Monday, March 30, 2015

Fioretti Backs Emanuel

Fioretti Backs Emanuel?
By Jim Vail

Bob Fioretti now supports Rahm!
Fighting Bob Fioretti, the valiant alderman who was a big supporter of the Chicago Teachers Union, one upped the union.

He got snubbed after being the one who walked the strike line and even showed up to CORE events before they won and took over the reigns of the CTU. The CTU decided we don't need losers like Bob, we're going to endorse unknown Cook County Commissioner Chuy Garcia.

So this past weekend he endorsed Rahm Emanuel, the CTU's Enemy No. 1.

There were teachers at the CTU's delegates meeting to vote on the Chuy endorsement who wanted to endorse Fioretti, who was one of the biggest fighters on behalf of the CTU in the City Council.

Well, Fioretti proved once again how bankrupt our political system is.

He said he endorsed Emanuel because the neoliberal privatizer can handle the city finances.

Certainly, Mr. Fioretti would know this. He was a big backer of tax monies via the controversial TIFF program going to corporations such as the Willis Tower.

The two education news blogs Substance News and Michael Klonsky surprisingly have mentioned nothing of it, so far.

I will credit Subtance which ran a wonderful analysis by Lee Sustar in the Socialist Worker about the history of Chuy Garcia. (His article is reprinted below!) But I know Substance supported Fioretti.

Garcia has kept details of his budget plans a secret, and no longer supports reopening closed schools as was once suggested. He implemented austerity cuts against county workers pensions and closed mental health clinics while a floor leader for machinest Toni Preckwinkle.

And now Mr. CTU supporter himself is going with Rahm.

Politics is bunk I tell you. You'll get your heart broken every time.

I especially feel bad for all those supporters of Tim Meegan who ran one hell of a campaign to oust machinest Deb Mell. I knew Mell had too much behind her to lose that election.

But what do these supporters of Meegan do now? Go home? Was it only an election that brought them out?

I certainly hope not. That is not the real fight. The real fight has yet to come. The real fight is to stop the cuts, support people's pensions, stop closing schools and mental health clinics. That is the fight everyone should be involved in.

Not a once in four years or so election to then get the blood sucked out of you in City Hall should you, against all odds, win.

Well, thanks Bob for keeping it real. Politics 101 - destroy your enemies, the people be damned!

Chuy any better?

A pro-labor mayor for Chicago?

Lee Sustar examines organized labor's efforts to propel Chuy García into the mayor's office--despite his support for layoffs and budget cuts as a Cook County commissioner.
(Reprinted with permission from author from
Rahm Emanuel (above) and Chuy García on the campaign trailRahm Emanuel (above) and Chuy García on the campaign trail
JESÚS "CHUY" GARCÍA is relying on support from the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) and large Service Employees International Union (SEIU) units in his campaign to unseat Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel--even though García's record of supporting layoffs and pension cuts should be a warning sign for labor.
Emanuel, a national political powerbroker who was unexpectedly forced into an April 7 runoff election for the mayor's office against García, is despised among union activists for his budget cuts and layoffs. But García, as a Cook County commissioner, has boasted of an agenda that involved layoffs. "I believe that we demonstrate through our actions that we can live within our means," García said.
Then there's the closing of 49 schools, which cost jobs and disrupted thousands of children's lives. García criticizes Emanuel for that move--but won't promise to reopen any of the schools.
García has also systematically avoided any discussion of how to increase city revenues or of specifying budget cuts. While García did endorse a financial transaction tax, his aides quickly added that the candidate merely supports such a measure as national policy--butnot as a strategy to make Chicago's financial powerhouses pay their share to cover Chicago's looming $1 billion-plus pension and other budget shortfalls.
García has promised to end the use of tax subsidies for business through the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) scheme that divers revenue away from schools and into a virtual slush fund controlled by the mayor. But he stopped short of saying he'd abolish the program.
And while Emanuel drew the ire of city employees by pushing through steep pension cuts, García has served as floor leader for Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who has a pension-shredding plan of her own that would cut benefits, raise the retirement age and force workers to pay more.
García told reporters that as mayor, he'd consider similar measures for municipal employees--but he'd talk union leaders into going along with such cuts, rather than simply ramming them through, Rahm-style: "I do not support cutting benefits for current city employees until we have a dialogue and an agreement of the stakeholders, including organized labor," he said.
García's fiscal plan states:
The City will always need to negotiate contracts, and the landscape of City facilities will evolve. Marshaling the cooperation of stakeholders--instead of the sweeping polarization the incumbent has incited in four short years--will be instrumental if the City is to have any hope of unwinding from its financial mess.
Translation: Rahm provoked struggles and a strike when he wielded the budget ax--but they'll accept austerity from me. But whether it's negotiated or imposed, a pension cut is still a pension cut.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
IN THIS intramural Democratic Party fight for mayor of Chicago, almost any challenger to Rahm Emanuel could claim to be the pro-labor candidate in the race--notwithstanding the "yes, boss" approach of a number of union officials who have backed the incumbent mayor.
Emanuel was the Clinton administration's point man in the push to pass the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement, which hammered workers on all sides of U.S. borders. He was chief of staff for Barack Obama when White House turned its back on the proposed Employee Free Choice Act to make union organizing easier.
Then, Emanuel intervened in negotiations to bail out the Big Three U.S. automakers to demand deep concessions from the United Auto Workers--with the catchy phrase "fuck the UAW" as his slogan. Next came the teacher-bashing Race to the Top education legislation, also championed by Emanuel.
After getting himself elected mayor of Chicago in 2011, Emanuel took on the unions immediately, privatizing much of garbage collection and much moreclosing mental health clinics and pushing state legislation for drastic cuts in public-sector employees' pensions.
Emanuel's biggest showdown with labor, of course, was with the CTU. Even before taking office, Emanuel orchestrated a difficult legislative obstacle to Chicago teachers striking at all. When CTU President Karen Lewis stood up to him, Emanuel declared in standard fashion, "Fuck you, Lewis." The 27,000 members of the CTU made Emanuel eat those words, defeating the mayor in a nine-day strike in 2012 that was one of the most important labor battles in years.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
COMPARED TO Emanuel, Chuy García, a former community organizer who often aligned himself with unions as an alderman (as members of Chicago's City Council are known) and state senator, might appear to be an old-school labor Democrat.
Plus, García has some of the right political enemies to have in the Chicago Democratic political establishment. Former Mayor Richard M. Daley played an indirect but unmistakable role in ousting García from the state Senate in 1998--using as his vehicle the Hispanic Democratic Organization (HDO), a patronage-based Latino outfit that latercollapsed amid a huge corruption scandal resulting in a prison sentence for its leader.
The disarray this caused in the pro-Daley Latino establishment opened the way for a García comeback. After years in community development and philanthropy, García won a seat on the Cook County Board of Commissioners in 2010, defeating a 16-year incumbent, Joseph Moreno, who was later sentenced to 11 years in federal prison in another corruption scandal.
Back in elected office, García was the choice of CTU President Lewis to run for mayor after a serious illness forced Lewis out of a race against Emanuel. The union bypassed its normal political endorsement process to help launch García's campaign. The big SEIU Health Care Illinois-Indiana union also backed García, along with the two locals of the Amalgamated Transit Union that represent workers at the Chicago Transit Authority. The CTU and its allies were able to use their weight to block a proposed Chicago Federation of Labor endorsement of Emanuel, who is backed by the Teamsters and most of the building trades.
Many prominent labor leaders wanted to stay out of the mayor's race, heeding the old Chicago Democratic machine slogan, "Don't make no waves, don't back no losers." SEIU Local 1 President Tom Balanoff threatened SEIU Health Care for violating the union's state council's decision to be neutral.
But once García finished second in the February general election with a better-than-expected 33.6 percent of the vote--holding Emanuel up well under the 50 percent threshold needed for an outright win--Balanoff, along with labor leaders nationally, jumped on board the Chuy bandwagon. SEIU Local 1 declared Emanuel to be the "millionaire's candidate."
The local affiliate of National Nurses United, which represents nurses at Stroger Cook County Hospital, also endorsed García. The union did so even though García and other county commissioners have refused to negotiate a new contract with the nurses since the last agreement expired in late 2012.
García also made quick trips to Los AngelesNew York City and Washington, D.C., for labor-backed fundraisers, anchored by the SEIU and teachers' unions.
At the Washington fundraiser, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten declared, "So there is a real choice here, of somebody [Emanuel], you know, who bullies his way through life, versus somebody who puts coalitions together, block by block, working folk, Latino, African American, white, the colors of the rainbow to actually make a city work."
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
WE'VE BEEN here before. The CTU and other unions twice backed Democrat Pat Quinn for governor of Illinois, first in a successful campaign against a union-hating right-wing social conservative, then against billionaire hedge fund boss Bruce Rauner, who won the governor's office last November.
There was no sitting governor anywhere in the U.S. who was more dependent on labor support. But Quinn, a onetime reformer, repaid the unions by canceling wage increases and pushing cuts in pensions. Union members, unsurprisingly, sat on their hands in the last election, which opened the way for Rauner to win.
Now, though, union members in Chicago are being told that García, a Mexican-American immigrant from a working-class background, would be different. García's long association with community groups and the dynamics of urban politics will open up new possibilities for organizing.
Labor's backing for García parallels the support that the candidate has among many leading activists across Chicago. Among them is Amisha Patel, executive director of the city's Grassroots Collaborative, who wrote that García's success in forcing a runoff election is:
bigger than any one organization. What Chicago's various social movements have built did not materialize over the course of one election cycle and cannot be understood as just a set of electoral strategies, clever tactics or shrewd messaging. For years, Chicago has been an epicenter of militant, grassroots organizing that has come to deeply resonate with working-class families. A long-term transformative vision lies at the heart of this organizing, taking aim at oppressive systems and corporate interests that exploit and divide people along lines of class and race.
Certainly the struggles cited by Patel--the fight against mental health cuts, Occupy Chicago, immigrants rights organizing, the CTU strike, Black Lives Matter activism--have been critical to the revival of an activist left in the city. Patel and her organization have made important contributions to many of those efforts. Nevertheless, it is important to point out that, by historical standards, the level of activism is far lower than the waves of radicalization seen in Chicago during the labor battles of the 1930s or the civil rights and Black Power struggles of the 1960s.
Saying this is not intended to dismiss the importance of today's fightbacks, which are the building blocks for bigger struggles of the future. But the limited success of these struggles--apart from the CTU strike victory--has led many to conclude that the only way to advance politically is to work through the Democratic Party--to back its "progressive" wing against its "corporate" one.
For example, the inability of the CTU and its allies to stop Emanuel's school closing agenda led union leaders and activists to search for a political solution. In a handful of cases, this led to political independents running for City Council. But for most, the political focus was voting Emanuel out of office. The CTU and SEIU Healthcare Illinois Indiana, along with some community groups, tried to balance both approaches by launching the United Working Families party that backed some independents, such as CTU member Tim Meegan, who narrowly missed forcing a runoff election for a spot on the City Council.
The problem, of course, is that the Democratic Party is not a vehicle for advancing social movements, but rather a means to absorb them. Ever since the Cook County Labor Party effort collapsed in the 1920s, the Democratic Party in Chicago has routinely absorbed successive generations of radicals and militants who entered the party to do battle with the infamous machine--perfected by Mayor Richard J. Daley, Richard M.'s father, in the 1950s and 1960s.
The Communist Party took this approach from the mid-1930s onward, and the revolutionary left that emerged in the 1960s and 1970s followed a similar route. Figures like Illinois Black Panther Party leader Bobby Rush were elected to the City Council and later to Congress--Rush is a Rahm Emanuel supporter today. Bright community activists like Barack Obama, with an influential law firm easing the way, can be put on course for a political career.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
IS CHUY García different? Supporters argue that the example of Harold Washington, the city's first African American mayor elected in 1983, is a model for García to follow.
But whatever his intentions, Washington found himself hemmed in by a Republican governor and the massive budget cuts pushed by President Ronald Reagan. Washington's austere budgets put him on a collision course with the CTU, which went on strike against him twice. Washington--with the support of García, then an alderman--sought additional revenue by raising property taxes. When he died suddenly in 1987, what had been called a "movement" collapsed into a bitter faction fight.
On the campaign trail, García avoids that part of the Harold Washington story. "Working-class folk who stepped up in this campaign feel that Chicago needs to be responsive to the neighborhoods and toward ordinary people, and we delivered," he said after the general election forced a runoff vote. "It may be the retooling of a Democratic coalition, maybe with a small 'd.'"
But you can't be for the working class in Chicago and hail the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago as a "visionary organization," as García did in the pages ofCrain's Chicago Business. This group, founded by union-crushing Chicago robber barons in the 19th century, continues that agenda today under guise of "fiscal responsibility." Its actual "vision" includes a legal ban on strikes by the CTU and deep cuts in public-sector pensions.
Faced with the choice posed by the old labor song "Which Side Are You On?" García wants to have it both ways--sounding populist themes to mollify the unions and working-class voters while signaling to business that he would be a better manager of city finances than Emanuel.
In any case, a Mayor García would face the same pressures to conform to the dictates of business and austerity budgets. His tenure as Cook County Commissioner shows that García has already internalized the pro-market logic of neoliberalism. The rarity of roll-call votes on the Cook County Board rivals the mid-20th century heyday of the Chicago machine, when the elder Mayor Daley's allies lined up votes in advance.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
THESE DAYS, the real "boss" of Chicago--as the journalist Mike Royko called Richard J. Daley back at the height of his power--doesn't sit in the mayor's office on the fifth floor of City Hall. Rather, the "boss" is a collection of bosses--sitting in corporate boardrooms and the offices of big investment firms and hedge funds.
Of course, those people prefer to deal with Rahm Emanuel, who built his career around service to the wealthy and the powerful. But liberal politicians like García know that future campaign contributions and political influence depend on pleasing that particular constituency, too.
That's why García attacks Emanuel for "fiscal mismanagement" when bond ratings agencies downgrade Chicago's debt, forcing higher interest payments. It's a message to the bankers and bondholders that they can count on García to ensure that Chicago "lives within its means," as García described his policies as a county commissioner.
If García is on course to disappoint his supporters' hopes for economic fairness, those looking to him around social justice issues--the "long-term transformative vision" that the Grassroots Collaborative's Amisha Patel described--will be disenchanted, too. As Flint Taylor, an attorney who has long defended victims of police torture and brutality, wrote:
García took a position in the primary elections that, to many progressives, appeared to be to the right of Emanuel on the issue of policing. He called for 1,000 more cops on the street in his one and only TV advertisement, a position that hardly resonated with those people of color and progressives who suffer the slings and arrows of overly aggressive, racially motivated policing.
García has also tried to avoid comment on the secret police holding facility in Homan Square on the West Side, where suspects face long detentions without a court appearance or notification of their families or attorneys.
With García's moderate campaign stance and his refusal to lay out a tax-the-rich program that the city needs, some of his supporters are attempting to fill the gap. Amisha Patel and National Nurses United official Jan Rodolfo advocated a new report by the Roosevelt Institute's ReFund America project, which points out that "the City of Chicago and Chicago Public Schools are trapped in a host of predatory municipal finance deals that cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars every year."
It's a sharp critique of the bondholders who "are using these downgrades to push an austerity agenda in Chicago," as the authors put it. But don't expect García to take up that battle cry.
For its part, the CTU has laid out its own financial program for the city, including a financial transaction tax, rollback of regressive taxes and redistribution of wealth. But it's far to the left of anything that García has said on the campaign trail, let alone any measures he could be expected to propose if he's elected.
Whoever prevails in the April 7 elections, the bondholders and big business will make their move soon afterwards in an effort to settle the state and city fiscal crisis on the backs of working people. Bruce Rauner will add to the pressure with a series of devastating budget cuts.
A stormy period lies ahead. The way forward for the emerging social movements in Chicago isn't supporting a candidate who promises a more collaborative approach to austerity, but an all-out fight against it.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Someone is Watching

By Stephen Wilson

Moscow, Russia - A teacher of Russian and literature, from state school number 103 was forced to resign on the 13 March following accusations of posting unpleasant photos of her school students along with indecent captions and comments. The teacher denies all allegations against her. This recent case, along with several others, is creating an increasing tense atmosphere of suspicion between teachers, students and officials.

Teachers are becoming more weary of what photos or opinions they are expressing on their social sites.

In  Veledinsky's  film 'The Geography teacher gets utterly drunk', the teacher loses his job after some of his angry students secretly take photos of him which they send to the headmistress. The headmistress does not ask any questions about the authenticity of the photos or whether it has any real relevance to his job as a teacher. There is not even a proper investigation. He is simply sacked on the spot.

Real life can often follow fiction as if the author has either a sixth sense or is endowed with sharp intuition. In just recent years many Russian teachers have been dismissed after unwanted intruders have entered their social sites such as Twitter or Facebook, down-loaded any questionable photos, statements or controversial opinions, and sent them to the authorities leading to their dismissal. For instance, only last year a very good Russian teacher of literature was fired because on her site she had photos of her posing in a swim suit! Only last year Second City Teachers investigated the case of how odd ball Timur Isaev had boasted of entering the facebook pages of 28-29 Russian teachers, sending photos to officials where they were then fired.
(see Article dated 27 December 2014). 

All those cases suggest that the technology of surveillance is no longer the sole prerogative
of the state but has become ubiquitous. Alas, it is more capricious, careless and at times, absurd. Now practically anyone can attain a mobile phone which can discreetly photo or  film a person. So the poorest school student can secretly film their teacher and post it on
web sites. So you never know who could be watching or even filming you not to mention scanning your facebook page.

It is suffice to mention one example. Last Christmas I was invited to a dacha. Afterwards my wife, back from Turkey, told me she knew what I had been speaking about and the toast which I had given. I wondered, 'How this could possibly be?' Maybe she was gifted or cursed with the second-sight?  I later found out that someone had secretly filmed me at the dacha and sent this film to many facebook accounts. Even my wife got a copy! Now if I had been a teacher in a Russian state school and some pupil with a grudge against me had seen this, he might have sent this to my headmaster. I was not drunk but what if the headmaster concluded that I was a ' drunkard' setting an immoral example to children? Who would decide whether I was genuinely a drunkard or not? The final judgment might rest on the caprice of an official. So much for carefree days at dachas.


The case of a 27 year old teacher of Russian, 'Svetlana Koveleva,' who worked at Russian  school number 103 in Omsk, emphasises how any teacher should be aware that anything they write or put in their own websites may be viewed by unwanted visitors. The teacher was forced to resign on the 13th March even before a proper investigation was completed!  Why has this particular case aroused so much controversy? Well, on this teacher's social
site Twitter and V-contact, not to mention many other sites, could be found many photos of her own school students accompanied by many insulting, derogative, and indecent captions and comments.

Students are referred to as cretins, morons and unmentionable words.

For example, one photo shows a punished school boy ,sitting with his back to the teacher, in the corner of the classroom with a patronising comment 'that he is upset'. Since practically anyone had access to those photos and comments on social sites, word soon got to the education authorities. A scandal arose!  Nevertheless, the teacher was not promptly fired. On the contrary, an official at the local department of education, Katya Spekhova, announced that if the teacher is truly to blame they would dismiss her. According to one advisor Tatiana Demidova, 'Russian labour legislation forbids immediately sacking her without evidence. She denies making those photos and placing those comments on social
sites ...' The official added that 'the Department is consulting security organs and specialists from information security..and 'The teacher had only been working at this school from September of last year... The teacher never once could afford to insult students.'

Nevertheless, the teacher felt under pressure to resign on the 13th of March.

What actually happened?  The incident has provoked a lot of unpleasant gossip, rumours and hearsay. Many of those comments indicate more about the prejudices of people than the actual facts. 

The teacher claims she was the victim of hackers who invented all those indecent comments. So there are some people who view her as a victim rather than perpetrator of malice and abuse. The journalist Aleksandr Arefyev in his article 'Under the Chain of Twitter,' in the paper, 'Secret Material ', no. 10 (339) offers a more sympathetic account of the teacher compared to some tabloids and refuses to publish the teacher's real name. Other people are not so sensitive! They want her fired, fined or even imprisoned! They
focus on irrelevant claims that in her youth she was 'a Goth', and created many social sites such as 'The Cynic', 'The alcoholic', The cheerful sociopath'. What relevance is this to the case? Has a person no right to opinions? A lot of children rebel and become part of a
subculture... Being a Goth hardly constitutes a crime!

It is how this case is being used to justify 'teacher bashing' which has annoyed teachers. When some expert such as Igor Chizhi states the teacher should have more carefully protected her files by using a password, this incenses some. This is hardly the point. What a teacher does in her free time is her own business and has nothing to do with schools. I  mean it is not as if she killed or assaulted anyone.

The orginal aim of social sites such as facebook was that anyone could freely express their opinion. Now a teacher can be sacked simply for displaying a photo of herself sunbathing on the beach.

I heard this happened to a very good Russian teacher last year.

What kind of freedom is this? I have noticed that one of my friends no longer expresses his political opinions as bravely as he did in the past. He has stopped saying anything controversial. Those sites such as 'facebook ' make teachers more, and not less vulnerable,' stated an angry teacher whom I will call 'Olga'.

What is increasingly clear is that unlike in the Soviet times, many of the parents don't respect teachers and in some cases even go as far as to incite their children against them. They are no longer looked up to as role-models but often derided for being 'losers' who can't
undertaken any other profession. In a highly materialistic and consumerist society like Russia, a teacher's poverty can be ridiculed while the affluence of others is highly respected. In such a situation where a teacher is being constantly insulted, humiliated and jeered at by both pupils and their parents, you can see why some teachers might  'crack up' or get caught in 'a punch and judy show with pupils'. In one case at a school in Omsk, a teacher lost her job when pupils accused her of striking a 12-year-old boy over the head with a glass. The teacher stated that the pupil ran into her while she was carrying a glass. The unfortunate teacher was fired. But whose word on this case do you accept; the pupils'  or the teacher's?

At this moment of time teachers have never been under such pressure. They are now facing delayed payments, cuts in salaries, a longer workload and more and more cases of unfair dismissal.

Without the defence of strong trade unions they can and are vulnerable to being unfairly fired on a mere whim.

Russian teachers deserve a much fairer hearing than they are currently receiving!

I'm grateful to Aleksandr Arefyev's article in the Russian paper 'Secret Material', Under the Chain of Twitter, concerning social sites in the work of teachers, number 10(339) 24-31
March 2015.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Dirty Schools!

Dirty Politics = Dirty Schools!
By Jim Vail

When it comes to politics, we know how dirty things can get.

When it comes to schools, it can get just as dirty!

I am the teacher delegate at Hammond Elementary School on the southwest side in Little Village. I just filed a grievance about the uncleanliness of our school.

Apparently, our case is not unusual. I've spoken to many teachers who have complained about the same thing at their schools.

The schools are dirty because the outsourced company Aramark, like the true corrupt corporate giant they are, fired many janitors to cut costs. They fired half of our janitorial staff at Hammond so that we have only two maintenance workers - one in the morning, and one in the afternoon - to service a school with about 500 children.

To put it bluntly, our floors are disgusting and I can barely stand teaching in the classroom.

The floors are not mopped because they do not have the staff to do it. Plus, staff informed me, they are to use special machines now - not the old mop and water - that are difficult to transport to the upper floors.

What does this mean?

Imagine those late night college keg parties the next morning with sticky floors caked in beer, pop, popcorn or God knows what else. 

Children in the primary grades have nose problems when they cannot always reach a tissue in time. That means their mucus will occasionally fall to the floor. And it ain't cleaned up!

And listen to this - I was told a manager from the Aramark company told our school they had to take the wax and give it to another bigger school.

Not to mention several employees stating that they were being cheated on their wages.

How much money has this company gotten?

You can't get much dirtier or disgusting than this. How Chicago Public Schools gets away with this is an interesting question.

I am first raising this issue on this education news blog. More media needs to report this.

The union SEIU Local 1 which represents the janitors will hold a rally at the CPS board meeting Wednesday, March 25 to protest these cruel cuts not only affecting the janitors, but the teachers like myself who must teach, and of course the children who are supposed to learn in such conditions.

"We keep our public schools and city buildings clean. Our work is essential to the City of Chicago. Bring our custodians back so we can get the work done," their flyer states announcing the rally scheduled for 10 am at CPS Board of Ed headquarters at 42 W. Madison.

Sources say the arrogance of this Aramark company is impressive. They are basically saying suck this when schools complain. 

Forbes Magazine reports that this company is one of the 20 largest private companies in America.

The Chicago Teachers Union passed a resolution condemning the CPS contract to grant Aramark up to $260 million to manage the public school custodial services until Feb. 2017.  

Here is the resolution as passed in the CTU:

Whereas Chicago Public Schools’ contract to Aramark proposes to grant Aramark up to $260 million dollars to manage public school custodial services between now and February of 2017, and

Whereas this money is coming out of the school system for services that the system currently does itself, and

Whereas this privatization of custodial services will almost certainly realize any savings to the district by laying off custodial employees and

Whereas such layoffs, affecting union sisters and brothers, will remove important adult members of our school communities from our buildings, and negatively impact our broader Chicago community, and

Whereas there are likely to be other negative effects, including schools which are less clean than they are now and

Whereas this privatization will almost certainly lead to further privatization in custodial services and building maintenance, beginning one more wave of privatizing attacks on our public 
education system

Therefore Be it Resolved. . . 

that the Chicago Teachers Union stands by our sister and brother custodians in any actions they may take to preserve their jobs and working conditions, And

That the Chicago Teachers Union denounces this contract as one more handout to a large corporation in a context of budget austerity in our schools, And

That the Chicago Teachers Union will seek to publicize this contract as an attack on public education by the Board.

Monday, March 23, 2015

History of Fair Share

History of Attack on Fair Share
By Earl Silbar

Corporate America continues its decades-long attack on unions, workers' pay, working conditions, benefits, pensions, public education and more. Here in Illinois, Gov. Rauner has taken this to a new level, unilaterally stopping state collection of 'fair share' deductions. 'Fair share" is the money taken from workers' pay to cover each worker's 'fair share' of unions' cost in representing all workers covered by and benefiting from the union contract. Ending 'fair share' collections is usually justified as defending individual freedom with "right to work" as the packaging. The so-called "right to work" is really a "right to freeload" and a way to weaken all workers.

This attack on 'fair share,' along with Rauner's proposal to set up "right to work" areas in Illinois and his proposal to end 'prevailing wage' mandates for construction work on government projects are all clearly intended to weaken both public and private sector unions.  Weaker unions means greater 'freedom' for corporate management to impose yet greater hardships on the union workforce. And when union conditions go down, non-union workers are next in line. 

These attacks will be fought. But will we go beyond the ineffective. losing strategies most union leaders embrace? We can avoid the union-managed, disastrous defeat we suffered in the 2011 Wisconsin uprising if we look to some lessons from that bitter experience. The first step is to ensure that this fightback goes beyond the carefully staged, safe demonstrations, running lesser-evil (Democratic Party) candidates, and law suits -  the losing tactics of the Wisconsin and national AFL-CIOs. These tactics undermined and then overwhelmed the growing grass-roots support for statewide demonstrations towards a statewide strike against the attacks on our unions and to restore the massive cuts in education and healthcare. Cuts which the top union leaders accepted in an attempt to be 'reasonable' and save their dues deductions.

Is there a silver lining in these storm clouds here in Illinois? Possibly. Ending collection of 'fair share' dues means unions must persuade those workers (and current dues-paying members) to join and voluntarily pay full dues. In nearby Wisconsin, the attack on public sector unions in 2011 meant ending state collection of all dues, as seems likely for Illinois next. This article below shines a light on what led corporate managers to begin collecting union dues in the first place. And suggests that losing employer-based dues collection can open the door to grass-roots worker militancy.

in solidarity,
Earl Silbar 

The origins of the union shop - Tom Wetzel

Article about the practice and limitations of union (closed) shops in the US workers' movement in the 1930s and 40s. In particular it examines how they helped unions act as a tool of discipline over workers as opposed to a tool for defending their interests.
The concept of "union security" or "maintenance of membership" -- more commonly called the "union shop" 1 -- means that being a union member "in good standing" becomes a condition for continued employment. If you cease to be a member of the union, the company is required to fire you. In the postwar era this is usually implemented by the company simply deducting union dues from one's paycheck.
"Union security" had long been an idea advocated by "business union" leaders as a way of maintaining their cherished dues income despite the ups and downs of member enthusiasm. Top CIO leaders were certainly as fond of this concept as were their brethren in the AFL -- but in the early days the companies were, in most cases,(1) simply not willing to agree to this demand in the late '30s.
Though the typical union contract nowadays contains some sort of union shop provision, union membership was voluntary under almost all CIO contracts prior to 1942. The dues "check off" was virtually unknown in the late '30s and dues were collected on the shop floor by shop stewards and committeemen.
Critics of the earlier industrial union organizing efforts of the Industrial Workers of the World have long pointed to the fact that membership in an IWW branch would often drop dramatically after a period of intense struggle had passed and union membership was reduced to a more committed hardcore.
Yet, the early CIO was subject to the same dynamic. Workers had poured into the CIO industrial unions during the sitdown strike wave of 1937 but many dropped out when the recession of the late '30s made it difficult for unions to make gains against the employers. For example, 8,027 workers had joined the UAW local at the Fisher Body plant in Lansing by late 1937, after the sitdown strikes and the first GM contract. But a year later only 1,078 were still paying UAW dues. The entire membership of the CIO had dropped to a mere 1.35 million just prior to Roosevelt's military buildup on the eve of the U.S. entry into World War II. "To remain solvent," writes Nelson Lichtenstein, "SWOC had to resort to monthly dues picket lines that cajoled or threatened delinquent workers to pay up before they could enter the mill. Often steelworkers balked, and absenteeism ran as high as 25% on the days dues pickets patrolled mill gates."(2)
These fluctuations in worker membership are probably inevitable in any mass workers movement that is autonomous, genuinely controlled by the workers themselves, since their participation would reflect their perceptions of what is needed and winnable at the moment.
American leftists typically assume that the "union shop" is definitely a valuable asset to workers. It could be argued that this position implicitly accepts the bureaucratic outlook. For, it assumes that the union has a value independent of its usefulness to the workers themselves and that it should be maintained no matter whether the workforce is sufficiently motivated on its own to keep it going. Moreover, the favorable view of the union shop ignores the role that it played in converting the unions into organs of employer discipline over the workers (see below).
The "open shop" situation of the CIO unions in the late '30s meant that local union officials and activists were in the position of having to justify support for the union every day if they wanted to maintain rank-and-file support and dues income. Thus, "grievance battles were the order of the day," writes Lichtenstein(3), "and local officers went about their jobs in an aggressive and energetic manner. Although all SWOC contracts formally prohibited strikes for the duration of the contract, a form of guerrilla warfare nevertheless continued in the mills."
So long as the union's continued existence depended upon voluntary rank-and-file support, the local union organization was under pressure to continually mobilize to get results. Grievances were pursued whether or not they were clearly justified by language in the contract, and stewards or local officers supported slowdowns or short wildcat strikes if they thought they might work.
Even when they didn't approve of wildcat strikes or other direct action, local union officials were reluctant to condone company repression of such actions. The most active participants were almost always key union supporters in the plants. If they simply abandoned them to the company, the local officials were afraid this would discredit the union in the eyes of the workers.
Once the "union shop" had been achieved, however, the local union organization would no longer be under such immediate pressure to mobilize a constant struggle with the employers in response to worker grievances and concerns.
But how did the "union shop" become so widespread in unionized industries? As the U.S. drifted towards war in 1941, "war hysteria" gripped the Roosevelt administration in Washington, and heavy pressures were put on the CIO leaders to prevent disruption of war production. On the other hand, workers and CIO union activists viewed the war buildup as an opportunity to press for more concessions in shopfloor struggles, and the huge strike wave of 1941 thus threatened to slowdown FDR's head-long rush towards war.
This conflict came to a head with the Roosevelt administration's use of military power to crush a strike, a walkout by 4,000 workers in June of 1941 at the North American Aviation plant in Inglewood, California. This was the largest strike in California since the maritime general strike of 1934. A period of shopfloor organizing and worker/employer polarization was brought to a head when the night shift suddenly walked off the job. Even the Communist-leaning officers of the local were caught by surprise. The workers did not resort to a sitdown strike because such actions had just been declared illegal by the Supreme Court; instead, they organized a mass picket line that surrounded the plant.
UAW leader Dick Frankensteen had previously told the workers that they shouldn't worry about strike authorization since "it's just a scrap of paper anyway." However, the unauthorized nature of the work stoppage, and the visible presence of local Communists, were seen by the Roosevelt administration as providing a convenient opportunity for a show of force to discourage strikes in war industries.
Under pressure from the Roosevelt Administration, Frankensteen tried to order the strikers back to work at a meeting outside the plant, but was shouted down. He then put the local union under the control of an appointed administrator. Though he knew low wages, not "Communist agitation," was responsible for the strike, Frankensteen denounced local Communist activists in a national radio broadcast -- a virtual invitation to government intervention.
With the approval of top CIO leaders, troops broke up the mass picketlines around the plant and imposed virtual martial law in the immediate area. In smashing the strike with troops, and threatening strikers with induction into the army, FDR sent a strong message to the CIO leaders that their organizations were at risk if they allowed disruption of his program for imperialist war. The upshot was soon apparent as the CIO leaders capitulated to FDR's demands for a total "no strike" pledge when the U.S. finally entered the world war.
The "No-Strike" Pledge
The no-strike pledge created a crisis for the CIO union bureaucrats. Who would voluntarily belong to a union that was unwilling to fight? That couldn't get any results? Before the war, grievances had been settled by direct action methods, as we've seen. But with a no-strike pledge, management had less incentive to make concessions on shopfloor issues. The no-strike pledge thus threatened to undermine worker support for the CIO and erode the bureaucrats' dues base. The CIO leaders then appealed to the National War Labor Board (NWLB) to grant "union security" (belonging to the union as a condition of keeping one's job) in exchange for the no-strike pledge.
The case of the United Electrical Workers local at Walker-Turner in New Jersey illustrates the problem. After Hitler's invasion of Russia in June, 1941, the Communist Party suddenly became very strong partisans of the no-strike pledge. Saving the Soviet Union from Hitler's advancing armies was more important, in their eyes, than fighting for the interests of American workers. Thus, the CP leadership of the Walker-Turner UE local had abandoned efforts to improve wages or fight the bosses on other issues. By late 1941 the local had lost 25% of its members and most of the remaining members were delinquent in their dues. The UE leaders appealed to the NWLB to come to their defense.
Why should the bosses' government come to the aid of the bureaucrats in this situation? Here we need to look at the other side of the labor crisis during World War II: the erosion of managerial authority and labor discipline.
The War-Time Labor Crisis
The buildup of the armed forces and the massive mobilization of American industry for the war effort created labor scarcity, reducing unemployment to a mere 1.3% by 1943. This situation gave workers more leverage with employers, which was reflected in a variety of ways, such as more people quitting their jobs when dissatisfied. In 1939, 71% of the instances where workers were separated from their jobs were due to layoffs. But by 1943, 72% of job separations were due to voluntary resignations. Between 1941 and 1944 average wages in the U.S. doubled, despite war-time controls.
This situation of labor scarcity, greater availability of jobs, and massive job turnover, due to war mobilization, created a shopfloor environment in the U.S. where it was very difficult for management to maintain the authoritarian discipline it was used to, especially given the practice of worker struggle that had developed during the '30s. By the end of World War II auto executives claimed that worker productivity had fallen by as much as 39%.
Workers and local union activists were able to press for greater concessions and worker control at the shopfloor level. For example, at the Dodge Main plant in Detroit aggressive shop stewards turned the union's formal right to observe time-study procedures into the power to jointly set new rates with management. And in the turbine department at GE's Erie works, management virtually abandoned control of piecework standards to the workers.
The favorable employment situation, worker efforts to press for greater control, and management efforts to maintain discipline created a situation of intense shopfloor struggle, and the years 1943-45 experienced an increasing level of wildcat strikes, especially in the plants that had been centers of CIO militancy in the '30s.
Faced with this crisis, some business and government leaders began to see the potential of the union bureaucracy as a means of enforcing industrial discipline. San Francisco shipping baron Roger Lapham -- speaking for the "liberal" wing of the business class -- argued:
"Can union leaders be held accountable for labor troubles if because of a falling off in their membership, they find they control a minority rather than a majority in the plants where they are the bargaining agents? If one is realistic, it is hard to reconcile the views of those who wish to hold union leaders responsible for more stable labor relations and yet will not help them in some practical way to attain responsibility.(4)"
"Responsibility" is here a euphemism for "does not actively fight management." Frank Graham, another FDR appointee on the NWLB, argued, "Too often members of unions do not maintain their membership because they resent the discipline of a responsible leadership. A rival but less responsible leadership feels the pull of temptation to obtain and maintain leadership by relaxing discipline, by refusing to cooperate with the company, and sometimes by unfair and demagogic agitation."(5)
With Graham taking the lead, the NWLB reached the conclusion that "only a general union security clause in every contract would give labor officials the `self-confidence' and `firmness' to deal with their members and enforce their contracts," writes Lichtenstein.(6)
In other words, once a "union shop" provision is granted, if the organization refuses to fight and acts to squelch rank-and-file actions, the resulting disaffection of the ranks will not lead to the erosion of membership and decline of the organization because the workers will be forced to still belong to it. Thus, officials will have the "firmness" needed to act against the wishes of the rank and file. With this as their motive, the NWLB issued an edict in June of 1942 granting the union shop to every union that accepted the no-strike pledge.
The NWLB explicitly recognized that the unions could be used to discipline the workforce. When workers at a steel fabrication plant in New England conducted wildcat strikes in 1942, against the advice of the local United Steel Workers leadership, the NWLB held this was just a "spontaneous and unplanned demonstration" and that the union shop would help this union to become "responsible":
"If this union is to become a responsible organization acting through its leaders, it is necessary that it have some power over its members. ...The inclusion of a maintenance of membership provision [i.e. union shop] in the contract...will have that result because an employee who elects to be bound by the maintenance clause must remain a member in good standing to keep his job."
This position was demonstrated on a much larger scale in dealing with wildcat strikes in the Akron, Ohio, tire industry. The head of the United Rubber Workers was one Sherman Dalrymple, supported by an alliance of conservatives and Communists who backed the no-strike pledge and labor/management cooperation during the war. In January, 1944, when a strike of tire-builders at General Tire protested reductions in piece rates, Dalrymple expelled 70 strikers and invoked the union shop clause to have them fired by the company. He also imposed an appointed trustee to run the local union. When two ex-presidents of the local championed the cause of those who had been fired, Dalrymple had them fired, too.
In September of 1944 Dalrymple moved against a strike of workers at US Rubber in Detroit by fining 1,000 members $12.50 each. Most refused to pay and Dalrymple then expelled 572 of them and -- again using the union shop clause -- demanded that the company fire them. When the company refused to fire these workers, saying this would be too disruptive to production, Dalrymple then appealed to the NWLB to enforce his authority, and the NWLB ordered the fines taken out of the workers' paychecks. Shortly thereafter 2,000 members of the local attempted to join MESA and conducted a 17-day strike, which was only ended when the army seized the plant.
Right-wing opponents of the union shop, such as the National Right to Work Committee, argue against the "union shop" on the grounds that it is "coercion" of the individual (and we know how the employers have such a tender regard for the rights of the individual!). But the problem with the union shop is not just "coercion" -- the heart of the problem is who controls that coercion. Even in an "open shop" situation, workers may use various sorts of peer pressure to discourage actions of individuals that show a lack of solidarity or undermine conditions. (And rightly so -- the individual does not have the right to undermine collective conditions by collaboration with our exploiters.) But in that situation the "coercion" is directly controlled by the workers themselves, it is not imposed by an institution outside the direct control of the workers on the shopfloor.
The union shop, on the other hand, is one element in a set of institutional controls on worker's freedom of association, which hinder the development of association more directly controlled by the rank and file in the shop. If workers could not only drop out of a bureaucratized union, but easily form new workplace-based associations to carry on struggles more directly under their own control, this would undermine the control of officials. Unpopular actions by officials could easily lead to an exodus of workers from the old union to a new association. Apart from the "union shop," two other restrictions on worker freedom of association are:
the Taft-Hartley Act ban on "jurisdictional strikes" (i.e., using direct action to force an employer to recognize workers' choice of a new organization), and the institutionalization of "exclusive bargaining rights."
Bargaining Monopolies
"Exclusive bargaining rights" means that a single organization is granted a monopoly on the right to negotiate with the employers on behalf of a particular group of workers, not defined in terms of who chooses to belong to the organization but in terms of where the plant is located or what type of job they have. Thus, if a workforce is divided into two organized groups that advocate a different approach in dealing with the employers, but one of them wins a majority in a government election, the other group is completely frozen out.
An example of a problem that can arise is the situation that has existed for a number of years amongst the classroom teachers here in San Francisco. Two groups exist that are aligned with the two separate teachers' unions that exist at the national level -- the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association. At one point the courts denied an AFT shop steward the right to pursue a grievance on behalf of a pro-AFT teacher because the NEA group had recently won a labor board election granting it "exclusive bargaining rights." Without taking sides in this inter-union rivalry, we can see that a group of workers were being denied their right to freedom of association.
This institution of "exclusive bargaining rights" can at times make it more difficult for a militant minority in a particular workplace to have an influence on the course of events, given the monopoly of a more conservative union machine on the legal right to take concerted action and negotiate with employers.
The alternative to "exclusive bargaining rights" would be some sort of system of shared bargaining rights, such as typically exists in southern Europe. From a rank-and-file point of view, the advantage to such a system is that the freedom to leave one union and join another, or set up a completely new one, puts pressures on the unions to fight for workers' concerns and puts a check on leaders. The existence of competing unions does not prevent worker unity. As shown in Spain and elsewhere when workers periodically unite assemblies to discuss contract struggles or conduct strikes, bringing together members of the competing unions as well as workers not belonging to any union. The point is that unity needs to be developed by the workers themselves; genuine unity is not created top-down, by legal, institutional means.
The U.S. almost did get a system of shared bargaining rights in the '30s. In a settlement of workers' demands in the auto industry, worked out by the Roosevelt Administration in March, 1934, a system of "proportional representation" was provided for in order to give the various competing unions the right to participate in negotiations with the employers.
However, it seems that this idea was discredited amongst workers at the time because the system was designed so as to give representation to the "company unions" -- fake unions that were run by managers or bankrolled by the company. However, the "company unions" would not get workers votes in elections of joint bargaining committees insofar as they became truly discredited amongst the workforce and insofar as workers had freedom to develop associations they really controlled. And, in any case, "company unions," in this sense, were outlawed by the Wagner Act in 1935.
Nonetheless, the Wagner Act, in addition to banning "company unions,"(7) also got rid of the system of "proportional representation" in favor of the setup first worked out in a Roosevelt Administration settlement of a dressmakers' strike in Reading, Pennsylvania, in July of 1933. That settlement -- the so-called "Reading formula" -- provided for secret ballot elections of "exclusive bargaining agents" to "represent" groups of workers called "bargaining units."
Top Officials Consolidate Their Control
Championed by the National War Labor Board, the development of centralized grievance systems in the '40s, beginning with the UAW's 1941 GM contract, and the spread of no-strike clauses during the war, contributed to the bureaucratization of the union movement. The use of wildcat strikes to circumvent the slow and bureaucratic grievance procedures was a commonplace in CIO workplaces of that era, however. The NWLB was aware of this rank-and-file resistance:
"The elimination of habits, nurtured in successful practice, from thousands of workers is no overnight task..."(8)
"The NWLB understood that innumerable grievances would arise in the day-to-day life of the workplace," observes Lichtenstein, "but the board sought to build a system of shop governance that would settle these disputes and at the same time prevent them from either interfering with production or challenging wholesale the necessary authority of shop management. To this end, the board elaborated a system...that removed industrial disputes from the shop floor and then provided a set of formal, bureaucratic procedures to resolve them." However, the crescendo of wildcat strikes that spread through industry in the last years of the war made the implementation of this goal no easy task. Between 1943 and V-J Day 12% of all American workers participated in wildcat strikes.
As Lichtenstein observes, the de facto practice in the United Auto Workers union, prior to the North American Aviation strike, was to grant sanction to virtually any strike that had a chance of success or the support of influential segments of the union. Under the pressures of war-time, and with the full support and encouragement of the National War Labor Board, the CIO leaders were increasingly willing to act directly against the rank and file in consolidating their own control.
The more spontaneous wildcat strikes in the earlier years of the war tended to be small actions limited to a particular department. Towards the end of the war, however, a number of local CIO unions began to "bunch" grievances and actively coordinate wildcat actions with the result that these tended to become a more organized affair, with mass picket lines and formally articulated demands. Often these actions were directed against the International union as much as against the employer. This reflected the increasing conflict between the movement on the shopfloor and the CIO leaders.
Not long after America's entry into the world war, the UAW International Executive Board made its first decisive moves to quell the waves of shopfloor wildcat strikes that had been common in the auto industry since the sitdowns of the '30s. In February of 1943 the UAW tops enacted a decision to "withhold all services to members" guilty of causing unsanctioned strikes and to prohibit "all intervention on their behalf, in the event of disciplinary action against them by management."
This decision was first put into effect against workers at Ford in March of 1944. When two veterans were fired for smoking, several hundred aircraft workers surged into the personnel office, roughed up managers and destroyed work records. A further effort to get fired workers reinstated included the use of auto barricades. Though local leaders characterized this as "a spontaneous reaction of the rank and file against inhuman and dictatorial treatment," the UAW tops successfully ordered those fired in this dispute deprived of any union support.
The consolidation of the bureaucracy, in the UAW and other CIO unions, was bolstered by the union's increasing resort to top-down seizure of control of local unions to discourage unsanctioned struggles initiated by the ranks. The trusteeship imposed to break the North American Aviation strike was a first taste of things to come. When Chrysler Local 490 organized a week-long strike in defiance of the no-strike pledge in May of 1944, the UAW International suspended all 14 members of the local executive board. A similar dictatorship was imposed that year on a Chevrolet local that struck for 11 days in defense of two members fired by GM.
Bureaucratic domination of the CIO Internationals had been implicit from the very beginning in the hierarchical union constitutions and paid officers which John L. Lewis and the other professional union leaders instituted when they founded the CIO.
But in the early CIO, bureaucratic domination was not yet solidly entrenched. As I said in Part 2, the CIO of the '30s was contradictory in that it contained both revolutionary and bureaucratic aspects. The hierarchical constitutions and paid officers at the top were one factor. But, on the other hand, there was a mass movement of workers that showed widespread disrespect for corporate "property rights" and "managerial prerogatives" -- through sitdown strikes, mass participation of rank-and-file workers, the daily practice of on-the-job direct action, links between employed and unemployed and other forms of expanded solidarity. In the mass events of daily union practice in the '30s, the union hierarchy was not yet as dominant a factor as it would later become.
The institution of the union shop, the "no-strike" pledge, and the development of centralized grievance systems, were major steps on the path towards consolidation of the bureaucratic, top-down control that had been implicit in the hierarchical structures of the CIO.
The mass participation in war-time sitdown strikes eventually merged into the massive postwar strike wave that saw 1946 surpass every previous record of strike activity since 1919. Nonetheless, the postwar strike actions in the various industrial sectors were fought out largely in isolation. A cross-industry alliance was not built although there were community-wide general strikes in several smaller cities. The CIO's industrial unions failed to overcome the sectoralism that has always been the major weakness of the American labor movement. Ultimately, the CIO merely expanded the definition of a sector from an individual craft to an industry or company.
(1) Ford was an exception. Despite Ford's long hostility to unionism, they apparently saw the corrupting influence inherent in bureaucratic privilege. The first Ford UAW contract in 1941 granted the union shop and special prerogatives (offices, right to leave the plant, etc.) for union committeemen.
(2) Labor's War At Home: The CIO in World War II, p. 14
(3) Ibid, p. 22.
(4) Quoted in Labor's War At Home, p. 75.
(5) Ibid, p. 78.
(6) Ibid, p. 79.
(7) The ban on "company unions" was not always enforced, however. In the '60s I worked as a gas station attendant for Standard Stations, Inc. -- the large chain then operated by Standard Oil of California (now called Chevron). A naive 18-year-old new-hire in 1964, I signed the form approving dues checkoff for the Western States Service Station Employees Union. (Membership in the union was voluntary.) I thought a union sounded like a fine idea. An unsuspecting rank-and-file worker who went to union meetings would get a rude awakening, however. WSSSEU was run by station managers and assistant managers -- a clear violation of the Wagner Act.
(8) Quoted in Lichtenstein, p. 181.
Note: This article is excerpted from ideas & action #11 (Fall, 1989).