Archives for category: Unions

At last, someone is doing something to help the people of Flint.

300 union plumbers arrived from all over the state to install filters in the homes of Flint residents. They volunteered their weekend time to help.

“According to ABC12, not all the faucets in Flint can fit a filter, which each resident of the city desperately needs in order to get rid of lead in their drinking water. Some of the faucets are older and oddly shaped, making the installation of a filter nearly impossible.

“Local plumbers with United Association Local 370 in Flint have been going door-to-door making sure that faucets are filter ready since October, reports Michigan Radio. And last weekend, they got a boost from hundreds of union volunteers.”

Superstar principal Troy La Raviere in Chicago steps back to assess the deadlock between the mayor and the Chicago Teachers Union.


He recalls a recent conversation with Paul Vallas. He writes:


“I’m not an admirer of his education policy, but Vallas was the last Chicago Public Schools CEO to leave the district with a structurally balanced long-term budget. He also left CPS with a fully funded pension system, and over $1 billion in reserves. When Vallas returned to Chicago this past August, I was fortunate enough to have an hour-long conversation with him a few days before we both participated in a panel at the City Club of Chicago. During our conversation—and during the panel—Vallas outlined the financial rules that kept CPS budgets balanced during his tenure. Those practices included the following:


“He did not add programs without identifying additional revenue to pay for them.

“He did not borrow for operational expenses.

“He did not spend on new schools when there was declining enrollment. Building new schools should be based on demographics, not school reform ideology.

“He did not redirect funding for pension payments toward other spending projects.

“After Vallas’ departure, the mayor’s appointees to CPS lost all fiscal discipline and consistently violated every one of these sound budgeting practices. As a result of their mismanagement, CPS now claims they need “shared sacrifice” from teachers. Teachers union officials don’t seem to have the kind of consistent and concise messaging the Mayor’s office has, so the average news consumer may not notice that within CTU’s response are the keys to solving CPS’ fiscal crisis. I will take the liberty of fine-tuning CTU’s message and speaking as the Chicago public school teacher and union member I once was, before becoming an administrator nearly a decade ago.”


LaRaviere then describes what is necessary to fix the budget. And he identifies who must share in sacrificing to put the system in a sound financial footing.


Experienced journalist Sarah Karp here explains what sank the contract negotiations between the Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union.


“In the recent Chicago Public Schools contract offer, which now lingers in a sort of political purgatory, teachers were offered a pay raise, but there was a big catch: CPS educators would essentially be paying for the salary increase by sacrificing the most experienced members of their teaching force.


“An early-retirement buyout program was the linchpin of the Board of Education’s since-rejected offer – and it’s one of the main reasons why Chicago Teachers Union representatives voted down the deal, according to union officials.


“The board was offering $1,500 per year of service to teachers of retirement age and $750 to support staff to leave, according to the CTU. If at least 1,500 teachers and 700 other staffers took advantage of the buyout offer, the contract would stand, according to the CPS offer.


“But, if not enough employees signed up for early retirement, then CPS could reopen the contract – which union members feared would lead to layoffs.


“With that prospect looming and, among other things, the concern of a brain drain as experienced educators walked out the door, the CTU’s bargaining team of 40 union representatives voted down the deal unanimously on Monday.


“At a press conference on Tuesday, CTU President Karen Lewis said the union voted down the contract offer because, “No. 1 it would have pushed out 2,200 of our seasoned, experienced educators, disproportionately impacting African-American and Latino educators. It will lead to ballooning class sizes and the cuts the board proposed were solely out of our pockets.”


“Fifty-four percent of teachers with more than 20 years experience are black or Latino, whereas only 22 percent of new teachers are, according to a Better Government Association analysis of 2012 state data. New teachers make about $48,000 a year, while those with 20 years or more experience make an average of $88,000



CTU to March and Rally Today for a Fair Contract, City and Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve



CHICAGO—Two days after Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s handpicked Chicago Public Schools (CPS) CEO Forrest Claypool declared war on public school educators by threatening $100 million in classroom cuts—roughly 1,000 layoffs—and the removal of teachers’ long-standing pension pick-up, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) will continue a series of non-violent direct actions with a mass march and rally from Bank of America (BOA) to City Hall today at 4:30 p.m.



Yesterday, the CTU withdrew nearly $1 million from its BOA account in protest of that bank and other financial institutions that sold CPS toxic interest rate swaps and are demanding a payout of at least $228 million—almost the exact same amount as cuts enacted by the Chicago Board of Education to schools and special education. In total, the City of Chicago and CPS will lose $1.2 billion on these toxic swaps, despite the CTU asking the Board for years to be a partner in challenging these rip-off deals.



Rank-and-file CTU members, CTU officers, parents, students and community organizations, public education supporters and others

March and rally for a fair contract from Bank of America to City Hall

Thursday, February 4, 2016
4:30 p.m.

Bank of America
135 S. LaSalle St.


City Hall
121 N. LaSalle St.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has had every opportunity to pursue revenue from his wealthy friends and backers. Instead, he has targeted educators and students to pay for the Board’s mismanagement. Today, Chicago’s educators and public school supporters take to the streets to continue their fight for the city and the schools Chicago’s students deserve.

The fabulously wealthy DeVos family of Michigan bankrolls vouchers and hates unions. Now they are promoting legislation to punish the teachers of Detroit for their sickout action, which brought national attention to the abysmal physical conditions in the Detroit schools.

This message was distributed by the Michigan Education Association:

“Member Call to Action

“Urgent MEA member activism is needed to stop a package of anti-strike bills that passed the Senate Education Committee today — in even more extreme versions than originally proposed.

“Members are urged to call their state senators and representatives to fight back against this latest attack on school employees and their unions.
The bills were introduced to stifle the voices of Detroit teachers participating in alleged “sick-outs” to call attention to unsafe, unhealthy, and unacceptable conditions in Detroit Public Schools. The provisions would affect school employees statewide.

“Among the more far-reaching provisions in the substitute versions of Senate Bills 713, 714, and 715:

+ Teachers involved in alleged “strike activities” would face fines and loss of their certification.

+ To be considered a strike action, only one school employee must be found to be engaging in the activity.

+ Once a strike is declared, the school’s bargaining unit would be dissolved and prohibited from representing the unit for five years, whether or not it agreed to the strike and regardless of whether the school employee(s) involved in the action belong to the unit.

+ School districts that fail to enforce strike-related sanctions against employees would face a fine of 5 percent of their total state school aid.

“The bills’ sponsor, Sen. Phil Pavlov (R-St. Clair) tried to say in a press conference after the committee vote that the bills have nothing to do with the situation in Detroit. However, it’s clear this is an attempt to muzzle educators and their representatives at the bargaining table.

“The full Senate may vote on the measures this week, so urgent action is needed. Contact your legislators today!”






Phillip Cantor explains why the Chicago Teachers Union rejected Rahm Emanuel’s contract offer.

The offer had some good things in it, but what killed it was a “poison pill” provision:

“The CPS offer basically froze compensation for most teachers for four years. I was OK with that… even though CPS has taken about $2 Billion from teachers in the past five years. I like the idea of getting rid of the pension pick-up, but don’t want teachers to suffer 7% pay cuts to achieve it. Some teachers would have come out with a tiny increase over 4 years, other teachers – longer serving teachers- would have had to take a significant pay cut.

“CPS’s offer also included a requirement – added at the last minute – that over 2000 CTU members take early retirement with the provision that if that number didn’t leave the profession the contract would be re-opened. In other words… the whole thing would be scrapped. To me this seems like a poison pill. How could CTU agree to a contract that forced a 10% reduction in teachers and school staff? How could CTU agree to a contract which had a self-destruct clause in it?”

So, layoffs now or layoffs later.

The CTU bargaining team unanimously rejected the deal. And now the CEO is threatening to impose deep cuts and layoffs without a contract.

CTU will hold a mass rally on Thursday afternoon to protest.

Mike Klonsky reports that Forrest Claypool, CEO of Chicago Public Schools, reacted to the Chicago Teachers Union’s rejection of his contract offer with a threat of layoffs and cuts.



“A letter sent by Forrest Claypool to the union Tuesday said that within 30 days, CPS would stop paying the teachers’ share of pension contributions (as if they’d been paying them up until now), order school administrators to cut $50 million by laying off 1,000 teachers and “re-shuffle” $50 million that goes toward general education funding to schools. That re-shuffling of Title I and II funds will hit hardest at kids with special needs and English-language learners.


“Claypool says he will drop the threats if the union would only agree to his contract offer which CTU’s bargaining team unanimously rejected. I believe that’s called blackmail. Or maybe — hostage taking.”



Two teachers went to Washington, D.C. to hear the oral arguments about the Friedrichs v. CTA case, which could be very harmful to the future of all public sector unions.


You will find their account of the justices’ views fascinating. They listened as classroom teachers. Both teachers are BATS. Marla Kilfoyle is the executive director, and Melissa Tomlinson is the assistant director.


“At 6:45 a.m., braving about 30-degree weather, we took a cab down to the Supreme Court building. Although we got there around seven a.m., we were still 30th in line. We understood clearly that were were in line to witness the case that could destroy the unions that we belong to with pride- Melissa, as a member of NEA and Marla, a member of AFT. We have personal involvement in this case, enough that spurred us to spend a better part of our summer co-writing and submitting an Amicus Brief to be read by the Justices.

“The date was January 11th; the court case was Friedrichs vs. CTA.

“As we stood on the sidewalk, we watched the demonstrators line up. By the end of the morning, the “I stand with Rebecca” crowd numbered about 50 supporters, the union side about 500. We stood in line for about 3 ½. At approximately 10:05 we were let into the Court to witness the entire oral argument.
“We were overwhelmed

“We were to be witnesses to history

“Would it be the history that saves our unions?
“Would it be the history that destroys our unions?
“Here are our thoughts as we listened from the eyes and ears of two teachers.


“Here is the full transcript of the oral arguments.
“In this piece, we would like to share what we thought were some of the most poignant moments of this case. At the core of this case is the overturning of the four-decade-old case of Abood. Abood is the Supreme Court case that protects agency shop fees and thus holds up the ideals of “collective” bargaining. We would also like to address some of the comments that the Justices, Mr. Carvin, and the Union side made. Our observations, once again would come from the experience, and lens, of working teachers who have had unions working for them”








One of Chicago’s most celebrated charter schools–Urban Prep–has been fighting its teachers’ effort to form a union. Mike Klonsky reports that UP even had professional development about the evils of unions.


It failed. UP fired 17 teachers–mostly African American–for their union activities. They complained to the NLRB, which ordered UP to rehire them and pay back wages.

On the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., many politicians will praise his legacy even as they act in ways that betray his ideals.

Yohuru Williams, a professor of history at Fairfield University in Connecticut, reminds us that Dr. King was a strong advocate of labor unions because he understood that they protect the rights of working people by demanding fair pay and safe working conditions.

I was a small speck in the crowd when Dr. King gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington in 1963. Most of the chartered buses that brought hundreds of thousands of supporters to hear Dr. King that day were sponsored by labor unions. The theme of the day was “Jobs and Justice.”

Williams writes:

“Teachers, then and now, invoked the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement and the words of Martin Luther King to support a deeper investment in America’s public schools including more robust budgets for instruction, greater interventions for English language learners, and fair compensation. Their appeals for politicians to live up to the spirit of the movement fail to move political leaders like Rahm Emmanuel and Michigan Governor Rick Snyder whose positions on high stakes testing, teachers unions, and insistence on school closures represent the most egregious form of historical amnesia concerning the continuing relevance of Dr. King’s message.”

As the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to decide a case intended to cripple labor unions, we know that Dr. King’s prophetic warnings will be weighed too. Will working people have a chance to get middle-class jobs, or will they be stripped of any job protections, left to work at the whim of faceless corporations and heartless politicians?

Let it not be forgotten why Dr. King was in Memphis when he was murdered. He was there to advocate for the right of sanitation workers to form a union.


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