Is No CTU Opposition a Good Thing?
By Jim Vail
Reporter Lee Sustar raised a troubling question before the CTU election last month in which Karen Lewis and the CORE slate won re-election. He asked why the opposition group - the Coalition to Save Our Union - existed at all.
Sustar, who writes for The Socialist Worker, claimed in his article "Will Chicago teachers keep moving forward" that the two caucuses that made up the opposition to Lewis - PACT and UPC - had accused each other of corruption and incompetence, filed lawsuits against one another and even scuffled on the floor of CTU delegates' meetings.
So were they worthy of running in the CTU election? Or let's take the question one step further - are opposition groups necessary when we don't like them?
Many could argue that the UPC helped run the union into the ground with corrupt deals, corrupt salary perks, incompetent union management and collaboration with the boss.
They became a "company union" where former president Marilyn Stewart would wine and dine with former Chicago schools chief Arne Duncan, while the fiesty opposition group CORE was protesting against his policies outside.
Stewart and the UPC actually appeared to be taking their orders from Randi Weingarten and the American Federation of Teachers, which is the big teachers' company union. They are ones who told the UPC to not fight charter schools, and invited Bill Gates - whose agenda is to destroy teacher unions - as a keynote speaker.
But now Karen Lewis and CORE work with the AFT as Local 1.
Lewis has said she intends to change how the AFT works, to gradually stop their collaboration approach.
However, CORE is not above making deals like any group in power. Lewis negotiated a rough SB7 bill that has decimated teacher's tenure rights, and endorsed Michael Madigan, who recently proposed to drastically cut teachers' pensions.
Politics is one thing, and elections and democracy another.
For example, was there any real opposition to Rahm Emanuel becoming mayor of the city of Chicago? You could say there were all those candidates lined up, like Miguel Del Valle, Gerry Chico and James Meeks. But they didn't have a snowball's chance because they didn't have the millions Emanuel could raise.
Is there any real opposition in our political field when you have a democrat and a republican running against each other, year after year. And when you look at the issues that count, the two parties have similar stands.
The last CTU election in which CORE defeated the entrenched UPC featured an unprecedented five caucuses running. And thanks to Debbie Lynch and PACT, her endorsement of CORE in the runoff led to CORE's upset win.
But now Sustar is arguing that her group should not have run in this last CTU election because she teamed up with the UPC, who she always ran against.
One of the signs that a vibrant democracy exists is the engagement of the people in the political process.
The fact that no other caucus formed, and that CORE won a crushing 80% of the vote, could be interpreted two ways.
The one way would be that most people love CORE, and they think the union is fighting for their rights.
The second way would be people don't feel there was a true alternative, or think the situation is rather hopeless.
Either way, I don't think we should applaud elections that do not feature a vibrant opposition.
The one-party state is called a dictatorship, regardless of what you think about the party.