CTU members demanding to know why 'chief of staff' position must be added to the union's bureaucracy after the budget was cut claiming that the union is 'broke'...

Jackson Potter (above right) has been serving in the position of "staff coordinator" of the Chicago Teachers Union since Karen Lewis (above left) and the CORE slate were elected to lead the union in June 2010. Above, Lewis and Potter are seen after a February 2009 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education, during which they were protesting Board of Education attacks on the local schools. At the time, CORE was organizing around a program of militant confrontations with the Board and city officials, and Potter was a teacher at Social Justice High School while Lewis was teaching at King High School. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. Does the Chicago Teachers Union, which is supposedly "broke" financially, really need to continue to follow corporate America in its activities by adding an expensive position called "Chief of Staff" to the Office of the President of the CTU. Such will be part of the debate as the union moves towards consideration of the most radical changes in history in upcoming debates over the union's Constitution and By-Laws. Less than three months after the union leadership proclaimed melodramatically that the union was facing such enormous financial problems that it was "broke" and had even to eliminate the annual pocket calendar that had been a part of the CTU for more than a half century, the union leadership is asking the union membership to add an unprecedented bureaucratic position that will cost in total (pay and benefits) more than $130,000 per year -- a "Chief of Staff to the President."

The "Chief of Staff" proposal is one of a half dozen changes to the CTU Constitution and By Law that were unveiled to the union's House of Delegates at the September 2017 meeting. Although the other proposals are equally or even more controversial, the suggestion that for the first time in union history the President needs a "Chief of Staff" (a position usually reserved for the military and militarily organized corporations) is as questionable as any. It was only eight years ago, one year before the current CORE leadership took over the union, that the CTU used the constitutional amendment procedure to eliminate that office of Treasurer, again based on the claim that the union couldn't afford that expense.

The elimination of Treasurer was done by then-President Marilyn Stewart, who was facing and internal rebellion from the then-Treasurer Linda Porter. Porter ultimate was one of several members of Stewart's United Progressive Caucus (UPC) who ran against Stewart in the union's 2010 election. It was the three-way split in the UPC -- and not a ratification of the "vision" of the CORE caucus, that resulted in the upset election that put Karen Lewis and Jesse Sharkey into the leadership of the CTU on July 1, 2010. In the May 2010 union elections, CORE came in second in a five-way race (Stewart was facing CORE, former union president Debbie Lynch's PACT caucus, and two split off candidates who had been part of the UPC (Porter and CTU field rep Ted Hajiharis). Stewart came in first in the May election but didn't win the required majority of the votes. In a tightly fought runoff in June 2010, Stewart and most of the UPC lost to the CORE slate.

The election of CORE, the second time the UPC had been knocked out of power in the new century, was interpreted by some CORE people as a "mandate" for the caucus's program, which included a faction that wanted CORE to be proclaimed a "social justice caucus." The CORE leadership was re-elected decisively in 2013 against a newly formed caucus, and won unopposed in May 2016. By 2016 the union's leaders began to believe that they had an overwhelming mandate to transform the CTU into what they are now proposing, a so-called "social justice union" that supposedly represents "students and communities" and not merely the 25,000 dues paying union members.

Whether the expansive and expensive changes being proposed by Lewis, Sharkey and their faction will prevail in the upcoming debates remains to be seen. The proposals must be debated in the union's House of Delegates at the union's October meeting and then be sent to the members for a citywide vote. Given the dissatisfaction among the rank-and-file with the demeaning provisions of the current contract (which was finally provided to the union's members in book form this month -- two years after the contract supposedly begins -- the outcome of the debate is far from certain. A new factor against the potential of the CORE leadership to dominate the debate is also the existence of a new group calling itself "Members First." The majority of those in and around "Members First" are aligned in opposition to the CORE contract, which they consider a sellout, and the proposed radical changed in the union's constitution and by laws.

Voting will take place in November, at the earliest.


September 29, 2017 at 3:33 PM

By: Jim Cavallero

Chief of Staff?

I don't know who told you there was a proposal for a chief of staff or why they would tell you that but it is untrue.

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