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Report of the Chicago Teachers Union House of Delegates meeting held on June 5, 2019

The pre-meeting Q and A started at 4:15 p.m. Delegate Margaret West was very upset about the new ASPEN program that has been implemented for grade entry. The program requires inordinate amounts of time and she suggested that teachers boycott using it. CTU President Jesse Sharkey said he has taken evidence of over 200 separate cases of severe problems regarding it to the CPS and said he is determined on working out a solution.

Another delegate had a question about sex abuse allegations both against teachers and student against student. There are 36 cases right now of teachers being accused of abuse and have been removed from the classroom pending further investigation. However, nothing is being done to resolve these cases as the CPS has no real protocols to deal with them and devotes almost no personnel to deal with them. The teachers are left in limbo. Jesse is aware of the problem and will bring it up again with the CPS.

SEIU 73 has authorized a strike but they are not on the same schedule as the CTU. The hope was that all unions with expiring contracts this year would work together to pressure the school board, but that is not the case here.

A delegate brought up the issue that the Professional Staff Employees Union and the Office Technical Employee Group of the CTU, which represent a large part of the CTU’s staff, have their contracts expiring on June 30 as is the CTU. In both cases it took 18 months in the past to settle their contracts with the CTU. It is hoped that they would be more willing to settle this time.

The delegate from the Back of the Yards College Prep complained about the residency required for CPS employees. He asked that the CTU get the CPS to get rid of it.

This reporter asked about the repeal of the 4.5. Amendatory Act. That law has greatly restricted the bargaining rights of the CTU for over 20 years. Jesse said a bill to repeal it has been passed by the Illinois House, (for the second or third time), but it died in the Senate. He said that Senate President John Cullerton assured him that he personally supports the legislation but it won’t pass until the mayor gives it the go-ahead and Mayor Lori Lightfoot doesn’t want to have it passed. Jesse said that maybe if the “other candidate” had won, it would have been passed.

When the time period ended, Jesse spent a few minutes lauding the work done by Michael Brunson, Recording Secretary, who is retiring at the end of June.

The regular meeting started at 4:50 p.m. with the officers’ and administrative reports, beginning with Michael Brunson, Recording Secretary.

Michael reported that graduate students at the University of Chicago have gone on strike. He said that they teach classes, grade papers, do research, and get paid less than $10 an hour, but the university does not consider them workers.

Michael also mentioned the St. Paul Community Development Ministries’ 12 week pre-apprentice program which is free for students 18 and older. The program, which helps prepare students for potential jobs in the trades such as pipefitter, electrician, plumber, and so on, has been very successful to date with all of its graduates getting apprenticeships in the trades starting at $35 an hour. Kathy Catalano gave the financial report. She apologized for not getting all of the CTU finances on the CTU portal as promised. She will continue to work on it. Kathy also said that the current budget has taken in $3 million more in dues than anticipated, although about half of that will be passed through to the IFT and the AFT. On the downside there were a few areas that we have gone over budget, for example, the costs of negotiations and strikes by our charter school contingents and our own preparations for a possible strike in the fall.

Maria Moreno, CTU Financial Secretary, said that in the past school year we have had over 2,000 new members despite the Janus decision. There are currently less than 500 non-members in our bargaining unit. Because of the Janus decision, 20 people have opted out of CTU membership and 22 more are expected to do the same in August.

Maria also thanked everyone for participating in the latest CTU election. She said that the 66% average vote for CORE candidates does not negate the interests and feelings of those in the Members First caucus. She said the election is an expression of democratic norms and that competition is healthy for a union.

Stacy Davis Gates, CTU Vice-President, yielded most of her time to Kurt Hilgendorf, CTU legislative liaison, who addressed legislative and political issues. He said that many of the accomplishments we just got passed in the General Assembly were the result of years of hard work. He cited the passage of HB1584, which addresses the sub shortage by allowing retirees to sub 120 days a year starting next year. He also said that legislation has been passed that would allow a pathway for student teachers to get paid to try to help end the teacher shortage. The State Charter School Commission has been abolished. This body had the power to grant a charter to a school even if the local school board had refused to do so. (Note: this actually happened a year ago in Chicago). Kurt also spoke to the passage of the proposed referendum to change the income tax structure in Illinois and the passage of an increase over time in the State’s $15 minimum wage, both of which should eventually help supply more revenue for the schools.

After Kurt finished, Stacy said that the members of the new school board have been invited to the open bargaining session between the CTU and CPS, which will be Tuesday, June 11, from 5-7 p.m., at the CTU building. Members are also invited to attend by registering at ctulocal1.org/open.

Jesse Sharkey, CTU President, started by saying that the recent union election was a referendum on two views; straight bread and butter issues versus action to improve the moral, social and racial issues affecting our communities.

Jesse said that the turnout for the May 22 rally was not nearly as big as the one held in 2012, where over 20,000 members showed up. He said that things are different now, the main thing that Rahm is gone and there appears to be a more accommodating city administration.

Jesse also commented on the proposed CTU budget. He expressed hope that some of the demands in contract negotiations will be met and there will be more staff hired that can lead to more CTU members. He also said that the proposed budget effectively deals with two old problems: the required payments for 2 and ½ more years on the Merchandise Mart property and CTU/PAC spending.

Items for Action

The “Resolution for the Chicago Teachers Union to Support Bond Reform and Pretrial Freedom” passed with 2-3 negative votes. I voted in favor of it.

Approval of the CTU budget for 2019-20. There was an amendment to the budget introduced by Drew Heiserman that would move three expenses from the CTU Operating Budget to the PAC Fund. Those expenses are political lobbying expenses listed under “consultants ($304,000), United Working Families affiliation fees listed under “pass throughs” ($32,000) to – AFT/CFL/IFT/ISFL/UWF, and half of the $140,000 listed under phone banking. Jesse, in response to a point of information asked by Washington H.S. Delegate Frank McDonald as to how U.S. law applies here, said that lobbying is a regular activity of almost all unions, therefore, it should be in the operating budget.

Those opposing the amendment included Stacy Davis Gates whose remarks I took to mean that those who supported the amendment were playing into the hands of Bruce Rauner and the neoliberal right wing. Sarah Chambers said, “This amendment would tie our hands.” She stressed that everything we do in working for the students is political.

Those supporting the amendment included CTU Trustee Alison Eichorn (Lindbloom). She said six of the seven CTU trustees favor this proposal. Alison argued that the amendment would help make the budget of the CTU more transparent and that there have been unanswered questions raised about PAC spending. Beth Eisenbach said, is response to Sarah Chambers’ comments, that if everything we do is political, then why bother having two funds?

At this point the fifteen minutes of time on the issue ran out and a motion to extend debate failed. I voted to extend debate. I always do as I feel that people should be given a chance to be heard). The vote on the actual amendment was 216 against and 88 in favor. I voted in favor as did Tom Lalagos.

Jesse was asked what was the big fear of moving the money from one fund to the PAC Fund? He said there would be less money for political spending. I don’t understand that as the money is still there, just in different pots. The budget was approved by the House, but I voted “no” on the issue.

Departmental/Committee Reports

Marty Ritter in organizing announced that there would be a CTU/CPS contract bargaining session open to all on Monday, June 11, from 5-7 p.m. at the CTU Building. If you would like to attend, register at ctulocal1.org/open.

Zeidre Foster of the grievance committee said close to 700 employees have been notified that they will be laid off; 220 of them teachers. Those people should contact the CTU to challenge their lay off if they think they were laid off unfairly. The CPS will have a job fair June 26 for laid off teachers and June 27 for laid off PSRPs.

Mary Sharon Reilly, pension, said the CTPF’s annual report summary is available.

New Business/Questions and Answers

Helen Ramirez-Odell of the Women’s Rights Committee lauded the passage of the Reproductive Health Act and urged the CTU to make sure that the CPS includes required provisions of the bill are included in their health plans.

Nicole Fuller had another complaint about the ASPEN program. She keyed in grades but when she clicked to enter them every grade was boosted by one grade; there were no failures. Jesse will take that info to the CPS along with the myriad of other complaints.

Natasha Carlson urged the CTU to plan for House of Delegates meetings over the summer to keep the membership informed of the progress of contract negotiations.

There were only 2-3 more people at the microphones and less than 50 delegates remaining so I left at this point as I had to make another meeting in my neighborhood at 8p.m. The time was 6:56 p.m..



Comments:

June 19, 2019 at 11:10 AM

By: Bernie Eshoo

Defeated proposal

Baffling to me that "six of the seven CTU trustees favored the proposal", and yet the proposal failed. The trustees have a judiciary responsibility to oversee our budget/money. They diligently work to be transparent and public (as possible) with our budget. They see and explain a questionable practice within CTU, and again ... nobody wants to listen or act. Some things never change.

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