Sunday, December 13, 2015

To Strike or Not to Strike?

By Stephen Wilson

(Moscow, Russia) - Two Recent Russian surveys reveal that although a growing number of Russians have become disillusioned with the effectiveness of going on political demonstrations, and reliance on trade-unions to defend their interests, a much more significant number, approximately 28% , believe going on strike is justified but only in extreme circumstances.

              A recent study by the All Russian Centre of Information on Social Opinions , found that most Russians don't think their labour rights are being adequately defended. As few as 6% of Russians would approach trade unions for aid to resolve any serious work problems. The survey also found that in the event of a problem, 14% would go to the boss, and 7% would change their place of work.

              HISTORIAL LEGACY

              That only 6% of workers turn to trade unions comes as no great revelation.

              Shortly after the 1917 revolution, any different political groups, opposition or the expression of independent opinion was suppressed following the Tenth Party Congress in 1921. From then on party officials ruled rather than shop stewards. Although strikes were not officially forbidden,       going on strike could risk the penalty of being arrested on trumped up charges of sabotage, conspiracy and collaboration with foreign agents.

              In a word, strikes were labelled 'counter-revolutionary ' activity comparable to treason. This never meant that Russian workers were rendered passive or docile. On the contrary, they could work less, falsify work records of their output and often make a fool of five-year plans. They used more subtle methods of protest than officially declaring an organised strike by workers. 'They pretend to pay us, we pretend to work', went an old cynical joke. So much protest was often unofficial and assumed a spontaneous character. In fact, Valery Chalide described a 'Russian strike ' in the following terms during Soviet times as follows:

              'For example, a machine tool has broken in a shop, they call a fitter to mend the machine tool. An hour later a foreman comes and asks if the machine-tool is mended. The fitters are sitting down and smoking.

              He asks why the machine-tool is not mended. They answer: 'We went to the tool store, but they are closed and we need a tool to mend the machine-tool.' The foreman goes to the store, gets the tool and gives it to them. He returns an hour later and again they are sitting and smoking and to the question why the machine-tool is not mended they say that a
bolt is required and they went to the turner who could make the bolt but that he is ill'.....(Lionel Kochan and Richard Abraham ,1963)

              In more recent years strikes have tended to assume the form of hunger strikes (workers threaten to starve themselves to death unless particular demands are met. Medical Doctors embarked upon this recently to obtain promised accomodation in Moscow) and 'The Italian Strike'. (Workers strike according to strict rules and within the law and insist all the workers strictly observe those rules. Many of the workers go on working.) A study by the Centre of Social Labour Rights, found evidence of increasing evidence of more, not less, strikes from 2013 to 2014. Accoding to the institute there were as many as 277 acts of protest in 2013 which involved workers blocking roads, hunger strikes, and downing of tools. Most of this action was not organised by trade unions but in spite of them.

              Russia is not a heavily unionised country. Only 25 million workers belong to unions and 20 million of them are members of the corrupt and ineffective Confederation of independent Trade Unions. While 'Teacher's ' membership
totals 6000, the Union of University Teachers has only 500.

              Another survey by the Levada Centre reported that 12% of Russians found that the strike weapon was not an available option, and 30% believed that protests don't achieve anything while 16% claimed that strikes were an acceptable and normal procedure for resolving work problems. However, only 7% went as far to claim that strikes were the only way of obtaining their demands.

              In regard to taking part in political demonstrations, the survey found that only 11% agreed it was reasonable to go on protest demonstrations to attain political and economic demands in contrast to  8%  who would actually take part in
demonstrations. As many 85% of Russians stated they would not go on demonstrations and 77% of Russians believe it is highly unlikely Russians will turn to demonstrations to protest against worsening economic conditions. Aleksei Grazhdankin claims, 'Order in the country is more important than the material level which has worsened over the past few years.'  Many people believe the reason for this attitude is because
the protest demonstrations degenerated into civil war in Ukraine. However, another reason is that 'the opposition', is not a real opposition but simply favours a much more refined form of austerity as in the case of Greece.

               What the two surveys indicate is that workers are more likely to embark on strikes, sit-downs, hunger strikes than attend the political demonstrations where they just see the same 'old faces' with the same old policies which were disastrously applied in a crude experiment in the early 1990's!

               No wonder workers are relying on their own methods of protest rather than turning to opposition parties or official trade-unions. The findings of both surveys indicate not an unambigous passivity but a more mixed and cautious wait and see attitude. We should not be too taken by surprise by the unexpected.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

CTU Endorses Civilian Police Board

CTU Endorses Civilian
Police Accountability Council
The December 2, 2015 HOD session saw the approval of a resolution calling for a Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC) that will provide stricter and more transparent oversight on the pattern and practices of the Chicago Police Department (CPD). The ordinance would give the council the power to prosecute law enforcement officials who are guilty of committing a crime.
“The CTU is not anti-police and never has been, contrary to the misinformation that’s being put out there by the leader of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP),” said CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey. “We were against what happened to Laquan McDonald and what has happened in the wake of the release of that horrific video. We are opposed to the cover-up that is going on. That is why we’ve joined people across this city and nation for a federal investigation into who knew what and when. Why did it take 400 days for this officer to be charged with murder? There are too many questions but all of them illustrate why the CTU supports a democratically elected civilian police accountability council. We have no confidence in the mayor’s hand-picked blue ribbon commission.”
Said CTU Recording Secretary Michael Brunson: "CTU rejects the appointed and hand-picked school board by the Mayor. We support an elected representative school board. Within each school, we reject the instructional leadership teams. We support Professional Personnel Leadership Committees. We also reject the top-down model that is currently in place. We support a transparent democratic process. It is called CPAC.
"I want to make one thing clear. CTU does not take a stand against FOP or the Chicago Police Department. We stand for justice. Everyone deserves justice. "
The resolution reads:

WHEREAS, the city of Chicago, and indeed the nation has been shocked, saddened, and appalled by the November 24, 2015 release of a video that recounts the unjustifiable and fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald, shot 16 times by Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke on the evening of October 14, 2014, a full 13 months prior to the release of the tape; and
WHEREAS, many citizens continue to protest the acquittal of Chicago police officer Dante Servin of manslaughter charges for the killing of Rekia Boyd on March 22, 2012, more than three years before the mayor and police chief finally called for his official termination; and
WHEREAS, while the CTU fully supports and respects Chicago police officers that perform their duties in a lawful manner, we are concerned that there have been numerous other incidents of unarmed citizens and youth in the city of Chicago dying as a result of unjustifiable police shootings and suspicious circumstances: Freddie Wilson (2007), Flint Farmer (2011), and Dakota Bright (2012) to name a few from a much longer list; and
WHEREAS, the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA), established in 2007 to replace the Office of Professional Standards (OPS), is reported to have only sustained 1% of thousands of allegations of police misconduct, which may indicate a bias in perspective and judgment; and
WHEREAS, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) as a matter of our commitment to the fair treatment of all citizens in the city of Chicago and our faith and commitment to the democratic process, has openly supported democratic bodies within the Chicago Public School system such as the Local School Council (LSC), Professional Personnel Leadership Committee (PPLC), and an Elected Representative School Board (ERSB); therefore be it
RESOLVED, as a matter of principle and consistency that the CTU support a public initiative for a Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC); and be it further
RESOLVED, that the CTU will publicly advocate for such a council and ask that due research, thought, and open public dialogue be devoted to the creation of these councils at the district level.

Sunday, December 6, 2015


By Jim Vail

Many teachers remember police officers wearing stickers that supported the Chicago Teachers Union when it went on strike in 2012.

That strike, a clean affair when you consider nasty strikes in the past filled with scabs, slashed tires and police beatings, has suddenly called into question the next possible teachers strike.

One delegate asked the union leadership at last week's December House of Delegates meeting to delay the strike vote in the wake of a major police brutality scandal. 

The CTU marched with the protesters last week who were filled with rage after a Chicago police officer shot a black teenager sixteen times, who never even posed a threat, according to the video released. The police had tried to cover-up the evidence in a Burger King videocam, but the city was finally forced to release it and charge the officer with first-degree murder.

The mayor is on the ropes. First he said the video was horrible without even seeing it, then he pleaded for calm and tried to defend his top cop, and then he fired the police superintendent Garry McCarthy.

Now the police union is upset with the We are One coalition that protested and the CTU.

While one person asked to delay the vote, and another delegate voiced her opposition to a resolution in the house to support a Civilian Police Accountability Council, nobody else challenged the CTU's stance with victims of police brutality.

The resolution passed convincingly and everybody applauded CTU VP Jesse Sharkey's words on the eve of a major strike vote this week.

"You can look at our relationship with the cops first, and then there's our relationship with the parents and students," Sharkey told the delegates. "Then you turn on the news and see a cop shoot someone in the back. So we have to try to be balanced here."

"I want to say have you seen the video," said CTU recording secretary Michael Brunson. "He was walking away. The leadership of the CTU is not against the Chicago police. We're against murder. This isn't anti-police, no, this is anti-murder. There's a federal investigation of the police. That's not us. We have to do what's right. We can't allow something like this to divide us."

In fact, there was no mutiny, no real division in the house.

Perhaps politics play a big role. There is no organized opposition right now in the Chicago Teachers Union. Certainly in the old days another faction may have exploited this and called for the CTU to not pass the resolution.

The CTU gave instructions to the delegates for next week's strike vote that will take place beginning Wed. for Dec. 9, 10 and 11.

Sharkey also told the delegates he had no idea how the strike vote was leaked to the media.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Do Russians Know English Well?

By Stephen Wilson

(Moscow, Russia) --  The advertisements appear ubiquitous. You come across them in your letter box and even on the minibus you wave down in Moscow. To state that the lessons of English First, a Swedish-based English language company is highly promoted is an understatement. You come across posters with photos of girls with class 'A' looks saying ' With English I can speak to children from different countries', 'With English I have many friends',  'English is a joy' but the more serious appeal to adults show a businessman leaping over a hurdle with the words 'English gives you a competitive advantage,' 'boosts your salary' or Helps you get promotion'. The message seems to be if you don't know English you are not a whole or complete person. No wonder some people get  a complex about not knowing any English. All the promotion is designed to persuade people that knowing English is a necessity and in the worst cases, almost a panacea for everything. Despite some research which finds, that in certain situations, knowledge
of English helps you get a job and even a pay rise, much of this claim is just hype. I have come across many rich businessmen in Moscow who don't know English and rarely use it in their day-to-day lives. Much more important in making a living is a useful profession which is in great demand or your place of life.

            I attempted to forget those E. F . advertisements by opening up a Russian newspaper 'Kommersant'. But alas, again, I came across an article on an E.F . Language survey.
There is no rest for the wicked!

            The study is based on an analysis of tests carried out on 910,000 people in 70 countries over the world assessing
their competence in English. The authors of this survey
make the claim that a country's level of English has a direct
connection with its economic competitive capacity as well as
affluence. The more a nation's people speak English, the
better their level of income. So there is a correlation between
mastery of English and a country's gross national income,
quality of life, access to the internet etc.

            The survey found that top countries who speak English well are Sweden, with 71 points, the Netherlands, with 70 and Finland with 64. Countries with a low level of English are Saudi Arabia (40 points), Cambodia (39 Points) while Russia has (52 points).

            However, France also has a low level of English and their people are far from poor.

            There is no real evidence to suggest a direct correlation between linguistic competence in English and the wealth of people. It is sheer unwarranted speculation  or rather a continuation of marketing by other means. The real reasons for poverty in Russia are not absence of English but the unfair distribution of wealth which is perpetuated by a rotten and ruthless government that serves the rich and bureaucrats.

            In fact, many English teachers happen to be among the poorest groups of Russians. I have lost count of the number of Russians who speak perfect English but are poor and abused by others.

            It is worth noting that the country which speaks the best English from the 70 countries is Sweden. English first just happens to be a Swedish company. The Swedish managers are so patriotic that the walls and the ceiling of the classroom are painted the colours of the Swedish flag; yellow and blue.

            Sorry, but it is difficult not to suspect this survey is flawed by experimental  bias.

            A pleasant Swedish manager who was visiting Moscow once told me, 'The Swedes are proud of their Viking heritage'.

            He also reminded me of how it was a Swede who invented dynamite! Well, to be fair, he never said they invented the elephant.

            At least the drive to globalisation has not dented the Swedish sense of patriotism!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

We're Still Here

We're Still Here - Happy Turkey Day!
By Jim Vail

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

And yes, Second City Teachers news blog is still here. 

There must have been a glitch because this news blog is a part of Google, so the temporary glitch put our website offline.

But we're back on!

And there's nothing more warming to the heart during this holiday season than to hear from our dear readers their concerns about not being able to access our site.

It tells me, well, I ain't hitting 100,000 followers a day like some celebrities, but those who read us care enough to write and ask where are we when we disappear, if only for a moment.

So Second City Teachers must be doing something right!

The pressure in the Chicago Public Schools these days only seems to get higher and higher, and with a possible major teachers strike just around the corner, the news we feed our readers is more important than ever.

The issues we would like to focus on in our upcoming news blasts include assessing the Reach evaluation system for teachers, why schools can't hire or replace teachers who leave, negotiations between the board of ed and the CTU from the inside (we're getting some crazy reports that CPS is actually thinking about turning the tables and imposing a 'teacher lockout' in January?), our monthly delegates meeting report next week (possible official strike vote announcement?) and continuing political reporting (our political system is rigged folks!).

I worked as a journalist in Russia before I became a city teacher.

I also write for a publication called My Chicago News ( There you can read my stories and analyses of what's happening in CPS and the city in general. My cover story 'Show Me the Money' generated a lot of interest for the newspaper recently.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Teacher Pay Woes!

By Stephen Wilson

(Moscow, Russia) --  Getting fairly and fully paid what you are due isn't apparently always simple. Firstly you have to remind your boss how many hours you have worked by completing timetable sheets, then you have to discover 'When you are going to be be paid ?' and at times, even, 'Where you are going to be paid?' And in Russia, you might wonder if you will be paid at the end of month at all. A further question is, 'How you will be paid;  in hard cash of rubles or dollars or through the banks?'

            I recall when I was working for one of the 'respectable' and 'acceptable'  foreign  language companies that few teachers in the staff room knew when the exact pay day was. It was almost a state secret. I kept asking other teachers and received a vague 'sometime at the end of the month.' Formal notices announcing when you would be paid rarely went up in the staff rooms. When one American boss actually put up a notice it declared quite offensively that, 'If you don't turn up on the date for payment you won't be paid', insinuating that it was the lateness of the teachers who were to blame for not being paid rather than the indifference of the administration. Not only was this notice illegal (no employer has the legal right to withhold due salaries for work) but very suspicious. It raised the question as to what would this boss do with the money he did not pay to teachers? Would it go back into the company or would it simply vanish?

           Well once I turned up to collect my pay and found that this boss not only forgot my name but was about to pay me the part-time wage of  'Derek'. I had to remind him that my name was Stephen Wilson and that I was full-time. I almost lost half my monthly salary!  Shortly afterwards I heard he had been 'tranferred to a new position'. However, I later learned from someone in 'the know how'  that this boss had been fiddling the accounts and that the scandal had been hushed up and swept under the carpet. I now began to question 'the lapse in memory of my former boss'  and every time I entered the office to obtain my pay I counted it so meticulously the newly appointed boss was a bit disconcerted.

           It would be tedious to recall all the situations in which I was never paid my due by this company and others. I will just state that I parted company with them when I never received pay for three substitute teaching lessons.

           What is astonishing is how violations of pay are not even concealed but shamelessly made public! It stretches the limits of incredulity when your employer publically declares that you have received a monthly payment of 71,000 rubles when you actually obtained far less! Those shameless claims have been published in Moscow by many local papers such as Metro, the Moscow evening News and Argument and Facts'. One article states, 'The average pay of teachers at secondary schools has risen from 39,200 rubles in 2010, to 71,000 rubles in 2015. We note that in the capital more than 123,000 teachers are employed and that the number of 'school officials' over the past 5 years  has been cut from almost 22,000 in 2010, to 11,000 in 2015. '

           The statement would make any normally rational person blush. For instance, would any normal person  boast about making approximately 11,000 employees, officials or not, redundant? What pleasure can any normal person derive from depriving a person of his livelihood? Notice how the word officials are in italics, leading us to question whether they are actually officials all. They are very possibly psychologists, speech therapists and nurses not officials.

           When teachers heard those published claims the reaction was one of outrage and indignation. 'Do we receive that much?', 'This is news to me?' and 'Where did they obtain those figures?

           'We can only dream about such a fantastic salary!'

            Further investigation indicates that there is a vast discrepancy between recorded figures in payment sheets and sums in the Financial Report. It is worth offering some concrete examples to illustrate this point below.

             (The figures are from a survey by Novaya Gazeta, Number 121, 2.11,2015, , Pay-Capacity, by Ludmila Ribina)

            A teacher of Russian at a state school in Volgograd earns 21,125 rubles and 51 kopeks for working 27 hours. Yet
Rosstat claims the average teacher salary amounts to 27,968

            In Ivanova, a teacher who works 20 hours attains 13,606 rubles and 79 kopeks. Rosstat claims the average salary of a teacher in the Ivanovski region is 24,184 rubles.

            In the Tambovskaya region  a teacher who works 21 hours earns 13,102 rubles. Rosstat claims the average salary of a teacher is 25,649 rubles.

            A teacher in the Astrakhanskaya region works 38 hours and obtains a miserable 16,854 rubles. Rosstat claims the average salary of a teacher in the Astrakhanskaya  region amounts to 29,712 rubles.

            We could provide more examples but it would grow tedious.

            We could also point out that teachers are not even being paid for taking some classes out on day excursions, filling in all kind of paperwork and many 'non-teaching duties ' such as being asked to write newspapers or do research unconnected with their work. In fact, one recent estimate discovered that teachers are being asked to complete 300 reports a year.

            Teachers are being constantly asked to fill in this or that evaluation form.

            A chairman for the union 'Teacher', Vsevolod Lukhovitsky argues that using the 'average salary' as the main indicator of changes in salaries is bad because it can be so easily manipulated. In deed, as the figures indicate, the state has been grossly distorting the actual figures. The main point is that actual pay should be linked to one fully discerned workload. Or in  simplier terms; a teacher must be paid the exact amount for the exact number of hours he performs. He also argues that educational officials should not be paid more than twice the income of a teacher. At the moment, an official earns three times the average salary of a teacher in Moscow.

            School teachers not only evidently but urgently require the aid of trade-unions. Unfortunately, the membership of the Russian Union 'Teacher' is only approximately 6000. Compare this with Chicago which has 30,000 teachers enrolled in a union!

            Despite this fact, union membership is still steadily growing and discontent won't simply be dissipated by time.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Core Slate Uncertain?

CTU Leadership Ticket In Flux
By Jim Vail

CTU VP Jesse Sharkey is not sure if he will continue in his position.

Union politics certainly ain't what it used to be.

Back in the day there was opposition between different caucuses in the Chicago Teachers Union after the United Progressive Party ruled the roost for years and years.

Enter PACT and Debbie Lynch in the early 21st century who upset the UPC to win the union. She was a constant in the delegates meeting to challenge the ruling company union.

Then Core can along to fight for school closings and do activist union work that the UPC not only neglected, but tried to thwart.

Eventually an unprecedented 5 groups ran for the CTU presidency in 2010, before a run-off gave the election to Karen Lewis and Core.

Today, there appears to be no more UPC, nor any other caucus within the union to fight for the presidency.

However, that doesn't mean there isn't a little intrigue.

According to Core sources, financial secretary Kristine Mayle will not run for re-election as the financial secretary. Sources say Core is thinking of nominating Maria Moreno, who has served as a delegate at Nightengale Elementary School on the South West side.

She has been a consistent fighter with Core from the early days.

Perhaps the biggest surprise so far is current CTU vice president Jesse Sharkey, who has told Core that he may step down and not run on the Core ticket again.

Sharkey told Second City Teachers it is up to the Core steering committee to decide who they will nominate for officers.

Whether this means certain elements surrounding the union leadership are having differences, or fatigue in the overwhelming battle against the board of education and its relentless anti-union pro-privatization agenda, are anyone's guess.

The next CTU union election will be April, 2016. Karen Lewis announced her candidacy to run for re-election.

Another Chicago teachers strike may occur before the union election. 

Monday, November 16, 2015

UFT Delegates Report

Report-back from the UFT DA -NY City Teachers Union 
Nov. 12, 2015   
By Marjorie Stamberg


Fracas on the First Floor at 52 Broadway

            Before we even got into the meeting, we had to face down three burly goons who surrounded us in the lobby and demanded that all United Federation of Teachers members handing out flyers go outside the building.  This exclusion attempt did not work, as we stood our ground and would not be moved out of our own union hall.
These guys refused to say who ordered them to throw us out.  They muttered something about “building management”; they got in our face and tried to push us out the door with our flyers. I would say this was a foray to “test the waters” and see if UFT oppositionists could be pushed out of talking to members and leafleting inside our own union hall. We couldn’t and wouldn’t.

            Norm Scott has reported on the fracas, see  (Video: Taking a Stand Against UFT/Unity Attempt to Ban Lit Distribution in Lobby of 52 Broadway)  and has a note on the history of Unity Caucus’ undemocratic measures against oppositionists. I can only add cell phone cameras may not be a game changer, but they come in handy.   

            What leaflets were being handed out?  MORE Caucus had a resolution in opposition to the Buffalo receivership. Adult Ed teachers had a flyer against the huge cutbacks in ESL and Basic Ed services for adults, and the ongoing vicious  harassment of teacher in that unit. My group, Class Struggle Education Workers, had a flyer denouncing the UFT/AFT endorsement of Clinton and against both Clinton  and Sanders support for corporate “education reform”.  All of which are extremely relevant to teacher delegates.

President’s Report
President Mulgrew started his report by noting that an “incident’ had occurred down in the lobby. He blamed it on building management. (Who they?  We own the building!) He said since it is our building, UFTers could hand out flyers in the lobby during the D.A. (like, duh!). 
Then he began his report.

National:  the tide is turning in our favor after the years of teacher bashing, Common Core testing mania and other markers of the corporate privatization drive. Mulgrew lauded that Hillary Clinton made some lukewarm criticism of the charters.

The Supreme Court Friedrichs’ case is the biggest threat to public workers unions around the country right now. The court’s aim is to throw out the agency shop for public employees. Mulgrew said there will be a co-ordinated campaign of SEIU, AFSCME, AFT and UFT to fight it.  How will they fight it?  They will be filing an amicus brief with the court and seek the support of attorneys general in the states to support it. (This is pretty lame in response to this attempt to financially gut the unions — more later on this).

Statewide, the biggest challenge is Buffalo receivership, where a new NYS law was passed to override the Buffalo Teachers Federation collective bargaining agreement. Their plan is to starve schools of funds then close them,  push out teachers, and unilaterally lengthen the school day and year. Two motions came up at the DA to support Buffalo teachers in this fight:  one put up by UFT VP Janella Hinds, and another by MORE caucus.  The two authors agreed to collaborate on a single motion for the next DA. What we really need to do is what they are doing in Brazil right now, where teachers, students, parents and people from the community are occupying a number of the several thousand schools slated for closing.

 Part 154 Instruction --  Servicing of ELLs. Mulgrew said Bloomberg gutted ESL instruction. Now new changes in the state regs have devastated ESL services, cutting back stand alone ESL classrooms, and even ESL teachers in the content areas if the content area teacher has 12 ESL credits. Mulgrew stated the new regs are a disaster and physically impossible to comply with.  For more information, see the informative piece by Arthur Goldstein of Francis Lewis High School – who posts on NYC Educator blog. He and ESL teacher Aixa Rodriguez had an interview on Spanish Telemundo 47 explaining the devastating cutbacks.


Success Academy:  Eva Moskowitz got caught out when the press reported on Success Academy’s  Fort Greene “got to go list” of students who will be constantly suspended, and their families harassed, until they are forced out of the school. At the DA, a motion was passed to call for a state investigation into disciplinary conditions and high rate of suspensions at Success Academy and for a moratorium on new Success Academy Charter Schools.

Q&A:  Questions included the UFT’s position on abusive principals, the advantages of the new contract’s PROSE schools (juggling working hours, such as a long 4-day week for teachers in some pilot schools); the state’s Common Core commissions, the procedures for getting rid of metal detectors at some schools; what should be done to support ATRs in a building.


Friedrichs v California Teachers Association Supreme Court case. 

Friedrichs will be a watershed battle for public workers – it is aimed squarely at bankrupting teachers unions across the country.  And labor’s response to this is pathetic, electoralist, and losing, before the battle is even engaged. Since this issue is a big deal, I want to go into it a little here. Believe me, it will affect you.

I spoke on this motion, put up an amendment and was able to give my “cheese-head” speech. (Green Bay Packers fans wear headgear that looks like a slice of Wisconsin cheddar cheese. It’s the “dairy state,” right? During the union battle there, we picked up a button saying “Solid Dairy Forever”!) My point was about the (negative) lessons of the huge Wisconsin labor battle for collective bargaining rights. Remember all those thousands of teachers and public workers in Madison in the freezing cold winter of 2011 – ringing the capital by the thousands, day after day for weeks? This struggle was sold out on the eve of a general strike when the Wisconsin AFL-CIO labor bureaucracy spiked it in favor of a “recall vote” against Republican governor Scott Walker. The recall failed as did the whole electoral capitalist game of Republicans v Democrats.

And now they want to repeat that capitulation, only bigger, in Freidrichs. If you’re not following this case, or even if you are, here are the bullet-points:

 ·         The Supreme Court solicited this case from a small group of right-wing California union-busters who want to outlaw the “agency shop.” The union shop was targeted by Taft-Hartley in 1947. Specifically the teachers unions which have been the main target of the so-called “education reformers.” The union-busters have been unsuccessful so far, so now they’re trying to bankrupt us through the courts.

·         The overwhelming majority of teachers sign up with the union when they start work, recognizing that it’s there to defend their rights. Agency shop means that if you don’t join the union, you pay a fee in recognition of all the services the union provides (contractual salary rates, health care plans, no lunch-room duty, a six-hour-fifty-minute school day, etc.).

·         Union dues and fees are deducted by the DOE from our paychecks. The union should have never allowed the employer to be the overseer of our funds. There’s a class line here, and the boss and the government are on the other side. We need to go back to the union shop, collect our own dues, and build union power through hard class struggle.

·         You cannot beat this onslaught through “hard work in the political and legislative arenas” as the UFT motion stated. This can only be stopped in the streets.  That was the crux of my amendment. Particularly because the  Supreme Court is not elected and not subject to legislative control, we need a nationwide campaign of massive mobilizations of union power. The amendment passed, but unless we pull this fight out from under the labor bureaucracy, Friedrichs will mean a terrible defeat for public sector labor. Think PATCO air controllers, under Reagan, which led to years of defeats. And this is being done under the Democrats!

 The rest of the meeting was pretty much bread and butter resolutions.  A motion was passed divesting union pension funds from companies with a big carbon footprint. Mulgrew announced that the union no longer has any investments in hedge funds. The billionaire hedge fund operators, of course, are funding oodles of charters because they have “good cash flow.”

That’s it for now.

*As one of your UFT delegates I report-back on the monthly meetings.  These reports are "my take" on the meeting. For official minutes, let me know and I'll send them along to you.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Dems Endorsement?

Why Do We Keep Endorsing Democrats? 

   By Ed Hershey, Delegate Lindblom High

The CTU endorsed state rep Cynthia Soto and others.

The Political Department presented a resolution to endorse six state representatives early for next fall's elections.  This writer thinks working people need their own political organization, their own party. I think CTU ultimately should not be endorsing Democrats – because the Democratic Party in Chicago and in Illinois is fundamentally a party of the ruling class.

What has the Democratic Party done in Illinois and Chicago lately? For starters, Madigan and company passed the PERA law, which implemented our hated REACH system; then they did Emanuel a favor and passed SB7, which allowed him to lengthen the school day without any extra funding, and put the ridiculous legal limits on our right to strike. Pat Quinn spent his last term attacking public worker pensions, and capped off his term by picking hated former schools CEO PAUL VALLAS as his running mate. That record is as responsible for Rauner’s victory as anything Rauner ever did.  And then Barack Obama promoted Arne Duncan, and took Renaissance 2010 national, with its closings, charter schools, test-test-test and Common Core.  That’s the education policy of the Democrats.  

That’s why endorsing and voting for Democrats is a dead-end that we need to break out of. 
At House of Delegates, we got a six page document in our packet asking us to vote to endorse seven Illinois Assembly candidates.  Does anyone else think it’s a problem that we’re expected to vote things like this, without having time to read – much less come to any kind of considered decision? 

In any case, at House of Delegates, there was some debate on these endorsements.  In particular, Jim Vail, delegate at Hammond, took issue with endorsement of Cynthia Soto (IL District 4).  Soto is presented as an ally of the union. Cynthia Soto did push a law in winter of 2009 to put a moratorium on school closings, turnarounds and other school actions.  Of course, the moratorium was nixed.  The sop the Democrats were willing to throw to the opponents of school closings came that fall, when the Illinois House voted to pass the Chicago Facilities Bill, which established the Educational Facilities Committee, and required the Board to follow a timeline and to hold a set of public hearings for any school action.  Progress perhaps, but it certainly has done little to stop the tidal wave of school closings and turnarounds. 

Soto is not a consistent defender of public education.  In summer of 2012, Soto voted for the “charter full funding bill,” which would have given more funding to charter schools.  The union pointed out to her at the time that her vote was contrary to the spirit of her earlier work, as charter school proliferation is one of the forces driving school closings. 
Vail pointed out, from the floor of the House, that when Emanuel wanted a waiver to push back the schedule of hearings for school closings, after the strike in fall of 2012, Soto did not speak up against it.  When he and others tried to get her on the phone, to ask why, she made herself scarce. The political director said this was a "mischaracterization", but she spoke to the fact that Soto supported the union during the school closings fight -- in spring 2013. That’s exactly the point: Soto could make a symbolic show of support, in spring, when it did not matter. But she did not take a stand a few months earlier, when it might have thrown a speed-bump in front of Emanuel’s school-closing bulldozer.   

And there you have it – a case-in-point of why endorsing Democrats is a dead end. Emanuel and Quinn are clearly enemies. The union’s best “friends” like Soto occasionally get a law through for something like the CEFTF. It’s window dressing – it did not do anything to seriously impede school closings.  And as soon as  those minor restrictions threatened to inconvenience the mayor’s plan to pull off the largest school closing in history, no one was around to make the law stick.

Democratic politicians like Soto are allowed a small margin of maneuver. They can get a bill passed to pose as “our friend”, but they need to operate within the Democratic Party, which means they cannot fundamentally oppose its policy.  The problem being, the Party represents the ruling class, and the ruling class’s policy right now is to take apart public education in Chicago (and elsewhere). We make a mistake to endorse them, or to think of them as “friends” – they cannot and will not consistently represent the interests of working people, while at the same time maintaining any hope for a future within their party.  This is why I voted “no” on those endorsements, though the vote was overwhelming to endorse.  And this is a big part of why I ran as a candidate for alderman – to raise that we need our own organization and our own party, independent of the Democrats. 

Details of Soto’s history of working with CTU and CORE can be found in Back issues of Substance, for example:
Initial “Soto Bill”