Thursday, September 4, 2014

CTU Endorses Quinn

Chicago Teachers Union Endorses Gov. Pat Quinn
By Jim Vail

CTU President Karen Lewis
In perhaps the most lively debate in the Chicago Teachers Union in quite some time, the delegates voted overwhelmingly to endorse Dem. Gov. Pat Quinn on Wednesday at the House of Delegates first meeting of the new school year.

This strong endorsement came despite impassioned speeches to not endorse Quinn, including several members from the CTU caucus party CORE.

"You know what will happen to someone who will lick their boots," asked delegate and CORE activist Michelle Gunderson, "they will treat you like a dog."

But despite the pleas to not endorse a candidate who has burned the CTU, including naming anti-union extraordinaire Paul Vallas as his running mate, and just recently signing devastating pension legislation for municipal workers (look out CTU members - You're next!), the fear of republican candidate Bruce Rauner was just too much for a house that listens carefully to what its headmistress has to say.

"Guys, we're gonna look weak if we don't endorse Quinn," said one female delegate. "He's not perfect. Of course businesses give him money. We gave him money. We need to play this game too, even though it's not a fair game. With Rauner, it's Siberia for public education."

The CTU leadership and president Karen Lewis set the stage to get an endorsement for the democratic machine candidate. 

First the political action committee members told the delegates before the debate and vote that Gov. Quinn met with the committee and promised them some stronger legislation to monitor charter schools and that he would veto any anti-tenure legislation should it come to Illinois.

CTU endorsed Gov. Pat Quinn
But more importantly, said delegate and legislative chairwoman Reggie O'Connor, the alternative is just too "awful" to consider. Republic candidate and near billionaire Bruce Rauner would like to repeat what happened in Wisconsin when Rep. Gov. Scott Walker repealed the union's collective bargaining rights.

"I come from Indiana which is a right to work state," said one PAC committee member during the debate. "I've been going from job to job and that is what is going to happen if Bruce Rauner gets elected."

But perhaps even more important than the fear that Rauner would get elected and destroy the union as his platform illustrates, is the power of the CTU leadership.

It is president Lewis and her elected CORE team that pushed this endorsement and won overwhelmingly.

Consider that the CTU and Lewis were able to get a 90% vote of teachers in the schools to strike in 2012 despite the ramifications of losing their jobs. But the teachers listened to their beloved chief who is now planning to challenge neo-liberal Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. 

The first speaker was Jay Rehak, the president of the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund. Rehak had reservations about endorsing a candidate for governor who will whack the teacher pensions soon. He did not say if he was in favor or against endorsing Quinn.

But one retiree summed up what all the retirees were thinking Wednesday night - Rauner will implement the dreaded 401K - to eliminate the guaranteed benefit pension in favor of voluntary investments.

CTU consultant and Substance News editor George Schmidt said emphatically, that "Pat has stabbed us in the back."

"We do not face what Walker had in Wisconsin," Schmidt added. "We still have democrat majority in the house and the state."

Several CORE activists, including Schmidt, Sarah Chambers, Kimberly Bowsky, Gunderson and myself, a former CORE member - expressed outrage that Quinn would choose as his running mate, arguably the CTU's public enemy No. 1 - Paul Vallas. 

CTU endorsed Quinn running mate and CTU enemy Paul Vallas.
"It's not only spitting in our face, but punching us in the gut," said one of the activists.

I pointed out at the microphone that fighting for our pensions in Springfield is a joke when we endorse the governor. 

"Can I mention here that Karen herself said we may as well fight," I said. "Because they're trying to close us, fire us and destroy us anyway. So let's go down fighting and be the fighting union we say we are!"

The CTU has strange bed fellows.

Mayor Emmanuel has endorsed Quinn as well.

The CTU leadership is clearly in control. And this latest endorsement proves that they are clearly in the pocket of the democratic party machine, despite some rhetoric to the contrary.

"Don't be surprised what's going to happen to our pensions and everything else," said Kimberly Bowsky, a delegate and CORE activist.

The yeas were loud and clear, the nays were mumbled and weak.

CTU endorses Pat Quinn for Governor, along with Lieutenant Gov. Paul Vallas, who one delegate pointed out, has his eyes on the top spot once Quinn is dead and gone.


  1. How very liberal of you, how utterly stupid of you. You've signed a death warrant on your credibility.

    1. Harsh words -- anything to back that up? Is there anything "not credible" in the above piece?

  2. And Vallas would be the kind of Democrat who would push a Wisconsin-style attack on public worker unions. . .

  3. Thanks for the report. You raise many fair and truthful criticisms of the Quinn- Vallas ticket. While I agree and if I were a delegate, I would've spoken and voted with you against endorsing Quinn as the lesser-evil. However, I think you do members a disservice by making them out to be sheep. (" But the teachers listened, like obedient students, to their beloved chief,...")

    Endorsing the lesser evil, usually a Democrat, is totally common, esp. in public sector unions, so putting it down to listening " like obedient students" insults those delegates and misses the point: after all, what is the alternative when faced with cutthroats like Rauner? After all,if someone chased you with a knife while another aimed a gun at your head, wouldn't anyone choose to fight the knife rather than face a gun to the head? I would.

    That's the logic of lesser-evilism: it's about choices 'in the real world". So, let's talk about alternatives, let's go beyond criticizing the lesser-evil, necessary and good that that is.

    One choice: don't vote, don't add to their legitimacy.
    Another: vote for another party candidate, like Greens.
    Another: Help build a working class political organization- put forward candidates and organization that fights for working people and the most oppressed around daily-life issues. Promote candidates and an organization that openly takes on the corporate gang and its agenda - in both the liberal and conservative faces, Dems and Repubs.

    Earl Silbar
    retired teacher

    1. I agree, and I apologize to all my fellow delegates who were present at the House of Delegates meeting on Wednesday. I have removed the part that describes delegates as 'obedient.'

      Indeed, many credible comments were made in favor of endorsing Mr. Quinn and that was reported. I made a big mistake by, what we call in the reporting business, 'editorializing' and expressing a certain frustration, since I am biased against supporting democrats.

      But Earl points out here the limitations in our system, and what kind of alternative can we present at this point. One wants to fight, the other wants to survive. It's understandable. But the fact remains that the CTU is tied to the democratic party, and while it is the only show in town, it is a deeply flawed one that ultimately will ruin us, at it has helped crush unions since the late 1950s.
      The question - How to stop this escalating spiral downward for the working class?