STUMP » Articles » Chicago Watch: What'll It Be, Teachers? » 28 March 2016, 18:45

Where Stu & MP spout off about everything.

Chicago Watch: What'll It Be, Teachers?  


28 March 2016, 18:45

A few weeks ago, the Chicago Teachers Union voted to strike or walkout or something on April 1.

I wrote:

[A]ccording to CTU itself, it has about 20K members. According to the Chicago Public Schools, there are about 400K students in the system. Even assuming we have one working adult inconvenienced by a strike, that’s 420K adults. Chicago area employment is about 4 million people. So if we have those 420K affected, that’s about 10% of the workforce.

I’m not seeing that as a city shutdown, but good luck with that. I can imagine a lot of people would prefer to skip April Fools Day at work.

On a Friday.

I thought the timing was pretty bad, given the obvious “April Fools” caption that will be on news photos.

I’m sure someone already has a bunch of “We’re No Fools” signs printed out and ready to go for their rally on Friday.

But given last week’s ruling by the Illinois Supreme Court, the timing is doubly worse.


So here’s the deal. Chicago taxpayers learned that essentially nothing can be changed on pensions, except to ratchet ever-upwards. COLAs are baked into the pie (very expensive), I’m still not sure what the promise is re: retiree health care (I would rather not get started in that quagmire… the one that everybody said would be the easiest to change ad hoc), you can’t get rid of early retirement, yadda yadda.

And you think your bitchery over having to pay your statutorily required contribution is a bridge too far?


An editorial from the Chicago Tribune:

Editorial: On Tantrum Day, will teachers rebel against CTU?

Chicago Teachers Union executives have spent weeks whipping their members into a froth over this Friday’s planned classroom walkout.

They’ve stoked members’ anger over Chicago Public Schools’ bid to phase out a generous pension deal the near-bankrupt district can no longer afford.

They’ve whipped passions over the district’s decision to order furlough days because of a huge budget shortfall, and over its move to withhold a category of raises that’s based on teachers gaining further education and experience.

Still, the vote in the union’s House of Delegates to authorize the April 1 strike was a lopsided but far from unanimous 486-124.
Extrapolate for a moment that 4-1 vote ratio across the district. The CTU says it has 25,000 active members but not all are educators. If the dissenters were paying more than lip service and if that ratio holds, some 4,400 of the district’s 22,000 teachers would show up for class and teach students on April 1, instead of heeding the union call to “Shut It Down.”

Why shut it down, the “it” evidently being Chicago? The CTU’s stated motivation keeps changing. One sensible voice amid all the noise:

“No effective teacher gives an assessment to students without explaining what success looks like,” writes CPS teacher Ray Salazar on his blog, The White Rhino. “Yet we still cannot consistently — as rank-and-file members — communicate what policy or social or political changes will indicate success on April 1. … An effective educator knows the pulse of his or her classroom. Yet … the pulse of the rank-and-file membership seemed discounted.”

Lewis conceded that some educators may cross picket lines. “We’re hoping that between now and April 1 we’ll have a chance to talk to them,” she said. She was asked if those teachers who go to work Friday would be labeled “scabs.”

“Can we not call people names yet?” she said, according to Catalyst Chicago. “They haven’t done anything yet.”

Talk fast, Ms. Lewis. You haven’t made a compelling case to a significant chunk of your membership that this walkout is a smart move. You haven’t told the educators how this will help students.

Because everyone knows it won’t.

Note that they stopped their bitchery over the pension contribution. I assume they figured out that would be bad PR.

But to be good PR, you actually need to have a goal, and it sounds like there’s not much of one.


I love how “it looks really bad” got turned into the politi-speak “bad optics”. We just need some new glasses to cure those bad optics!

Stuff like this won’t garner good PR:

Teachers Who Don’t Join CTU One-Day Strike Will Be Kicked Out Of Union

CHICAGO — Some Chicago Public Schools teachers who aren’t sold on their union’s decision to call a one-day strike will face consequences if they cross the picket line on April 1.

A South Side high school teacher who asked not to be identified told me that she learned her plan to show up to school on the so-called “Day of Action” would get her kicked out of the union.

“It was said to me as a matter of fact that the consequence of choosing to come to school is being kicked out of the union,” the teacher said. “I’m furious about the whole thing.”

Another teacher — a South Side grade school instructor who also spoke on the condition of anonymity because she feared retribution — said she is “morally and ethically” against the walkout and her loyalty to her students trumps her loyalty to the CTU.

CTU financial secretary Kristine Mayle said teachers considering showing up to work on April 1 have been informed of provisions in the union bylaws that relate to “strike breakers” that date back to at least 1971.

“We put out information in response to questions but we are not trying to threaten members. But if someone crosses the picket line they undermine the union. We have to do this together or it doesn’t work,” Mayle said.
A teacher excommunicated by CTU would still have to pay union fees because they receive the benefits of contract negotiations, but they lose other benefits including union-provided liability insurance, according to a memo sent to a member who crossed the picket line during the 2012 teachers strike obtained by DNAinfo Chicago.

The South Side high school teacher said she’s planning on showing up to work for her students’ sake and she’s not interested in paying a fine to rejoin the union.

“The only thing I’ve gotten out of the union is a pocket calendar,” she said.

Dangit, I don’t get even that (note: I am not a AAUP member, which represents UConn adjuncts. But I have to pay them fees for them to negotiate crap I don’t even care about. Oh, yes, there’s a rally for something-or-other conveniently next to my day job, but at 5pm on Mondays, I’m driving to UConn to teach my evening class. Oh darn.)

Decisions, decisions…


Chicago has been losing population and losing students. This is not a growing taxbase. Assuming the state will pony up when it can’t take care of its own liabilities is fatuous.

So what, exactly, is their leverage? I’ve asked this before.

Simply walking off the job, when even your own union members are skeptical, is not much in the way of leverage.

Ask the Greek workers what protests and riots got them. Note: it did not make money magically appear.

There used to be fun money to play with. Such fun money no longer exists. Daley leaving should have told them the fun money was gone.

If there was still a lot of fun to be had, don’t you think Daley would still be there? Come on.

You’ve got to know that Rahm doesn’t have much to play with. Fitch just downgraded Chicago in reaction to the pension ruling.

The bill is coming due. It doesn’t matter if you’re at fault or not.

But people who have seen their own jobs downsized and/or outsourced are not going to be that well-favored to a group of people of whom 40% are retired by age 60.

Even more to the point, if your own union members don’t understand why you’re striking, when you don’t give them a reasonable negotiating target, everybody is going to assume this is all in bad faith.


So let me be fair. I went looking for people who support the possible April 1 action.

First, I went to CTU’s own blog.

In response to the “tantrum” taunt: Rauner, Not the CTU, is Throwing the Real Tantrum:

As Chicago teachers, we are more than familiar with fighting for what is right. The Chicago Teachers Union has a long history of being a fighting union, and that description is true now more than ever. Every single one of the nearly 28,000 members of this union is a fighter—we have fought school closings, fought the mayor’s turnaround agenda, fought for clean schools and fought for art, music and physical education for every student in every school. We have fought for smaller class sizes and for adequate staffing levels of nurses and clinicians. In short, we have fought for what every student deserves: a safe, well-staffed public school that provides them the opportunity for a well-rounded education of the whole student.

That being said, fights are not tantrums. Tantrums are unwarranted displays of emotion by children when they don’t get what they want. So, Chicago Tribune, your editorial board article published March 27 calling April 1 a “tantrum day” gets the reasoning for this date wrong on every level.

First, the demonstration on April 1 is not Chicago teachers throwing a tantrum. April 1 is the culmination of frustration, anger, fear, anxiety and injustices felt by people across Chicago. For years, the hardworking people of this city have been starved of the resources that allow them to live their lives with a sense of pride and dignity. The robber barons of the present day have instead made them feel that their pleas for adequate schools, social services and a living wage were misguided and flat-out wrong. The people in charge of this city and the media spewing their agenda are collaborating to ensure that the working class remains voiceless and powerless.

The action on April 1 is one component of a broader struggle for the future of this city and the Chicagoans who are the true heroes in this fight—the public servants who make this city run every single day. Social and economic justice for workers, students and educators across Chicago is long overdue. Instead of accusing the Chicago Teachers Union of throwing a tantrum by using its collective power with other groups from across the city and state to address attacks on public education and social services, the Tribune editorial board should direct its energy and anger at the individual throwing a real temper tantrum: Governor Bruce Rauner. The state of Illinois has spent nine months without a budget and is now the only state in the entire U.S. that doesn’t have one. Rauner refuses to pass a budget because legislators won’t agree to his “turnaround” agenda—an agenda that systemically destroys workers’ rights and disregards the true problem that our state faces, which is the lack of adequate social services and a living wage for all workers.

It is true that our city and state need reform, but not the reform that the governor is calling for. We need to reform the way that we treat workers and regular people in this city. Every Chicagoan—every Illinoisan—deserves the chance to live in a place where they feel respected, where they have the social services that they need and where they have the opportunity to go to a great public school, college, trade school or university to pursue a career of their choosing. As Frederick Douglass once said, “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never has and it never will.” For these reasons, I am striking on April 1. I am a public educator who works in a system that has unelected leaders who spend their time and money not doing what is best for students. For those reasons, I urge my colleagues and every single working class member of this city to join me on April 1. Together, we will win.

Living wage for all workers, huh?

I’m pretty sure the CTU members make a more-than-living wage. Even if their salaries were cut some.

I find it amusing the fight for $15 people are joining the CTU for their day of action. The $15 folks should ask the CTU people what their total compensation is worth on an hourly basis.

Adequate schools? I can see that argument, but given that Chicago schools receive more $$ on a per pupil basis than the state average (heck, they’re being funded at Swiss levels), it’s not the money that’s the problem, is it?

But that’s just one teacher posting on the blog.

This looks like an official statement from the union:


Our Big Bargaining Team tried to get a decent contract for the members to vote on. The Big Bargaining Team rejected a four-year contract where many of our members would be earning less at the end than at the beginning with loss of a year of lanes and steps, doubling of the health-care premium and a cost of living increase that does not replace the loss of the pension pick-up. They asked the Board to offer us a flat contract, keep steps and lanes, no health-care increases but no raises. The Board said they could not afford that commitment.

They asked the board to commit to a class size limit because the Mayor wanted 2,250 early retirements but doesn’t want to replace them, including vacant positions from attrition. This will lead to ballooning class sizes. The Board said they could not afford that commitment.

The Big Bargaining Team asked the Board to close loopholes like:

Get rid of the State Charter Commission which makes a charter moratorium meaningless.

Support an Elected School Board bill so that bankers and real estate tycoons stop robbing the school system.

Restore the pension levy that would put $200 million more into the CPS budget annually and support progressive revenue legislation like a millionaires tax, progressive income tax, the closure of corporate loopholes and TIF reform.

If we get those things then the first two sets of conditions to settle a contract are possible, without the funding and a charter moratorium we cannot stabilize the district’s finances.

Additionally, we know that Claypool is planning scores of school closings, furloughs, and layoffs for next school year. He and Rahm are incapable of getting the bills passed in Springfield that we need. However, the CTU can move the forces that can win. Over Rahm’s repeated objections we did what many said was impossible, we passed an Elected School Board bill out of the Illinois House with an incredible 110 to 4 veto-proof majority. With Democrats increasing their majority from the March 15 elections, we can push through some revenue bills in the state legislature, many of which will emerge in April. Now is the time to strike, literally and figuratively.

I highlighted a few things.

I note that this statement does mention not wanting to pay their share of the pension contribution.

They want to limit competition from charter schools.

They want to make sure they can pack the School Boards with their own members.

Oh, and they want those nice automatic raises, etc. And money money money every upward.

Good luck with that.

Chicago doesn’t have the money, so Claypool and Rahm can’t give you what you want. Chicago’s ability to borrow may hit its limits (who knows? They’re still doing this crap.)

And you have no leverage with Rauner.

I went to Michael Klonsky’s blog. Here’s his take:

Rather than allow this “death by 1000 cuts” or wait until they are legally allowed to strike on May 23rd, the CTU has called for a Day of Action on April 1st to protest this violation of the collective bargaining agreement and demand funding for Chicago’s embattled schools. Yesterday, the union’s House of Delegates voted to support the leadership’s call for a walkout.

Statements of support are coming in from parents and community groups around the city. McDonald’s employees fighting for a living wage, will also be acting in concert with the CTU on this. But will the other unions will follow suit? IEA? IFT? SEIU? AFSCME? I doubt it.

The CTU says that both Rahm and Rauner are ignoring millions of dollars in “viable revenue options,” which include a financial transaction tax, a statewide graduated income tax, using TIF surplus money, and suing banks over bad interest rate deals known as “toxic swaps,” which have cost the city millions of dollars.

Instead, they both continue to try and grab teachers’ pensions. Rahm’s latest attempt to go after city workers’s pensions was shot down this morning when the IL Supreme Court once again ruled his scheme unconstitutional.

Now, to top off CPS’s capitulation, CEO Claypool is blaming the union for giving Rauner “ammunition” in his attempt to bankrupt and take over the schools. As if he needed any. The same nonsense is repeated by the Sun-Times editors.

If you don’t hit it, it won’t fall.

I love those “viable revenue options”.

If you do a financial transaction tax, I guarantee you all the financial biz Chicago has will leave. Period.

I don’t think you’ll get as much money as you think over the “toxic swaps”, but hey. I could be wrong there. And if you do get money, it will be a one-time thing.

Maybe people in Chicago really do support you. But I wonder for how long.

Anyway, enjoy your April Fools Day.

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