Poll of more than 25,000 Chicago teachers and other CTU members shows overwhelming support for a strike if necessary, constitutes another 'no confidence' vote in administration of Jean-Claude Brizard

The Chicago Teachers Union has completed and compiled the results of an unprecedented polling of the union's more than 25,000 active duty members (the union also has retiree member who do not participate in voting on strikes or collective bargaining agreements) conducted in more than 600 Chicago public schools and other locations on May 10, 2012. The information from the polling was compiled by the union's staff and union member volunteers working at the union offices until late that night.

More than 50 Chicago Teachers Union members and staff workers worked late into the night on May 10, 2012 compiling and verifying the results of the unprecedented polling done by the union at all of the more than 600 real public schools. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Although reported by some to be a "strike poll," the May 10 polling, as the union has now publicly stated, consisted of four questions asking all of the union's 25,000 active duty teachers and other members regarding the conduct of the Board of Education and the Brizard administration in the running of the city's real public schools.

The Chicago Teachers Union's members work in the city's real public schools, while the city's charter schools, which have been expanding again since Brizard was appointed CEO of CPS in May 2011, have been expanded at an unprecedented rate, with no transparency or accountability. The charter schools have been allowed by the Emanuel administration to continue to spend nearly $400 million per year of CPS education funds with virtually no transparency and no accountability. The charter schools are also allowed by the administration to be established and expanded as anti-union schools, known in union circles as "yellow dog" schools.

The results of the union members' overwhelming response to the May 10 polling shows that once again, Jean-Claude Brizard has received an overwhelming vote of "no confidence" from the teachers in a city where he is the boss of the school system. Previously, Brizard worked in Rochester New York at Schools Superintendent.

Matt Luskin (CTU organizing department) double checks some of the information on the wall while Jim Cavallero (Chicago Academy) and Jay Jiminez (Wells HS) take a break for the camera. By the end of 2010, Rochester teachers had voted more than 90 percent in a "no confidence vote" against him. Parents and community leaders also spoke out against the autocratic, erratic, and often financially corrupt practices of the school district under Brizard. Brizard was in serious trouble in Rochester when he was selected by Rahm Emanuel to become CPS CEO.

The poll results also came as angry teachers responded to what the majority who spoke to Substance considered the insulting approach to "Teacher Appreciation Day" by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chief Executive Officer Jean-Claude Brizard.

The results of the polling were compiled first on wall charters listing every school in Chicago where union members work. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Since June 2011, when Emanuel's school board first took over the system and Brizard took over as "Chief Executive Officer", teachers have compiled a dozen major attacks on the city's teachers and the union by Brizard and the mayor, and hundreds of daily insults and attacks. Chicago is the only school district in Illinois whose top executive is a "Chief Executive Officer" instead of a state certified superintendent. Chicago is also the only district where top administrative jobs are allowed to go to individuals with no teaching or administrative experience in Chicago or Illinois.

This form of deregulation began with the passage of the Amendatory Act of 1995 by the then Republican Illinois General Assembly and signed by the then Republican Governor Jim Edgar (supported by then Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley and a handful of Democrat Party leaders and school reformers). It also included the mayoral control model of urban school governance, which has since been expanded by the plutocracy to most of the major urban school districts in the USA. Chicago's mayor appoints the CEO of the school system and the seven members of the Board of Education, and is not required to even submit his appointments to public review. The CTU issued an official press release on May 11, 2012 in the afternoon.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Stephanie Gadlin. May 11, 2012 312/329-6250

CTU school-by-school poll shows 90% of members believe Board's contract proposals will harm students and schools

Thousands of teachers, paraprofessionals and school clinicians to rally May 23rd at historic Auditorium Theater

CHICAGO - According to a school-by-school poll of members of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), over 90 percent of teachers, paraprofessionals, instructional coaches and school clinicians say they believe the Board of Education's current contract proposals will harm students and lower the education quality of their schools.

More than 50 Chicago Teachers Union members, most of them teachers who had worked in classrooms all day, worked into the night on May 10 to compile, doublecheck, and report the results of the polling. The activity was also seen as a "dry run" for an upcoming vote on strike authorization.The Board's current five-year contract proposals include a one-time 2 percent raise; dramatic increases in the costs for family health care; and, slashing the collective bargaining agreement to the bone by removing dozens of provisions that protect students such as class size limits.

CTU proposes smaller class sizes, increased instruction in art, music, world languages, and other areas, as well as fair compensation and protections against school closings. Many of CTU's contract proposals were outlined in The Schools Chicago's Students Deserve, a report issued by the Union earlier this year. (

The May 10th internal polling was conducted by Union delegates and concluded today. All of the Union's 25,000 voting members were eligible to participate in the four-question survey which required them to mark 'yes' or 'no' in a secret balloting process. Questions included: "Do you believe the Board of Education's proposals are disrespectful to teachers, clinicians and paraprofessionals; do you believe that the Board's proposals would harm students and lower the educational quality of your school; do you believe the Board's proposals should be rejected by the Union; and, do you think CEO (Jean-Claude) Brizard should resign?"

"This exercise was not only a way for us to gauge what our members think about the Board's current contract proposals but to show the public that CPS is trying to mislead taxpayers and destroy quality public schools," explained CTU President Karen GJ Lewis, NBCT. "We are being very transparent as we all prepare for the worst. None of us want a strike — it isn't good for anyone, not our members and certainly not our students. However, if the Board insists on destroying the love and joy of teaching and learning our members will be left with no other option; they will take a stand against this escalating disrespect and school sabotage."


Public school educators across the nation face a coordinated attack on their profession and the students and families they serve. In cities such as Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Detroit, school districts are imposing longer school days, shifts to merit pay, teacher evaluations based on standardized test scores and an aggressive push for charter schools. While Chicago is not alone in the attack on public education, many people believe the local fight has been one of the most malicious.

"Last year when the law was reformed to put several restrictions on teachers unions in Illinois we had no idea the school administration would then initiate an aggressive, brazen and profound assault on our classrooms," Lewis said. "First they took our contractual four percent raises, and although teachers could have gone on strike then, we did not. Next, they took illegal waiver votes in 13 schools to implement a haphazard 'longer school day program' this year, rather than make this a planning year so that lengthening the school day could be done correctly.

"This was followed by introducing a flawed teacher evaluation policy, the closure and turnarounds of several of our schools infuriating thousands of CPS parents. Now there is an attack on our pensions," she explained. "Hardworking teachers, paraprofessionals, instructional coaches and clinicians have been badgered, bullied and belittled by this administration and there appears to be no end in sight. When people feel their backs are against a wall they have no choice but to organize and stand up for themselves. Many of our members have children who attend CPS schools. They have families to support."

Thousands of CTU members are expected to present a unified front on May 23rd when they rally at the historic Auditorium Theater, 50 E. Congress Parkway. In addition to hearing speeches from Union leaders, people will listen to testimonies from parents, community leaders, students and other labor leaders. The 4:30 p.m. event will be followed by a march to the Board of Education headquarters.

The Chicago Teachers Union is the collective bargaining agent for more than 30,000 Chicago Public School employees. For more information, please visit the Union's website at


May 12, 2012 at 7:34 AM

By: Rod Estvan

Presentation of the vote in the poll

As I stated before I thought the union needed to present the polling results in a format that allowed the media to see if the yes votes on polling questions constituted 75% of the membership. Clearly the union knows the answer to that question because the union knows the exact number of eligible voting members in each school.

The failure to present the vote in that manner allowed the Tribune story that ran raising doubts that the poll may have actually revealed the 75% barrier was not achieved. That undermines the bargaining leverage that could have been gained by the poll. Hopefully the union will rapidly reveal the full polling data.

Rod Estvan

May 12, 2012 at 12:43 PM

By: John Kugler

Undermining the ruling class

We are under attack by the ruling class and the membership has voiced its opposition and solidarity against the austerity measures being pushed on organized labor in Chicago.

The Union does not get its power from the media or the law. Labor gets its power from organizing and solidarity. The only undermining going on is the repetition that the Union does not have the right to protect itself with any means.

An Injury to One is an Injury to All

May 13, 2012 at 9:31 AM

By: Rod Estvan

re: Undermining the ruling class

While Mr. Kugler is inclined to militant exuberation, we should recall that most teachers do not harken back to the Industrial Workers of the World tradition of “An Injury to One is an Injury to All.” In fact I would bet most CTU members would know nothing of the Wobblies that made the phrase John uses in his comment famous. This tradition, which is deeply inspiring for trade unionists, is also deeply antithetical to fighting for contractual relationships between employees and employers. Which is why I think John wrote “The Union does not get its power from the media or the law. Labor gets its power from organizing and solidarity.”

The Chicago Teachers Union Local 1, was founded and created as a craft union. Ideologically it explicitly did not support the vision of the IWW from its early days. One of the unfortunate realities of the history of urban public school teachers in Chicago and our nation’s other great urban centers is that in the early 1900s these teachers used Houghton Mifflin Company’s handbook for teachers titled “First steps in Americanization” which explicitly attacked the IWW and socialists as alien concepts that had to be purged from immigrant children’s thought process.

None the less the presumptions of this great and historic union the CTU were based on a wonderful idea that women workers, and all most all public school teachers were women in the early twentieth century, actually had legal rights under the existing governmental structures. The central focus of the CTU in its entire history has been getting a contract that is enforceable by law.

Let’s be clear the IWW tradition, which John evokes so emotionally, in March 1910 explicitly stated its first principle was: “Avoid labor contracts.” [Will Fisher, "Industrial Unionism, Tactics and Principles", INDUSTRIAL WORKER. March 12, 1910.] There are traditions and then there are traditions. Teachers have historically been both educational workers organized by a union and implementers/enforcers of laws and legal principles on the minds of children.

That is part of the role of teachers within a society organized around law and based on the right of private property. Many of us who read Substance are not thrilled by that role and often attempt to subvert it, but it is part of what teachers are required to do.

The situation of public school teachers is unique and that reality has to include very bad laws and a media that is fairly hostile to public sector unions in general right now. Evoking the battle cry of the Wobblies doesn’t change that reality.

Rod Estvan

May 13, 2012 at 9:34 AM

By: Jay Rehak

Not concerned with what the Tribune writes or fails to write

It's critical that our members not get lost in what the Tribune writes or fails to write. The Tribune has its own agenda, not the least of which is to marginalize the collective strength of middle class workers. Everything I've heard from colleagues around CPS indicates that when the appropriate time comes, the numbers will be there for whatever action the Union deems necessary. If the Tribune or any other entity has doubts about the strength of our numbers, let those doubts be resolved in the Fall.

May 13, 2012 at 11:10 AM

By: John Kugler

Ruling Class Loves Labeling

I remember one of the first edicts learned as pre-service teacher was not to label our students because it would limit their ability and possibly have negative effects on the opportunity for individuals to succeed. What is interesting about the current fight of our Union is the labeling and characterizations of what we are doing without fully understanding the basis of our struggle. The only people who truly understand the current struggle of the Chicago Teachers Union are the current members of the Union who have been subjected to illicit and immoral activities of the ruling class; not only against the professional staff that make up our rank-and-file but the destruction of the lives of the students we are charged to protect from harm.

The co-opting of organized labor in Chicago can be traced back 30 years in the policies of the 1%. Workers were corrupted by wages and comfortable working conditions that allowed the 1% to destroy any semblance of equity and positive social interdependence. When labor allows itself to be marginalized by media and legislation then they have already lost the war. When labor allows outsiders to determine the direction of its struggles by labels and characterization then again they will be defeated in any struggle.

Direct action of self-determination and empowerment is the only means to take control of any adverse working condition and the only solution to the tyranny of the 1%. From my understanding of the Chicago Teachers Union history which has been erased by mainstream media is that it was a progressive labor organization that developed itself as the true advocate of workers rights and children’s rights not by law enforcement but by direct action.

One good example of relying on the “law’ to help alleviate social ills is the thousands of daily instances of the violation of our children’s right to a Free Appropriate Public Education and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act: despite injunctions, court paid monitors and advocacy groups. Nothing is done expect to say collect the evidence and lets ask a judge to enforce the law. Not to over simplify the struggle but that very act of asking a judge is capitulation to the ruling class since adults already allowed a child to be harmed. Who is at fault? The adult who did not protect the child and followed the “procedures” of enforcement; all the while our children are denied proper education services while lawyers and advocacy groups collect salaries “fighting” while pushing papers across a desk.

There are many good examples in history of what to do with the ruling class when they become omnipotent. There is only on solution to that problem and it is not austerity. What happened to the french and russian ruling class when workers took power are interesting studies in curing greed and corruption. That being said, Union activists should not have illusions of grandeur but have practical knowledge and organizing ability to rally the troops to go forward to take on the boss who seeks to undermine solidarity.

Ask what the best and wisest parent wants for his own child, that must the community

want for all of its children. Any other ideal for our schools is narrow and unlovely; acted

upon, it destroys our democracy. —John Dewey, School and Society

May 13, 2012 at 1:13 PM

By: John Kugler

Which Side Are You On?

which side are you on?

[VIDEO] pete seeger

Come all you good workers

Good news to you I'll tell

Of how the good old union

Has come in here to dwell

Which side are you on, boys?

Which side are you on?

My daddy was a miner

He's now in the air and sun

He'll be with you fellow workers

Until the battle's won

Which side are you on, boys?

Which side are you on?

They say in Harlan County

There are no neutrals there

You'll either be a union man

Or a thug for J.H. Claire

Which side are you on, boys?

Which side are you on?

Workers, can you stand it?

Oh, tell me how you can

Will you be a lousy scab

Or will you be a man?

Which side are you on, boys?

Which side are you on?

Don't scab for the bosses

Don't listen to their lies

Poor folks ain't got a chance

Unless they organize

Which side are you on, boys?

Which side are you on?

Which Side Are You On?

May 13, 2012 at 4:08 PM

By: Rod Estvan

Ruling Class Loves Labeling

Mr. Kugler I thought your statement, or more correctly attack, relating to lawyers and advocacy organizations that represent children with disabilities in due process cases and in class actions was interesting. I recall that one of the first advocacy organizations that helped to defend my own disabled daughter was PURE some 19 years ago, an organization now considered to be a steadfast ally of the CTU. One of the founders of PURE actually advocated for my daughter and helped me get into contact with an attorney when things got ugly.

All of the teachers arguing against my then first grade daughter being educated in the least restrictive environment just happened to be CTU members as I was myself at that time. The teachers were doing their job and arguing for separate placements as they had been doing for at least 15 years before my kid showed up a Blaine School with two parents who wanted the law followed, in no way was it a reflection on the CTU as a union. CTU members are employees of the school district and that creates limits in what they can do in relation to special education issues.

Mr Kugler one of your most endearing characteristics is being a loose loaded cannon rolling on the deck in high seas. It is a characteristic that makes you a zealous advocate for members of your union, but it has its limits.

Also I agree that the CTU was a progressive union in its formation, progressivism was fundamentally not in the camp of the IWW that raised objections to the use of labor contracts and formalization of labor law. The IWW basically argued to hell with the law, the hell with the ruling elites much like you seem to be doing. The IWW was effectively destroyed, but its battles were inspirational, but nonetheless the workers it represented lost in the end.

The greatest fight waged by what was in ancient history was the Chicago Teachers Federation was against the Loeb rule, which banned the CTF. This was a legislative fight and a court fight that the CTF lost and it destroyed the early union. But fundamentally it was a fight over legal recognition of a public sector union. The CTF also fought over issues like the privatization of public property back in the early 1900s, which was back then a liberal or progressive stance. Laws do matter, unions in the current context are not strong enough to take on the ruling elites directly and win. Chicago in 2012 is not Saint Petersburg in 1917.

Rod Estvan

May 13, 2012 at 6:40 PM

By: John Kugler

Practical solidarity in action

Practical solidarity in action...

What does 'Union' mean?

June, 2008§ion=Article

Unionism is a new word in my vocabulary and in the vocabulary of many newer teachers in Chicago. It’s been more than 20 years since the last teachers’ strike, and a whole new generation has come into teaching since then.

In the beginning getting involved, I thought unionism was going to meetings, posting notices and enjoying banquets paid by the membership. Now as I become involved with the members as they communicate with me, I am starting to understand what solidarity is. This is the first in a series of reports exposing the non-representation of rank and file union members employed by the Chicago Public Schools.

Working Together

In the absence of union advocacy for those being displaced and terminated union members are reaching out to each other for help and support. Although most members teach full time, have families and have a variety of other obligations they are forcing themselves to make time to help their brothers and sisters in need.

There are the tenured teachers in the E3 process at Wells High School who are being told to forgo their rights under the Bargaining Agreement to due process. Numerous requests for representation are ignored. The school delegate Joshua Strand has not filed any grievances in regards to violations of procedures despite the requests of the teachers’ requests top do so. Field Representative Nate Dickson leaves messages that he is on vacation but miraculously shows up to a secret Executive Board meeting May 28, 2008 to illegally remove the Vice-president of the Chicago Teachers Union: who was charged with insubordination when he tried to help his brothers and sisters at Wells High School.

There is the security guard at Gage Park High School being terminated for doing his job. He is being told that’s all we can do for you from his local SEIU 73. Why help him? To show that summary suspensions are not tolerated by the rank and file no matter what local they are in.

There are the brothers and sisters not paid for IMPACT training, night school, extra classes and others work performed outside of their regular duties. Why help them? They have been robbed of their right to be compensated for their services. In the eyes of the union it is a payroll issue not an issue of theft of services of those that serve the students of Chicago. Calls and communications to the union are ignored, transferred and told to handle it themselves.

What to do

It is essential that all communications be documented and logged. Members need to follow the procedures of complaints, grievances and appeals through the process proscribed in the varying bargaining agreements they work under. Members need to communicate and develop a network of rank and file members that have the knowledge and skills to develop a system of recourse when those that are responsible for the advocacy of the rank and file fail in their duties. The system of recourse includes many options some of which have varying degrees of remedies for the complainants.

The issue then becomes who is charge of the effort to help the rank and file. No one. It is the responsibility of the members to help each other out. Seek out those members and unionists that are knowledgeable and work together to rebuild the unions to the status of working for the members not for the government or corporate America. All members are the union. All members are responsible to protect each other. All members who fight for what is right will win!

May 14, 2012 at 1:28 AM

By: Kimberly Bowsky

It wasn't, so it can't BE?

Cheerleaders don't win the football game, but they should be there on the chance that someone hears the rallying cry and is spurred to action. Musicians and music won't win a battle, but both are used to stimulate the courage of a soldier. What am I to make of an argument that declines the importance of "An injury to one is an injury to all?"

Unions in the past contexts that were previously mentioned weren't so-called strong enough to take on the ruling elites and win, either. But they did in many cases!!! It does not matter if people don't know the history yet, as much as it matters that they participate in it. There are enough naysayers to convince the more cynical of our ranks that "You can't fight the law and win." CORPORATIZATION OF EDUCATION, PRIVATIZATION OF SCHOOLS, and the PRETENSE THAT TOP-DOWN direction, when changed into human capital management, will remedy the so-called "crisis in education" ARE WRONGHEADED! The contract fight is only an extension of this.

I went to all-public schools from K through 12, and my parents struggled like everyone's. I had art with various paints, media, and a kiln--publicly funded and expected. Gym wasn't a curriculum with a jump rope and a basketball. I had music, and we sang songs of the world and learned the scales and to beat time, the math I could understand. At one school, we spoke French in 4th grade. We went on field trips to dig up worms and examine leaves and check the PH of natural items. We read and discussed things with the freedom to make mistakes. I had a couple of great teachers (that should be decided by each student personally, not a district), mostly good ones, and one toxic one. Above all, I was led to use my own powers--my teachers were trusted to lead me out of one phase of development and into another, for which I bore some responsibility.

This is no longer the case. Districts think a student can live virtually and that testing makes a student and a teacher better. They have left learning to be a set of developmental markers represented by a number. My students need to get out of their seats, literally and figuratively. Instead, our bosses are smothering our greatest thinkers and their caretakers with scientific management. Aren't our children and teachers worth more? Shouldn't we fight? If we have to invoke 1917 St. Petersburg, the Civil Rights movement, the factory fights from the late 1800s through the 1990s, and the 1960s, shouldn't we? Didn't people say back then, "Aw, you can't do it"?

Cynicism is a high insult to unionism. When any fight is led, NO one knows who will win. S/He just knows that it must be fought. The fight must be fought on all levels, and we must unite. History must be brought out, yes, but put away old resentments and look afresh at what's at stake. I urge Mr. Estvan to drop the cynicism. It is as impractical as it is ugly.

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