Chicago Teachers Didn’t Win Everything, But They’ve Transformed the City—And the Labor Movement Rebecca Burns November 1, 2019 Working In These Times Chicago teachers and staff returned to the classrooms Friday after more than two weeks on strike. ...

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"Ed Notes Online" - 5 new articles

  1. Chicago Teachers Didn’t Win Everything, But They’ve Transformed the City—And the Labor Movement -- Portside
  2. Chicago Teachers Ratify Contract by 80%
  3. Bloomberg as President Would Be More Undemocratic Than Trump
  4. Former Bloomberg Hit Man Dennis Walcott as Queens Library Head Absolves Himself of Responsibilty for Errors - What Else is New?
  5. Jim Vail - The Chicago Teacher Strike - A View from the Inside - Part 2
  6. More Recent Articles

Chicago Teachers Didn’t Win Everything, But They’ve Transformed the City—And the Labor Movement -- Portside

Chicago Teachers Didn’t Win Everything, But They’ve Transformed the City—And the Labor Movement
Rebecca Burns
November 1, 2019
Working In These Times 
Chicago teachers and staff returned to the classrooms Friday after more than two weeks on strike. Their walkout lasted longer than the city’s landmark 2012 strike, as well as those in Los Angeles and Oakland earlier this year.
The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) strike also lasted long enough for the season’s first snowstorm to blanket thousands of teachers and staff who surrounded City Hall Thursday morning to demand Mayor Lori Lightfoot agree to restore missed instructional days as a final condition of their returning to work. After a few hours, the union and the mayor arrived at a compromise of five make-up days—a move Lightfoot had resisted until the eleventh hour, despite the fact that it’s a standard conclusion to teacher strikes.
Over the course of an often-bitter battle, CTU and its sister union, SEIU 73, overcame a series of such ultimatums from the recently elected mayor. Before the strike, Lightfoot had refused to write issues such as staffing increases or class size caps into a contract at all. Following a budget address last week, Lightfoot vowed that there was no more money left for a “bailout” of the school district. But a tentative agreement approved by CTU delegates Wednesday night requires the school district to put a nurse and social worker in every school within five years and allocates $35 million more annually to reduce overcrowded classrooms. Both unions also won pay bumps for support staff who have made poverty wages.
Yet these substantial gains still fell short of what many members had hoped to achieve, given that they were fighting for basic investments already enjoyed by most suburban school districts—investments that Lightfoot herself had campaigned on this spring.
“It took our members 10 days to bring these promises home,” CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates told reporters after an agreement was reached over instructional days. “But I want to tell my members: They have changed Chicago.”
Members of SEIU 73 ratified their contract this week, and CTU members will now have 10 days to do so. But the impact of the two-week walkout is likely to extend far beyond the contracts themselves.
During daily rallies that drew tens of thousands of teachers, staff and supporters, the unions repeatedly made the argument that there was plenty of wealth in the city to invest in schools and public services—it was just concentrated in the wrong hands. They also touched on what’s often a third-rail for public-sector unions, criticizing the resources lavished on police at their expense. The strike’s momentum will carry over most immediately into a budget battle with Lightfoot, with the teachers’ union partnering with a larger coalition fighting to tax corporations and luxury real-estate at a higher rate in order to fund affordable housing, public mental health clinics and other services.
The teachers union also shone a light on an opaque financing tool known as Tax Increment Financing, or TIF, that’s intended to funnel additional property tax dollars to “blighted” areas, but that critics say is akin to a “corporate slush fund.” On Tuesday, nine CTU members were arrested at the headquarters of Sterling Bay to protest the city’s decision to award the Wall-Street backed developer more than $1 billion of TIF subsidies earlier this year.
“That day in and of itself was huge because we were able to call out the city’s hypocrisy,” says Roxana González, an 8th-grade teacher at Dr. Jorge Prieto Math and Science Academy who was among those arrested. “The fight to fund what our communities need is a much longer one than our contract fight, and teachers across the city are going to continue to be a part of it.”
The two-week walkout will also likely have reverberations for teachers and other union members outside of Chicago. The CTU’s 2012 strike helped inspire a national network called “Bargaining for the Common Good” that has brought together unions seeking to expand the scope of contract bargaining beyond pay and benefits.
“In many ways this was both the toughest and most visionary strike fought yet on the principals of Bargaining for the Common Good,” says Joseph McCartin, the director of the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor at Georgetown University.
“The union engaged in some effective popular education about the structural issues of school underfunding that it can follow up on in the future. Although it was a difficult fight, the CTU has come away with gains that will make the schools better and encourage teachers elsewhere to fight for similar things.”
One of CTU’s boldest “common good” demands was for affordable housing—a move that captured national headlines and became a centerpiece of the mayor’s narrative that the union was stalling negotiations through an overly political agenda.
While the union didn’t win on housing assistance for new teachers or gain the school district’s support for rent control, one of CTU’s earliest and clearest victories was an agreement to hire staff specifically to support the more than 17,000 homeless students in Chicago Public Schools—an approach that could be a model for other school districts.
Other key wins on social justice issues include new guarantees for bilingual education, including more dedicated teachers for English language learners, and a declaration that Chicago schools are sanctuary spaces.
These are vital issues in a school district where nearly half of students are Latinx and nearly one-fifth are English language learners, says González, who also helped push for these changes as a member of the CTU’s Latinx caucus. She has previously faced a lack of resources and the potential for discipline when she tried to aid a former student who reached out to her for help with a pending deportation case. As part of the new agreement on sanctuary schools, the school district will create a training program for staff on how to respond to ICE presence in schools and assist immigrant students. It will also allocate up to $200,000 annually to help employees navigate immigration issues.
The victories are less clear-cut when it comes to the key issue of support staffing. The district will begin hiring more nurses and social workers in the highest-need schools this year, but it will take five years before they’re guaranteed for every school. And while the CTU has highlighted that nine out of 10 majority-black schools in Chicago do not have a librarian, the agreement creates a joint union-school district committee on “staffing equity” that will provide a path—but not a guarantee—for high-need schools to hire additional librarians, counselors or restorative justice coordinators.
Some teachers say they were prepared to continue striking until more progress was made on staffing, smaller caps on class sizes and regaining teacher prep time eliminated under previous Mayor Rahm Emanuel. But facing an intransigent mayor, worsening weather and a November 1 deadline for the suspension of their employer health insurance, CTU delegates ultimately voted on Wednesday night to approve the tentative agreement by a margin of 60%.
Class size remains a particular concern for instructors like Jeni Crone, an art teacher at Lindbloom Math and Science Academy. While CTU won for the first time an avenue to enforce hard caps on class sizes, the recommended limits themselves remain the same: Up to 31 in high school classes, depending on the subject, which can reach 38 students before an automatic remedy is triggered.
Crone previously taught at Kelvyn Park High School, but lost her job there in 2017 amidst a round of budget cuts that led to the loss of 11 positions at the school. She says she repeatedly saw high class-size caps used as justification to merge two smaller classes into one larger one. Before her position was cut, her three art classes were combined into two, with 34 and 35 students, respectively.
“It’s one of the easiest ways for CPS to save money,” she says. “But we should be normalizing smaller class sizes.”
Still, Crone says she is “cautiously optimistic” about the contract’s wins, and is determined above all to make sure that union members remain united with students and parents to continue demanding more.
“I am not totally content, but the way I see it, it’s OK for us not to be content,” Crone says. “That means I still want better for my students, and we should always want better for them.”

Chicago Teachers Ratify Contract by 80%

The second and third largest cities, social justice leftist oriented unions, in contrast to the UFT, have some interesting news to report.

Despite some controversy in Chicago over what was won by the recent strike and some questions raised about how democratic the process was, the 25,000 membership ratified by 80%. Not too shabby and not far below the numbers here last year.

Read: Chicago Teachers Didn’t Win Everything, But They’ve Transformed the City—And the Labor Movement
Rebecca Burns
November 1, 2019
Working In These Times 

Class size was a premium issue and some gains were made. Some gains were made in terms of enforcement here in NYC but the numbers remain the same here as they were in 1970. The last time the UFT went on strike over class size was in 1967 - I was on that strike - my first days on the job and I didn't have a clue what it was all about. The class size wins in Chicago seem limited but made some progress. The UFT is also lauding the progress. You know I am a critic of the UFT over class size and I think more can be done but when pro-Unity people point out a comparison of contracts by our so-called "business union" vs the CTU "social justice" union, I don't have an easy answer. But I do point out how the Chicago people used community ties and made a case of pointing out where the money was while here we never hear a word about the outrageous real estate and corporate deals -- like let's give Amazon and Hudson Yards funders enormous tax breaks while arguing there is not enough money to at the very least reduce class size in the early grades as was done in the early 90s but reversed by Bloomberg.

The Mayor is a liberal -and probably a neo-liberal who wanted to hold the line on the ed budget but seems to have no qualms about giving breaks to certain corporate or real estate interests. By the way, de Blasio is no different despite claiming to be left of liberal.

I want honest reports not ideologically tainted reporting. I trust Fred Klonsky's analysis. He is a retired union leader in the Chicago area and does not fawn over the CTU even if he is a big supporter.  So here is his report listing some of the gains and why they are important.  Chicago’s teachers approve their contract.  

Here is most of Fred's report:

The vote came two weeks after an eleven day strike that put thousands of teachers on the picket lines and in the streets for nearly daily mass protests.
Late Friday night, with 80% of the vote counted from 80% of the schools, votes for approval were running at 81%.
I found no information on what schools the vote was coming from or whether that information will be made available later.
79% approved the deal after the seven-day 2012 strike. The 2016 CBA received a 72% vote of approval.
Teachers have reason to be proud of their unity and militancy during the bargaining.
Members will receive a 16 percent hike over the five year length of the agreement. That is a long time compared to most contracts, and to the 3-year deal that the CTU wanted.
There will be no increases in health care costs for the first three years, a quarter-percent increase in the fourth year and a half-percent increase in the fifth year.
A disappointment for many was the failure to add to elementary teachers prep time and the dispersal of veteran pay must still be negotiated.
The contractual numbers of students in a class – a central demand of the CTU – seems limited.  A teacher may appeal for a remedy to a newly constituted Joint Class Size Assessment Council, consisting of six members appointed by the district and six by the union. The council will determine if, and what, action is to be taken.
Class size and staffing were huge issues in the strike. The union demanded that class sizes and staffing numbers be put in writing in the contract.
What was important for the union was that the numbers and the procedures for remedy be written into the contract which would allow them to be grieved if the numbers and process for remediation were violated.
Now the numbers and remedy are in writing in the collective bargaining agreement.
Still, the numbers themselves remain high.
As for staffing, the union won 209 additional social workers and 250 additional nurses over the duration of the contract.
CPS must now add an additional 44 social workers and 55 nurses next year above what the district had already budgeted. 
There was no agreement to add school librarians.
The new contract designates funds to hire community representatives at schools with large numbers of homeless students.
A stipend will also be available for some schools to hire a Students in Temporary Living Situation (STLS) Liaison. Together, the representative and liaison will ensure homeless students are attending class, have transit passes, and are aware of neighborhood resources.
There were other improvements for teachers in the agreement as well.
Some will continue to argue over who won, the CTU or Mayor Lightfoot. Or whether an 11-day strike significantly improved the agreement over what Mayor Lightfoot and the CPS board offered before the walkout.
As someone who has some experience in bargaining teacher union contracts, I think the fundamental issue is whether this contract is an improvement over the previous one. In this case, it appears the members believe it is and their vote is the one that matters most.
What I am most pleased about is that unlike in a growing number of right to work states, Chicago public school union teachers had the right to bargain it and to vote on their agreement.
That is no small thing.


Bloomberg as President Would Be More Undemocratic Than Trump

Bloomberg inspires much fear and loathing from those of us who knew him close up from his takeover of the NYC school system. The very arrogance of his entry into the presidential race speaks volumes. I think I might prefer an often inept clown like Trump to a high end technocrat like Bloomberg who would know how to pull the levers of power without anyone being willing to challenge him. Bloomberg should have been impeached for the lies and misinformation when he ran the city.

I am laughing out loud at the idea of Bloomberg challenging Trump. How often have we heard that Trump would refuse to leave office if he lost or even if he won a 2nd term? He even joked about that.

I know where he got the idea - from former mayor of NYC Bloomberg who defied term limits to demand a third term here in NYC. Bloomberg was as undemocratic a mayor as we've had, punishing critics or buying them off. Community groups suddenly went silent, bought off with Bloomberg donations.

We saw that first hand in his takeover of the education department just how dictatorial were he and his henchman, Joel Klein and Dennis Walcott (see my post the other day, Former Bloomberg Hit Man Dennis Walcott as Queens Library Head Absolves Himself of Responsibilty for Errors - What Else is New?)

And how about that Cathy Black appointment as chancellor?

He called the rising test scores "a  great victory," but they were bogus all along

And those school cheating scandals stem directly from Bloomberg policy.

And remember the wasted time and money over building a stadium on the west side? Imagine traffic in the city.

As for racism, Bloomberg is certainly in Trump territory, just smoother. Stop and frisk is exhibit number one. Since it's been cut down, the crime rate still dropped.

How about those gentrification real estate deals? Bloomberg is way more responsible for the homeless crisis because he refused to build housing - he wanted to push poor and even middle class people out of the city. I taught in Williamsburg and saw what his policies did to that neighborhood which is so crowded and dense and overbuilt with awful architecture too. Are there some good outcomes? Of course but anyone who allows what happened without thinking through the consequences is bad news.

How about the transportation issues? Billions for a few fancy subway stations with no concept of expanding service to more areas that needed it.  Just see that Hudson Yards #7 train station as an example.

And sexism - the guy who told pregnant women who worked for him to "get rid of it?" Oh, I could go on.

Bloomberg is not running against Trump but to stop Bernie or Warren.

He and fellow billionaires are terrified at the thought of high tax rates and cutting into their wealth which is used to give them inordinate power over everyone else.

Bloomberg inspires fear to members of the press who might one day be looking for a job -- I remember getting that feeling from some reporters over their weak, fawning coverage of the Bloomberg years.

We already saw that act here in NYC.

Former Bloomberg Hit Man Dennis Walcott as Queens Library Head Absolves Himself of Responsibilty for Errors - What Else is New?

When Dennis M. Walcott, a former New York City schools chancellor, took over the helm of the Queens Library system in 2016, the branch was just an empty shell on the Long Island City waterfront. By that point, Mr. Walcott said in an interview, the focus was on finishing the building, not in rethinking its details... NYT
Right. The very same guy who was Bloomberg's hit man on the schools for a dozen years making another excuse.  Ahhh, I remember him defending the appointment of Cathy Black as chancellor to succeed Joel Klein and then took over for her after she was dumped.
The congestion is compounded by the placement of the main stroller parking area on a second floor landing, which is insufficient for the dozens of strollers sometimes seeking a spot.
“It’s crazy right now,” said Nikki Rheaume, one of three children’s librarians, as she tried to navigate a crush of strollers around the second floor elevator last Wednesday, when dozens of strollers descended on the building. “It’s chaos.”... NYT on $41 million library mess
Update: A comment from a reader points to Walcott's history - and by the way he replaced a corrupt Queens library head before him - and to the role played by Melinda Katz as borough pres in getting Walcott the job.
Walcott lacks any qualifications for the job. He and the entire board should be removed for this fiasco. He has been on public welfare for so long. The politicians in Albany keep finding him jobs. He is one reason why I did not vote for the female Dem candidate for DA. She has proven bad judgement year after year but the public has not paid attention to her incompetence.
Most professional employees at the library system are ignored and marginalized. DW has no idea who they are or what they can really do for our residents nor do the idiot architects. No one spends the time, money, and effort to becomes a highly skilled library professional in the digital age only to be assigned carrying books up and down stadium stairs. Watch the career of the person who spoke out. She is marked for extinction.
This is just a repeat of the similar debacles he left with us all over the school system. (Not qualified there either.)
Yes - his role alone in closing so many NYC schools and supporting charters should have resulted in intervention by the UFT when Walcott was appointed.

You can see this library from the Manhattan side of the east river from the 34st ferry terminal. I had to check it out and took a 5 minute ferry to Hunters Point - I also wanted to talk to the librarian about dropping off copies of the Indypendent every month. I loved the design - outside and the views from inside. But it did not seem to be as good an idea functionally. I shlepped up stairs and down stairs and it was just weird the way the books were placed and where they were placed -- with a few desks on each level.

A week ago reports surfaced over leaks and cracks. And then this from our old NYT ed reporter Sharon Otterman who should be well acquainted with the squirmy Walcott.

New Library Is a $41.5 Million Masterpiece. But About Those Stairs.

“It’s chaos,” said one of the children’s librarians.


Jim Vail - The Chicago Teacher Strike - A View from the Inside - Part 2

So the strike helped expose the lies of politicians, and the fight between the people 99% and the billionaires 1% who supported Lightfoot's campaign. It was an eye opener to teachers who voted for Lightfoot based on her lies.

The union leadership organized and ran a very successful strike to fight for better schools. They are to be commended for that. 

But the union leadership also plays a dirty political game that they say they have to in order to get anything in this system. 
this strike won't change the ugly reality we live in today - where over the past 30 years or so the 1% have accumulated 21 trillion dollars, while the rest of us have lost 900 billion dollars. 
.... Jim Vail
In the continuing search for truth and justice, on the Chicago teacher strike I've been looking for articles that come from different directions - examining all sides of the cube to see through the chaff. Like you know you can expect a glowing victory article from Labor Notes and an attack from the World Socialists on the far left. The liberal press will support the liberal mayor and the right wing will attack her for caving. It is a spin zone.

In every one of these posts on other teacher unions, keep in mind how our union operates here in NYC and compare it to the others. Despite the different political views of the UFT leadership (center Democrat - Biden type politician) and the CTU leadership (social democrat - Bernie  like), they operate on some levels in the same way -- with the CTU being more top-down that one would expect.

Yesterday I presented an insider view from someone I trust who is not in the leadership but close to it. Assessing The Chicago Teacher Strike - A View from...

Today I am presenting the views of Jim Vail, not loved by the CTU leadership if I remember correctly, an original CORE member from a decade ago but who became a left critic of the leadership. I got to hang out a bit with him at the AFT convention in Detroit in 2012 when he was still a delegate and we did agree on some of the critical issues. Here is his report republished from Substance and first published on Jim Vail's website Second City Teachers, which may be accessed here. Jim exposes the Lori Lightfoot sham which was predictable based on her supporters. (But it is funny to see the left Jacobins attacking Elizabeth Warren on similar grounds despite the fact that Wall St hates her guts.

Strike ends! Was it a win for teachers?

The Chicago Teachers Strike finally came to a crashing end after a historic 11-day walkout, the longest teachers strike since 1987.

The union and its supporters are going to say it was a win. The opposition and those with high hopes will say it was not.

And that was reflected in the vote - 364 - 242 to end the strike.

So the union was a bit divided when they voted on ratifying the tentative agreement.

Chicago Teachers Union CTU President Jesse Sharkey stated that the delegates vote on the contract, that he is not here to sell the contract.

But he then went on to sell the contract - saying repeatedly it would be a risk to strike for another week or so with no guarantee we would get more in the contract. But he didn't sell it hard, he knew people would be disappointed.

CTU Vice President Stacy Gates played politics – putting a tweet on the board for the delegates to show that the Speaker and the Governor have agreed to support an Elected School Board.

Another political promise?

Mayor Lori Lightfoot campaigned on empty promises of supporting the neighborhood schools and adding more social workers and nurses, straight from the CTU playbook. When it came down to putting her pledges in writing - she refused until the union and the strike forced her to put some things in writing (about $400 million in extra staffing and support for the schools).

She promised to invest in the South and West Sides that have been neglected, and now in office she is fighting against activists who sued the Lincoln Yards $1.2 billion TIF where tax money to help those "blighted" areas is instead going to a wealthy development company called Sterling Bay. She gave these guys everything they wanted in writing.

She also campaigned for an elected school board and then immediately stopped it. The union has a right to be furious with her.

So the strike helped expose the lies of politicians, and the fight between the people 99% and the billionaires 1% who supported Lightfoot's campaign. It was an eye opener to teachers who voted for Lightfoot based on her lies.

The union leadership organized and ran a very successful strike to fight for better schools. They are to be commended for that.

But the union leadership also plays a dirty political game that they say they have to in order to get anything in this system.

So it was disappointing to hear our leaders say Mayor Lightfoot was fanatical, or religious, a true believer - who wanted a five-year contract (crazy for that long since she can do a lot of damage by closing a lot more schools in her alliance with development), no extra prep time for elementary school teachers (this preserved the 'longer school day' that she they say has led to higher graduation rates) and no change to the Reach teacher evaluation system used to fire lots of teachers at a time of extreme teacher shortages.

What was the union zealous about? What exactly were we all willing to not go back to school until we got it?

The union framed it as a cap on class sizes - we got some good stuff in writing, far from perfect, a nurse in every school, every day (look close at the contract wording!), veteran pay (not that much considering $25 million over five years) and extra pay for Para Professionals (a definite win the union and teachers can be proud of). They forced CPS to increased the sports budget by 35%, adding $5 million to a meager $15 million was a win for city athletics.

It was very inspiring to hear many high school delegates say that their schools still wanted to strike to support of the elementary schools getting a 30 minute prep period each day, to ensure a better school day. Solidarity!

This contract is a reflection of the ruling class attack on public education that was at the apex when President Barack Obama took office in 2008 and implemented the Race to the Top.

The teachers unions supported President Obama (the newly elected CORE leadership was able to abstain from an endorsement, though former CTU President Karen Lewis pushed for it).

Like one of the many colorful signs said during the teachers protests - Unlike Burger King, you can't have it both ways!

But ultimately politics played a very big role here. It almost became a pissing match between the Mayor and the CTU. Nobody wanted to lose - within the box they were playing.

As the great political philosopher and linguist Noam Chomsky says, in the American system you put everything within a box - and within that box you can have some very rigorous debate and free speech. But in this system you are not allowed to go outside that box.

So this strike won't change the ugly reality we live in today - where over the past 30 years or so the 1% have accumulated 21 trillion dollars, while the rest of us have lost 900 billion dollars.

It is a fight not only for teachers, but all of us!

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