payments today (applause from the delegates).

Question: Mr. Meeks then followed up his outrageous remarks with an op ed in the Chicago Tribune in which he mentioned the Fenger student Derrion Albert’s murder had something to due with poor teacher ratings, (which the Chicago Tribune agreed with in a follow-up editiorial supporting Meeks’ attack on the city’s public school teachers.) Why have you not responded?

Marilyn: Yes, I will have an article responding to Mr. Meeks in the Tribune on Friday

Stewart's comments appeared as a letter in the Tribune.

Jesse Jackson’s Operation PUSH, where Meeks made his speech, has not issued any statement so far condemning this attack on teachers, mostly directed at those who teach on the south and west sides of the city. [Editor's note: Read the entire October 17 speech by Meeks at PUSH here at Substance News.§ion=Article]

Last week Stewart was knocked down hard when CORE, a new caucus in the union (founded in April and May 2008 and active ever since), upset the UPC and won the two teacher trustee slots on the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund. Never before has the ruling UPC party lost a pension trustee election.

Taking advantage of the nice weather and the right to distribute literature outside the meetings of the Chicago Teachers Union House of Delegates, members of Marilyn Stewart's United Progressive Caucus (UPC) gave out two leaflets before the November 4 meeting. The first leaflet, distributed in the name of and signed "UPC" outlined the UPC's latest version of union events. The other leaflet was unsigned and tried to portray a recent loss in a civil lawsuit over the name and bank account of the "United Progressive Caucus" as if Ted Dallas and Linda Porter (CTU Treasurer) had been found guilty in criminal court. The headline on the anonymous leaflet distributed by Thelma Perkins (in black, above right) was "Guilty" and was not attributed to the UPC, although it was distributed by their members, including Perkins. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.But after this blow, Stewart came out strong to defend herself in the House of Delegates meeting by responding forcefully to CORE’s relentless questioning. She stated that the CTU has issued a resolution condemning Meeks’ statement and that she called him personally, but said Meeks refused to apologize.

Then, trying to steal the thunder from CORE, Stewart attacked the Renaissance 2010 Plan to privatize the schools and spoke about the unfair attack on Pulaski School and that they will push for city hearings on Ren2010.

“I asked for a moratorium on Ren2010” Stewart told the delegates. “I told Ron Huberman he doesn’t know what he’s doing. No one (Huberman and Board members) has an education background. The Renaissance Plan is a collective sabotage on education. I want a public hearing on Renaissance.”

Newly elected pension trustee Jay Rehak (above left) talks with Linda Gogg, one of the United Progressive Caucus members who has been serving on the pension board, outside the November 4 House of Delegates meeting. In the background, Michael Kane is talking with Lois Ashford, who was elected with Rehak in the October 30 upset (see Substance story earlier this month on this home page), while to the right in the background, former CTU president Deborah Lynch talks with teaches while leafleting on behalf of her PACT caucus. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Only her true colors appeared amidst her uncharacteristic fighting rhetoric when delegate Lisa Dimberg, who is a candidate on the slate of CSDU (Caucus for a Strong Democratic Union, one of five caucuses presently organizing in opposition to Marilyn Stewart's United Progressive Caucus) running in the May election, asked her in a loud and fighting voice if she will help lead a protest of Meeks because of his most hurtful comments.

[Dimberg also asked an important question about how much PAC money is going to CTU endorsed legislators during these heavy attacks on the teachers’ union. State Representative Monique Davis, considered a good friend of the Teachers Union, told Substance earlier that she thought the CTU was in support of charter schools. Davis, who was against charters that replace public schools and public school teachers with non-union teachers, is now supporting charter schools. She refused to comment on the latest ISBE report that half of the Chicago charter school operators are “failing” according to the Board’s criteria.]

"No, I don’t think we should protest, "Stewart responded. "He’s just having a temper tantrum, so let him cool down."

The Kennedy High School delegate asked if the union can do something to stop their principal who declared he will lower all the teachers’ ratings. The Union said he must follow procedure because he cannot just arbitrarily lower ratings.

Former Chicago Teachers Union President Deborah Lynch (above left) was leafleting outside the November 4 meeting, as was former CTU presidential candidate Marcia Williams (center), who once worked on the staff of the CTU while Lynch was president. Lynch is running as head of the PACT slate, while Williams has been organizing the "Independent Caucus" and plans to run for CTU President in what may turn out to be a six-way race. The union won't know who the candidates are until March 2009, when nominating petitions will likely be due at the union's offices. The actuual slates of candidates are not certified until April 2010, with the election tentatively scheduled to be held on the third Friday of May 2010. In the background (above), CORE's Carol Caref leaflets under the sign for Local 399 IUOE. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Stewart and the UPC’s uncharacteristic soft-touch handling of the delegates meeting (the Question and Answer which the Union usually only allows a few questions went much longer this time) shows she’s feeling the heat. Stewart was sweet, even allowing CORE member and delegate Carol Caref from Chicago Vocational to make a motion during her new business report. However, she shook her head in incredulity and lashed back when Carol’s motion was to move for Jackson Potter, the founder of CORE, to be eligible to run in the union election next May. The Union is claiming that Potter did not pay his inactive teacher dues on time in 2007-2008 school year when he was on a board approved study leave. Caref wanted to argue that the Union still cashed his check and issued a union card to him for that year — signifying they accepted he was in good standing.

All sweetness immediately disappeared and Stewart’s gloves came off.

Marilyn: "Absolutely not, this is unconstitutional!"

Then, pandemonium briefly broke out before the words from the podium blurted out that the meeting was adjourned. 


November 17, 2009 at 10:30 PM

By: Danny


The Chicago Teachers Union sent out this e-mail message from John Ostenburg today:


An important message from John Ostenburg,

Editor Emeritus of the Chicago Union Teacher.

The CORE caucus has sent out an absolutely untruthful and misleading statement in its recent newsletter. CORE claims that publication of the Chicago Union Teacher costs the members $150 of the annual dues payment. THAT IS AN ABSOLUTELY FALSE STATEMENT!

As one who served as editor under three different presidents – Tom Reece, Deborah Lynch, and Marilyn Stewart – I feel the need to correct this false allegation.

TRUTH: Cost of printing the newspaper is approximately $1 per member – since there are eight issues each year, THAT’S A TOTAL COST TO EACH MEMBER OF LESS THAN $10 PER YEAR! That cost is consistent with what members of other labor organizations pay annually for their union newsletter.

Furthermore, the cost of printing the newspaper has remained basically the same over the administrations of Presidents Tom Reece, Deborah Lynch, and Marilyn Stewart. Costs have not increased because of improved printing processes which require less press time – which is costly – and also because more of the preparation of the newspaper is done in-house than ever before.

Finally, all the staff members who work on the newspaper perform other duties for the Union also.

If you know of anyone who received this false information from the CORE caucus, please inform them of the actual costs relating to the newspaper."

[End of e-mail message]

Now, it's been awhile since I priced printing for school yearbook and newspaper, but I find it very hard to believe that the current CUT in 4-color costs only about $1 per issue (even with a large print run of over 32,000 copies). I mean, that's an incredible price!

Further, I have trouble believing that the current newspaper costs about what it did during the Lynch administration. When Debbie Pope was CUT editor, the size shrunk to a standard letter size format. It seems to me that savings in paper alone would have brought the price per copy below what it was in either the Reece or Stewart administrations.

Granted, the $150/member figure seems a bit high; but I'd be surprised if the actual costs weren't quite a bit higher than what Ostenburg claims.

November 18, 2009 at 4:38 AM

By: George N. Schmidt

Ostenburg 'correction' is the falsehood

Danny's right.

And anyone who follows the blogs knows it's a cold day in Libya when I agree with him.

Or when he agrees with CORE.

But we should all be glad that John Ostenburg is reminding everyone who really puts out the Chicago Union Teacher (and the rest of the CTU's Marilyn Stewart propaganda) -- not classroom teachers with union experience from the schools, but a small cabal of very well paid hirelings whose work is subject to Marilyn Stewart patronage.

There is more than enough to do editing both Substance and without jumping into every discussion, but this one has a huge deadline (Friday's referendum, which is now 48 hours away) and an even larger context to clarify.

The flaming falsehood by John Ostenburg circulated across the Internet from the Chicago Teachers Union, is another example of why the current CTU leadership is part of the problem, not part of the solution. Now it may be true that John Ostenburg (with whom I worked for years, and whom I once respected) is technically correct on the smallest point. But on everything else he is either inaccurate or deliberately misleading. That's why in court the oath is "The Truth; The Whole Truth; Nothing But the Truth..." John knows this from his days as a reporter, journalism teacher, and editor. Therefore the spin centers he's been running since Mairlyn Stewart's re-election in May 2007 and the beginning of the purges (by late 2007) is all the greater sin.

CTU has a Web site that has long been the joke of the school system. To now say it's going to provide information should leave everyone laughing. How about starting with loading up all the back issues of union newspapers (they are all on Ostenburg's desk going back to 1936; I used them for research when I worked at CTU). Why not have the back issues on line, both as a service to the members and as a way for historians to get some facts easilty?

Simple: Marilyn Stewart's regime has declared, with the help of its "Communications" staff, that history began in August 2004 when Marilyn Stewart became President of the Chicago Teachers Union. To merely provide the members (and the public) with the published history of the Chicago Teachers Union in the form of the Chicago Union Teacher would be to expose that lie. I could give a hundred examples of the news that people can't get right now, but will only leave this with the simple face that John Ostenburg has opened the door to: Even the editions of the Chicago Union Teacher that were edited by John Ostenburg (under Tom Reece, Debbie Lynch -- for one year, not all three by the way -- and Marilyn Stewart) are not available easily to people. And this is the age of Google and the Internet.

Substance has more information about the workings of the Chicago Teachers Union on our low-budget Web sites than CTU. Going back in our archives to 2002 (when we first got on the Web, in very primitive form), readers can read the laborious reports on the CTU House of Delegates meetings compiled by Terry Daniels and since by other reporters. Why aren't those reports up on Censorship? A deliberate distortion of history?

Let's try and get an answer, now that CTU's "Chief of Staff" and "Editor Emeritus" has decided to blast CORE for one editing error.

This kind of revisionists distortion of history would have looked silly under any of the old tinpot dictatorships that ended 20 years ago across Asia and Europe. My favorite was always Romania's Ceausescus (that husband and wife team that ruled that sad nation so brutally and goofily for so long). But the Chicago Teachers Union makes the Romanian versions of history before 1989 look positively open minded and democratic.

At least the Chicago Union Teacher no longer runs that famous quote from Chicago's John Dewey (also once an AFT member) "Democracy in education. Education for democracy" under its logo. Too many teachers were laughing out loud every time they read it then scanned the propaganda inside.

Just like Wall Street and the Chicago Board of Education, the Stewart regime is trying to reduce every reality to "saving" money. We won't go too far into how many dollars Stewart wasted on the purge of Ted Dallas and other parts of her "I am the CEO of CTU" power grab. Although I am certain the total cost of the Dallas purge (legal fees plus buying out the remainder of the Dallas contract did finally come to about $1 million. In my case, I cashed a CTU check signed by Marilyn Stewart for $160,000 in May 2008. Why? Because as my boss -- supposedly a "labor leader" Marilyn Stewart illegally fired me from my job as Director of Security and Safety for CTU (as if we didn't need that work being done since; what's the body count as of today). Not only did Stewart fire me, she then wasted four years paying lawyers to stall my unfair discharge lawsuit -- from September 2004 until May 2008! -- after vowing never to honor a contract I had with the union. On top of that, she went on lying a couple of times under oath to stall the litigation to the bitter end. Those wastes -- Dallas, Schmidt, the other cases of people she fired -- are a matter of the record of the regime of Marilyn Stewart. So when she and her cronies prattle on about "saving money" by eliminating a union office and further restricting the information available to union members, the only intelligent response from CTU members has to be a tsuanmi of laughter the likes of which we enjoyed at Second City a week ago.

But back to whether CTU can "afford" to continue printing the results of every election and referendum, as is now required.

The caucuses (except UPC and perhaps its clone) say "Vote No."

Marilyn Stewart, John Ostenburg, the UPC, and the union's phone bankers (all paid, by the way) say "Vote YES."

It's nice the facts can be discussed.

If the "cost" of the CTU "newspaper" has remained stable for several years, it's mainly because for most of those years the newspaper has been providing less and less information to its readers. Given its budget and potential resources, the Chicago Union Teacher could provide an enormous amount of relevant information to the union's 31,000 members (active duty and retiree) every month during the schools, year, perhaps with an update during the summer with relevant news. Especially now that more than 140 schools are so-called "year round" and many teachers are in classrooms teaching traditional summer school, the need for information is clearly there.

Instead, since Marilyn Stewart took over CTU in 2004, the objective of the union's official information systems seems to have been to diminish information to the members and to make laughable much of the information that is provided. Censorship isn't even the word to describe what's been taking place. It's more worthy of a skit from Second City or Saturday Night Live it's such a joke.

Even if, as Ostenburg claims, CTU has to again "reduce expenses" by cutting back more on the information it provides to members (in the case of one of the referendums -- I know it's "referenda", duh, but not in this town!), one of the main ways to reduce expenses would be to challenge the local, state and national per capita dues, the ones that always go up and which result in the CTU sending more than half the money it collects from members out of Chicago every month.

But those are other stories for other times.

It used to be fun to count the number of photographs of YOUR LEADERS in every issue of the Chicago Union Teacher. Like those "Brought to you by Richard M. Daley" signs all over Chicago or "Brought to you by Governor Rod Blagojevich" signs that used to dot the rest of the State of Illinois, until another joke ran out (only to be replaced by a "reform" version of the same joke...).

Now we get even funnier stories. My favorite recent one was "Renaissance Guy" -- the profile of Financial Secretary Mark Ochoa (Chicago Union Teacher, October 2009). Such silly propaganda...

Well, it's good that this thread has been opened. Maybe CORE should have copy edited its material one last time, and then proofread it as well. But the fact is, the Chicago Union Teacher could afford to print -- on paper using ink -- every result of every election and every referendum.

Including by the way the one this Friday.

And anyone who wants to price such a venture can contact a dozen printers in the Chicago area that provide Web offset printing (the most efficient way to print high press run newspapers -- as opposed to sheet fed) using high quality paper with four-color graphics on every page. Then, because what we are talking about specifically is the cost of printing on newsprint the results of elections and referenda (which can be done in black-and-white, I suspect most dues paying CTU members would agree), we'd find out that it was quite inexpensive to print the results.

And given the fact that they would already be provided in whatever digital format CTU requested -- if CTU were hiring a service to conduct the election cleanly, rather than preparing to do another crooked election using those ridiculous "ballot boxes" under its own peculiar rules -- it would take less than six hours to prepare all the pages for printing.

So in the real world it would cost very little to print and distribute to the union's 31,000 members (as one of the 3,000 plus retiree members -- and a retiree delegate -- I resent always having to wait to get union communications) a tabloid newspaper with the results of the election, in black and white, on regular paper (e.g., like the Sun-Times uses) not that expensive top-of-the-line paper CUT uses for its "Renaissance Man" propaganda.

As to publishing CTU stuff on the Web, that would be a good idea.

Starting with a list of all the members of the CTU House of Delegates (as required by CTU policy and tradition) and a list of all the members of the "Executive Board" (which is currently apparently the only body in the CTU that Marilyn Stewart wants to work with, even though she has appointed most of its members). Then the complete transcript of each House of Delegates meeting (yes, there is a stenographer, and those transcripts are the property of the members, not of the leadership clique).

Then a regular blog and forum on school-by-school issues moderated by one of those "Communications" people Marilyn Stewart is paying huge salaries to.

And while we're at it, maybe could explain why none of the people who do the union's "newspaper" has any Chicago teaching experience. It might help, to produce a "newspaper" that had its roots in the 75-year tradition of the union that represents the city's classroom teachers (largest group; others included including retirees in that sentence) to hire a few people who know about the city's hard scrabble classrooms as well as how to put out a newspaper.

And the Chicago Teachers Union has dozens -- perhaps hundreds -- of teachers who are doing that kind of work every month. Many of them have advanced degrees in journalism from places like Medill. They put out the school newspapers and other published materials that come out all over town.

The Chicago Union Teacher and its staff are making another power play to provide the union's members with less information, not more.

Another showdown of that power play (which went into high gear the night -- August 31, 2007 -- that Marilyn Stewart refused to count the "No" votes on the current contract at the House of Delegates takes place this Friday.

It's why every caucus in CTU that has a life of its own (this excludes the UPC, which is on patronage life support; and perhaps one other, which may be a UPC clone in drag) is saying


It's time to draw another line in the sand to remind Marilyn Stewart she is not the dictator of the Chicago Teachers Union and its proud, hard working, and intelligent 31,000 members.

November 18, 2009 at 7:51 PM

By: CORE Co-Chairs

An Open Letter to Mr. Ostenburg, "Editor Emeritus" of the CUT

Dear Mr. Ostenburg,

We are disappointed that you, as editor emeritus of the Chicago Union Teacher, would send an e-mail to our entire membership which adopts such a defensive tone towards CORE, a caucus which is engaged in a good-faith effort to strengthen our union and put forward some new ideas about leadership. Many people in the CTU have been talking about a "change of tone" in union debates... that they should be less bitter and personal, and more substantive. We agree. Let's start now.

You wrote, "The CORE caucus has sent out an absolutely untruthful and misleading statement" This characterizes us to the entire membership as dishonest (or stupid?) In truth, we are neither, but rather are deeply involved with many of the key struggles our union is facing, from such city-wide issues as school closings to efforts to stop abusive principals in our own buildings.

The actual matter in question is minor. In our newsletter we wrote that "The CTU is currently spending approximately $150,00 a year of our dues money to print the glossy, full-color magazine..." We meant, of course, that the CTU is currently spending $150,000 a year on the magazine. Your email suggests that the Union is actually spending twice that amount ($10 per year X 30,000 members = 300,000.)

While your response more than proves our point, we apologize for any misunderstanding you or any other Union member may have had regarding the contents of the CORE newsletter. In the future we will be more careful with our proofreading; Mr Ostenburg, please be similarly careful with the 'send' button.


Karen Lewis

CORE Co-Chair

Jackson Potter

CORE Co-Chair

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