Saturday, May 9, 2015

HOD Fight

House of Delegates Ready To Fight
By Jim Vail

CTU House of Delegates Meeting May 6 with VP Jesse Sharkey. (Photo by Jim Vail)
The Chicago Teachers Union delegates in a sea of red shirts packed the Operating Engineers Hall to hear union officials decry the Chicago Board of Education's latest refusal to bargain in good faith.

Already, the board has proposed that CTU members pay the 7% of their pension pick up that the Chicago Public Schools have been paying. Currently teachers and other CTU members pay 2% into the fund, while CPS pays the extra 7%.

"The board is broke on purpose," CTU vice president Jesse Sharkey told the delegates last Wednesday. "They claim they have no money for us, but plenty of money for no-bid Supes contracts and a new building for the CPS administration."

Sharkey said there is no power greater than the union to fight. 

But rather than authorize a strike vote, or even discuss details about an impending strike should negotiations continue as they have been, the union presented the CTU Resolution on CPS Response to Contract Proposals, which passed unanimously.

The resolution resolves to "mobilize and prepare to resist" the onerous conditions that CPS has inflicted on its members as a result of being "BROKE ON PURPOSE."

The resolution further reads that CTU will participate in public forums on contract bargaining in May and June that are called by community groups, set up Contract Actions Teams and training in every school, organizing members, parents, members and community members, encourage all CTU members to wear red every Friday, fight the battle at the negotiation table, advocate for fair revenue options such as TIF redirection, a progressive income tax, a financial transaction, and the renegotiation of interest rate

CTU President Karen Lewis, who brought good news that MRI tests show there is no more sign of her brain tumor, said the 2012 strike was about the right to strike which the powers that be tried to take away. She said Springfield no longer wants to take away the union's right to strike.

"Our real power is to withhold our labor," Lewis said. 

Lewis mentioned the fact that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel was pushed to a runoff election, and more progressive aldermen were elected - including CTU delegate Sue Garza - are all good signs.

"We shifted the political landscape," she said. "It's up to us to hold him accountable."

Lewis also stated whereas the last strike was solely a sea of red, this time there will be green and blue from the other unions who will stand in solidarity. 

However, before the delegates meeting ended and a throng of press people arrived to ask Lewis questions about the negotiations, there seemed to be a tense moment for the CTU leadership.

During New Business and Question and Answer part at the end of the meeting, Lindbloom delegate Ed Hershey proposed a resolution to support the teachers striking in Washington.

It is not often these days that resolutions are proposed from the floor. In other words, most union activity is orchestrated from the top down, rather than the other way around. 

Sharkey made a friendly amendment to reduce the resolution to a paragraph with the resolve to support the striking teachers in Washington, but no promise of money or other material support was included. The resolution passed.

The question then is, will this union go on strike again to preserve what the board wants to take away.

The suggestion that CTU members pay the 7% pension pickup was a result of the previous strike over 25 years before 2012 when the Board of Education agreed to the pension pickup because it could not afford a teacher raise. 

It will be up to the leadership to promote a strike, and the teachers to be fired up to support it.

The choice is there - either fight to try to stop the attacks on working teachers or be silent as they take everything we fought for away.  

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