Update: Things CTU Might Be Doing Right

image from 3.bp.blogspot.comBashing the CTU is a favorite activity for teachers and reformers alike, so it was nice to hear about a couple of things that the union might be doing effectively:  preventing the accelerated use of CPS school buildings by outside operators (ie, its "community development strategy") and organizing charter school teachers to unionize (in part through the efforts of a savvy organizer named James Tindwa). The union's activities have been noted admiringly as far away as New York City (see Norm's Notes here).  CTU now has a community advisory board and -- I'm told -- is trying to
make sure that its members regularly attend community meetings where
school issues are being discussed.  Its open-ness to the needs of charter school teachers are in sharp contrast to places like Newark, NJ, where the union local is so vehemently anti-charter it refuses to try and organize charter school teachers even when the national dangles money in front of its nose.  


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  • I'm not aware that the Lynch CTU did anything by way of *organizing* charter school teachers.

    The first poster in the thread is correct. Marilyn Stewart's UPC took the lead in organizing charter school teachers.

    It is the right thing to do, even though many of us teachers wish the CTU would focus its resources on the dues-paying members.

  • I'm not sure attacking widely-respected philanthropists like Bill Gates is really going to be an effective strategy.

  • What has the Chicago Teachers Union done right? The question raises also what it has done wrong. In many ways since the members have voted out President Stewart it is a far more democratic union in terms of the functioning of the House of Delegates. It has worked hard to forge relationships in the community, but largely with groups that have a level of hostility to the existing power structure of the city and school system. Larger established organizations like Operation Push, the Urban League, etc, were heavily co-opted during the Daley years and are not much of a social force in the city. The Black Church leadership in Chicago also benefited from relationships with the Daley power structure and is a very limited fighting force in this town now.

    The CTU made a real and serious attempt to educate its members over the implications of what took place in Wisconsin to almost all public sector workers. Unfortunately, that educational process was far from complete by the time the entire issue of SB7 was facing the union and the mayoral campaign took place. Many members did not grasp the code that was being spoken in that campaign and the massive level of privatization that will now take place.

    The bulk of the CTU membership is not actively engaged in the big issues facing the union and all public sector workers. Teaching is an incredibly isolating job; the time teachers have during the school day to interact is very limited. Many CTU teachers have become very fatalistic about the long-term prospects of their profession and are hoping against hope they will have a job over the next few years, a pension, and some sort of health care once they leave teaching.

    The youngest teachers in the system are often completely overwhelmed by college debt. One year ago the US Department of Education issued a report showing the default rate on federally backed college loans was 6.9%, a week ago DOE issued a new report showing the number jumped to 8.9%. People who really study the issue of young college graduates and debt believe that there are so many loan recipients that are on extended repayment plans, graduated repayment plans, and income-contingent repayment plans that the real default rate is hidden. There is a desperate pool of college graduates that will teach on the cheap and this presents a real challenge in getting to the 75% strike vote required to contain moves by CPS that will drive down the effective wages of teachers.

    The normal reaction of the CTU membership is - throw the bums out -if the union leadership did not deliver for us. Well that attitude presumes that the union is basically a service provider for its members. That idea has been drilled into the heads of union members in our country for a long time now, there is a name for it: bread and butter unionism. When you are faced with extinction from powerful forces attempting to contain costs in the public sector that idea clearly has its limits. Maybe teacher unionism will need to build itself back up after a serious period of setbacks looking back to a time when teachers in Chicago had very few labor rights and fundamentally conspired against the Board using what would be called today wildcat strikes and other unauthorized types of actions. Maybe these teachers of the future will not even work directly for a public school system but instead for basically private entities, either not for profit or for profit that will receive over time fewer and fewer inflation adjusted dollars to educate urban children. For sure times are changing fast and the future will be very different than things have been for a long time.

    Rod Estvan

  • That

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