Thursday, October 20, 2016

Delegates Vote Yes to Contract

Did the CTU Pull a Fast One?
By Jim Vail

CTU VP Pres Jesse Sharkey sold the tentative contract to delegates.

At the special meeting of House of Delegates Wednesday evening at the Holiday Inn Plaza, the delegates voted 328 Yes to 153 No to accept the Tentative Agreement for a new contract that the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) leadership agreed to at the last minute to avert another teachers strike.

The CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey told delegates that he agreed there were many things in the contract that were not good - such as CPS cutting $30 million in Special Education and cutting roughly $100 million for clinicians like librarians, but the tentative contract achieved what the union wanted - no cuts!

The big gains were no pension pick up cut (except new teachers hired will have to pay 9% into the pension but will get raises to offset their increased costs), a nominal 4.5% raise over the four years, a cap on the number of charter schools (the only deal in the country!), no major health-care cost increases, an aid for kindergarten teachers with over 32 kids in their class (unique since class size has never been agreed to in contracts) and more money for neighborhood schools.

"I agree that this is less than we deserve," he said. "But contract settlements always are."

Unlike past contract delegate meetings, the CTU did not go over parts of the contract. For example, delegates would look at each page and question anything they did not understand. 

In fact, it appeared the leadership played political hardball when impassioned delegates spoke out against accepting the tenative agreement. After the time limit ran out for delegates to voice their opinions in support or against the proposed contract deal, the delegates voted to extend the time for debate.

CTU President Karen Lewis said she thought that there were enough speakers for and against, but she said, as she has said in the past, "If you all want to hear yourselves talk, then go ahead."

Then almost immediately following the vote elementary school teacher, delegate and big bargaining team member Michelle Gunderson "called the question" to have a vote and thus bypass the continued debate on the floor. 

CTU delegate Michelle Gunderson "called the question" to stop debate and discussion of the tentative agreement, upsetting many delegates who wanted more time to discuss the proposed four-year deal.

The move based on Robert's Rules of Order for union meetings was entirely legal, however, it had people scratching their heads why someone was so eager to put a halt to the debate. 

In fact, one Northside delegate said it was totally unfair to have a big bargaining team member who had lots of time to discuss the proposed contract, quickly call the question and only give delegates a mere 15 minutes to debate a four-year contract that will not end until 2019.

Visions of the parking meter scam ran in my head - I am a voting delegate on the Southwest Side - where Mayor Richard Daley forced the aldermen to quickly vote on the privatization scam that ended up costing the city over a billion dollars. 

In other words, the more people debated and questioned the contract, the more it was in danger of getting axed. 

Politics always plays the central role.

Surprisingly, Saucedo delegate Sarah Chambers spoke most passionately against the proposed deal. Chambers is a member of CORE, the union leadership caucus. She said the city has the money and it is criminal how much they have cut special ed funding, and the paper work language is too vague to have any effect.

Fiery CTU delegate Sarah Chambers voted no to the proposed contract.

Another delegate noted that the lower number of health care options in this proposed contract will have a dire effect, especially on teachers who may have to switch doctors during treatment.

I was planning to speak up and bring to the floor the question of how we could agree to a contract that we are already letting the board of ed break - namely not having to pay our step and lane changes from last year when this proposed contract is supposed to begin.

Still, this was a deal orchestrated by the union from the start - including all the strike votes and rallies and one-day walk outs - under cover with a big bargaining team where not one spoke up at the HOD meeting Wed. to question it (one delegate said voting against this deal would amount to fracturing the union - a ludicrous charge that even the union leadership steered away from).

For example, where was the one high school delegate and big bargaining team member who said he couldn't stomach the last proposed contract Lewis said she liked because the incentives given for more teachers to retire was anti-veteran teacher. This proposal contains the same incentives - $1500 per service to retire after this school year if 1500 teachers retire. You can bet new hires will replace them.

And it was to the end the union leadership got what it wanted - the delegates voted to pass this proposal. 

The teachers will next vote in the schools to ratify the tentative agreement.

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