Monday, November 9, 2015

Poll Upsets a Few

CTU Practice Vote Poll Ruffles Some Feathers
By Jim Vail

Substance writer and high school teacher Sharon Schmidt speaking to the Board.

Usually I am a critic of the Chicago Teachers Union and do not always agree with the leadership. Especially when it comes to aligning itself too closely to the democratic party.

However, after teachers voted Yes or No to a Practice Strike Vote last week, Substance News posted a critical article that various teachers commented on to criticize the poll.

"Chicago Teachers Union members who were expecting to vote on Nov. 5 on their willingness to strike were instead given the CTU's "Contract Poll Practice Vote" handout that asked four lengthy questions, confusing voters and angering many in the high schools," Sharon Schmidt wrote in her lead in Substance.

She quoted mostly high school critics who said the poll took "long to read," and were "annoyed with the questions."

The union's response was they wanted to "educate" the members and "remind them of contract demands."

The story was well written, as Schmidt, wife of Substance editor and founder George Schmidt, presented both sides of the issue, something rare in today's increasingly partisan media.

In this case, I have to side with the union.

I put out an email to my staff before the vote to notify them about the vote on the contract. Some teachers said they were confused and thought the vote was to strike. I said no, this is not an official vote for a strike, it is about the contract demands of the bargaining team. The union never wrote that this was the "strike" vote.

The idea behind referendums is to educate the populace. For example, you had the city referendum on electing a school board. You actually had to read the question before voting on it. And no, it did not mean if it passed, which it overwhelmingly did, that the city would immediately usher in an elected school board. No, that is the job of the state.

I remember when I worked as a journalist in the 90s in Russia and President Boris Yeltsin won a referendum to back his leadership. It merely meant the people were behind him in the beginning, but later everybody hated him once they realized his neo-liberal reforms meant losing jobs, pensions, and health care.

I mean, come on, it took time for teachers to read the four questions? Really?

I as the delegate at my school was rather delighted to see teachers want to read the four questions rather than ask me which way to vote. And they should educate themselves on issues that are important to them. Many do not attend our union meetings and that is a shame. The union is the reason we have a decently compensated job.

My teachers did not register any complaints.

I did speak with another high school math teacher in Bronzeville who said the way the questions were worded forced his hand to support a possible strike.

This poll's questions reflected what our union leadership wants, and the members can either vote yes or no to fight, yes or no to strike.

Meanwhile, while Hammond School voted overwhelmingly yes to all four questions, Lindblom High School further south did the same. On question 2, Hammond recorded the only 3 no votes, while the Lindblom teachers voted 87 Yes to 7 No. Only four Lindblom teachers voted No to Questions 3 and 4 concerning a no-confidence vote in Forrest Claypool and supporting CTU demands for more teachers in the classroom.

1 comment:

  1. From Jesse Sharkey in the Tribune:

    "The law keeps us from asking questions twice, so what we do is we ask a series of questions that cover the four corners of our bargaining proposals," he said. "Really what we're saying is we're trying to stake out the four corners of our bargaining positions and check the sentiment of that in our schools."

    This is perfectly reasonable. I also think it would have been perfectly reasonable to explain this to us at the House of Delegates, so then we could explain that reasoning to members. Last time, some people (including myself) were starting to conclude that maybe the CTU leadership didn't want to strike, the way they seemed to avoid the word so much (I was happy to be proven wrong).