[ Internal Teacher Union Politics ] Retiree Delegate Election Shows Members First Gaining Ground

In the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) retiree delegates election - Members First defeated Core to gain five seats at the House of Delegates monthly meetings.

Similar to the recent Chicago Teachers Pension Fund election last fall when Members First Phil Weiss upset Core to win the teacher trustee position, this was the first retiree delegate election that Core lost since becoming the CTU's ruling party in 2010. The five Members First candidates who won a seat to represent retired teachers include Kathleen Cleary, who runs the Members First Facebook Page, Therese Boyle, who ran for CTU President and lost to Jesse Sharkey in the last election, Louis Pyster, a former union official and long-time delegate, Reggie O'Connor, a former Legislative Action Committee chair, and Diane Blaszczck, a retired teacher from Oriole Park Elementary School and former UPC member.

"We are very excited," Therese Boyle told Second City Teachers. "All 5 of us were long-time delegates who were very active on CTU committees. It's great to be back in the House."

The CTU Rules & Election Committee counted 719 ballots for retiree delegates for a two-year term in the April 14, 2021 election. There are 1750 retired CTU members, so less than half voted in the election. The top 17 out of 27 total retiree delegate candidates won the election for the House of Delegates meeting on May 5, 2021.

John Lewis, the husband of the late CTU President Karen Lewis, had the most votes with 497, followed by fellow Core delegates Pat Knazze (488) and Lois Nelson (472), a current CTPF retired teacher pension trustee.

The first shock was seeing Louis Pyster's name back in the spotlight after getting defeated by Core more than 8 years ago. Pyster was a PACT union official who worked for Debbie Lynch, a former CTU President when Paul Vallas and Mayor Richard Daley ran the schools. Pyster could be considered the George Schmidt of retired delegates for his acerbic wit and incredible knowledge of union politics.

Delegates always listened carefully when Pyster would speak at the mic at past delegates' meetings because he knows a lot about the union's constitution and would argue with the union leadership about certain questionable actions. He was by far the most knowledgeable delegate in the meetings. But Core considered him an enemy and used its newfound power to kick him out. He surprised many by winning the 4th most votes in the delegates' election, even though his name appeared at No. 24 on the ballot.

"Lou is an asset to CTU," Boyle wrote. "He is like George with his fund of historical knowledge of CTU."

Coming in No. 5 and No. 6 in the vote totals were Helen Ramirez-Odell (425), a former UPCer who quickly switched to Core after her beloved UPC President Marilyn Stewart lost to Karen Lewis in the historic 2010 election, and George Milkowski (426), a former PACT turned Core union activist who puts out an excellent newsletter to update the retired teachers about delegate meetings which we publish here at Second City Teachers.

MF Kathleen Cleary (416) finished at No. 7 and Therese Boyle (415) at No. 8, followed by old-time union fighter and centenarian Beatrice Lumpkin (414) whose fiery delegate speeches at the mic remind us of a time when democrats and unions were real partners. No. 10 was Bill Lamme (380), the one true Core activist who joined up from the beginning when it was inconceivable that this caucus could defeat the ruling teachers union party a decade ago. Lamme helped fight hard against school closings and privatization on the Southwest Side where he worked as a high school teacher at Kelly High School.

The second shock was the defeat of Norine Gutekanst, a long-time Core union official who ran the organizing department. She lost her election after she finished in 18th place.

Boyle said Core sent out a postcard mailing while MF sent out letters in which retired voters had to open an envelope.

Social media may have also played a role in the election since Cleary runs a powerful Members First Facebook page, while the other MF winners continue to be active online. Many retired as well as active teachers read and comment on the big 3 Facebook teachers pages.

One complaint against the union has been the exclusion of retired teachers from participating in the current online HOD meetings even though the constitution states they should be able to attend as guests. The CTU says they are concerned that people not affiliated with the union could record the meetings and leak sensitive information to the media. The CTU has constantly told delegates not to report anything said in the meetings to anybody outside the union- keep your lips zipped! We here at Second City Teachers believe in free speech and informing everyone about union and city politics. May the facts be known and the people's candidates win!

The final results & vote totals:

1. John Lewis 497 2. Pat Knazze 488 3. Lois Nelson 472 4. Louis Pyster 455 5. Helen Ramirez-Odell 426 6. George Milkowski 425 7. Kathleen Cleary-Powers 416 8. Therese Boyle 415 9. Beatrice Lumpkin 414

10. Bill Lamme 380

11. Margo Murray 376

12. Bernie Eshoo 376

13. Debbie Pope 375

14. Reggie O'Connor 373

15. Charlotte Sanders 371 16. Patricia Boughton 363 17. Diane Blaszcyzk 353

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