Educate All Students: Larry Miller's Blog

June 12, 2017

Will Chicago Become the Epicenter of Charter School Unionization?

Filed under: Charter Schools,Unions — millerlf @ 9:22 am
Jeff Schuhrke June 8, 2017 In These Times

In the words of Illinois Network of Charter Schools president Andrew Broy, “Chicago has become the epicenter of charter union organizing in the country.”

In a move sure to worry neoliberal education reformers, unionized charter school teachers in Chicago are voting this week on whether to formally join forces with the most militant teachers’ union in the country.

 

The proposed merger—which would be a potential first in the country—would see the more than 1,000 member Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff (ChiACTS), Local 4343 of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), amalgamate into a single union local with the nearly 30,000-member Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), AFT Local 1.

 

ChiACTS president Chris Baehrend said the potential merger “helps all Chicago teachers fight together on the same issues.”

 

Formed in 2009, ChiACTS is at the national forefront of organizing charter schools. Its members are not only winning union recognition across the city, but also showing a willingness to withhold their labor to win fair contracts, much like their counterparts in the CTU.

 

Since October, ChiACTS teachers have come close to going on strike at UNO, ASPIRA and Passages charter schools. But all three walkouts—which would have been the first charter school teacher strikes in history—were avoided by last-minute contract agreements.

 

In the words of Illinois Network of Charter Schools president Andrew Broy, “Chicago has become the epicenter of charter union organizing in the country.”

 

Though the CTU is undoubtedly opposed to the expansion of charter schools, as evidenced by the union’s successful effort to win a cap on new charters last fall, its leaders say they are dedicated to building teacher-to-teacher solidarity.

 

“Charter schools are here; they’re not going anywhere,” CTU president Karen Lewis recently said, continuing: “It’s the management companies we have the issues with, not the charter teachers, not the students, not the parents. The key is, organize people to fight for fairer conditions of work, and then that’s good for everybody.”

 

Since September 2015, the CTU has provided support to contract negotiations and enforcement for ChiACTS through a service agreement. Further, CTU members have frequently joined ChiACTS teachers at their rallies, and activists from both locals have met to discuss shared concerns through a joint committee.

 

“We believe that unification is a key step to allow educators to speak with one voice in Chicago, halt privatization and bring additional resources to our collective work,” says a letter from CTU leaders to delegates, obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times.

 

Union leaders acknowledge that the merger would be “a delicate process and will inevitably bring challenges and tensions.” This seems particularly true as the comparably small ChiACTS local would likely seek to retain some measure of autonomy within the much larger CTU.

 

Speaking for the charter companies, Broy described the unification move as a “hostile takeover” of ChiACTS by the CTU—a bizarre allegation considering ChiACTS members are voting on whether to approve the merger themselves.

 

“There will be trials,” said CTU vice president Jesse Sharkey. “I well imagine there are things that could potentially be tricky, but frankly you could say they’re the same things that divide our teachers now.”

 

Teachers at individual charter schools would still have their own contracts, and ChiACTS members would be able to run for seats on the CTU’s executive board and House of Delegates.

 

This week’s merger vote by ChiACTS members—the outcome of which will not be announced for several days—precedes a similar vote by CTU members, which will likely happen this fall. Further details have yet to be made public.

 

“When people hear the term ‘CTU,’ they’re going to have to understand that the CTU doesn’t just represent CPS,” Sharkey said. “It will more broadly be an organization for public educators in the city of Chicago.”

 

Like what you’ve read? Subscribe to In These Times magazine, or make a tax-deductible donation to fund this reporting.

 

JEFF SCHUHRKE

Jeff Schuhrke is a Working In These Times contributor based in Chicago. He has a Master’s in Labor Studies from UMass Amherst and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in labor history at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He was a summer 2013 editorial intern at In These Times. Follow him on Twitter: @JeffSchuhrke.

 

April 9, 2011

Chicago Charter Schools Unionizing

Filed under: Charter Schools,Unions — millerlf @ 8:36 am

Unions Move In at Chicago Charter Schools, and Resistance Is Swift

By REBECCA VEVEA Published: April 7, 2011 NY Times

In a trend that worries charter school operators, teachers at 12 of Chicago’s charters have formed unions over the past two years, and the Chicago Teachers Union is seeking to organize all 85 of the schools.

Union leaders say the growing charter movement is changing the landscape of public education and, with its disdain for unions, could leave teachers without a strong voice on issues like working conditions, teacher evaluations and curriculum.

Administrators and operators are battling back, arguing that unionization could undermine the basic premise of the charter school model: that they are more effective because they are free from the regulations and bureaucracies that govern traditional public schools.

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April 3, 2011

Women, Firefighters and the Wisconsin Uprising

Filed under: Scott Walker,Unions,Wisconsin Uprising — millerlf @ 9:39 am

We Work Hard, but Who’s Complaining?

Op-Ed Contributor:  NATASHA VARGAS-COOPER  Published: April 2, 2011 NYTimes

WHEN a couple dozen brawny, uniformed and helmeted firefighters, led by a bagpipe player, marched through a crowd of pro-union protesters in Madison, Wis., last month, I knew, almost to a certainty, that Gov. Scott Walker had picked a fight with the wrong crew.

As the firemen assembled on the Statehouse steps, the swelling, boisterous crowd, which had raucously encircled and occupied the Capitol for days, pushing back against Governor Walker’s plan to strip public employee unions of their collective bargaining rights, all of a sudden slipped into silent reverence.

While the plan exempts policemen and firemen, the first responders rallied under the oldest first principle of militant unionism: An Injury to One is an Injury to All. And the presence of these mostly white, husky, mustachioed firemen — many with soot still speckling their uniforms — had highlighted a major issue that generally goes undetected by the news media when covering labor conflicts.

In short, it’s what my old union called “the Husband Issue.”

Allow me to explain.

I spent five years as an organizer, and hundreds of hours in the living rooms, at the kitchen tables and on the porches of countless low-wage nursing assistants, hospital food workers and clinical lab scientists, trying to talk them into our union.

These were almost always women. No surprise, really. Whatever growth there has been in organized labor over the last few years — and there hasn’t been much — has been primarily among service workers, that near-invisible class of underpaid workers who clean bedpans, vacuum hotel rooms and mop the floors of operating rooms. I recall one heady organizing drive in Southern California that unionized 9,000 hospital workers, and they were almost exclusively low-wage immigrant women.

Most of those I was recruiting had never been in a union before, had no relatives in unions, and were being introduced to a strange new concept, collective bargaining. For any question a woman had, whether about dues, strikes, seniority, pensions or what she had to gain from forming a union, I had an answer ready to go. (Dues give you power; strikes are rare; every one deserves to retire with dignity. You want a direct say in your wages and benefits, don’t you?).

There was one rebuff, nevertheless, against which I was utterly powerless. It had nothing to do with politics, the boss or dues. Seven simple but devastating words: “I need to ask my husband first.”

Despite the endless training we got on how to ease workers’ doubts, we could never really establish a convincing response for the Husband Issue. It would shift the dynamic so suddenly, and require treading on such volatile emotional territory, that we would often politely say goodbye and scuttle out the door.

(For the record: No man I ever spoke to said, “Excuse me, I have to check first with my wife,” before signing a union card.)

In the current storm over public employee unions rattling the Midwest, this issue of gender is usually overlooked. Women, working as state clerks, teachers and nurses, dominate the organized public sector. And just as Rust Belt Republicans have deftly exploited longstanding stereotypes about public workers as lazy, pampered and gorging themselves on the taxpayers’ teat, they have also made cynical use of gender clichés to try to keep female-dominated unions in their place.

The reality that women are increasingly the breadwinners, providing the financial stability for middle-class families through a good union job, doesn’t seem to inform the Republican state of mind. Instead, women’s income and benefits are still perceived by many as strictly supplementary to the nuclear family, if not entirely superfluous. And therefore they are a prime target for budget cuts.

In addition, pink-collar jobs already require a saint-like disposition and an overall doing-more-with-less attitude. Cutting the pensions of these female workers, freezing their wages and curtailing their rights seems, to many, one of a piece with the suffering and forbearance reserved for our mothers.

The error committed by the antiunion governors is that their attack this time around was so slashing that it cut to the very marrow of organized labor: middle-class white men who saw their futures and their rights threatened. In Ohio, Gov. John Kasich even signed a law that goes so far as to prohibit policemen and firemen from negotiating over their staffing, or even the number of patrol cars and trucks at their disposal.

Police officers and firemen? Who is going to successfully argue that these guys are pampered and spoiled?

Call it what you want, and ascribe it to whatever motivation you please, but there’s just a radically different emotional atmosphere, a very divergent set of optics and ultimately an explosive political dynamic established when stoic firemen in bulky parkas and red helmets are on the picket line rather than teachers in pink T-shirts.

For better or for worse, they are still the Alpha Males of American society, our designated and respected protectors. They might be routinely taken for granted as a reliable conservative force, but someone forgot they are also still union men. These are men who recall clearly how the old-line male-dominated industrial unions — the steelworkers, autoworkers, miners and millworkers — have been whittled down or expunged. And to fiddle around with their livelihoods is like watching someone push your dad around. The reaction is an instinctive anger, horror and a sensation of the bottom falling out.

So, when those firemen took the steps of the Madison Capitol a few weeks ago, I was among those heartened and stirred. I could not resist, though, feeling more than a twinge of disappointment. I fear if it had been just some state home care workers or public school kindergarten teachers up there on the steps, it would not have ignited the same public sympathy and this fight would not be taken as seriously as it is.

Natasha Vargas-Cooper, a former union organizer, is the author of “Mad Men Unbuttoned: A Romp Through 1960s America” and a contributor to Slake, a quarterly.

March 9, 2011

Wisconsin Senate Finds Way to End Collective Bargaining Without the Democrats Present

Filed under: Scott Walker,Unions — millerlf @ 8:40 pm

By Patrick Marley of the Journal Sentinel Updated: March 9, 2011

Madison — The Senate – without Democrats present – abruptly voted Wednesday to eliminate almost all collective bargaining for most public workers.

The bill, which has sparked unprecedented protests and drawn international attention, now heads to the Assembly, which is to take it up at 11 a.m. Thursday. The Assembly, which like the Senate is controlled by Republicans, passed an almost identical version of the bill Feb. 25.

The new version passed the Senate 18-1 Wednesday night, with Sen. Dale Schultz (R-Richland Center) casting the no vote. There was no debate

Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller (D-Monona) said Democrats who have been boycotting the Senate for three weeks would return to Wisconsin once the bill passes the Assembly, although he declined to be more specific.

From Feb. 17 until Wednesday, the Senate Democrats were able to block a vote on the bill because 20 senators were required to be present to vote for it. Republicans control the house 19-14.

Late Wednesday, a committee stripped fiscal elements from the bill that they said allowed them to pass it with a simple majority present. The most controversial parts of the bill remain intact.

That committee, formed just hours earlier, quickly approved the bill as the lone Democrat at the meeting screamed that Republicans were violating the state’s open meetings law.

The law requires most public bodies to give 24 hours notice before they meet. The conference committee met with about two hours notice.

“This is a violation of law! It’s not a rule!” Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) bellowed.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) ignored Barca and ordered the role to be taken. Republicans voted for the measure as Barca continued to plead with them to stop the vote.

Republicans have not yet given an explanation of why they believe the committee could legally meet.

Minutes later, the Senate took up the bill and passed it without debate.

“Shame on you!” protesters cried from the galleries.

Democrats decried the move and warned it could end the political careers of some Republican senators who are under the threat of recall.

“I think it’s akin to political hara-kiri,” said Sen. Bob Jauch (D-Poplar). “I think it’s political suicide.”

Walker praised the move in a statement.

“The Senate Democrats have had three weeks to debate this bill and were offered repeated opportunities to come home, which they refused,” Walker said. “In order to move the state forward, I applaud the Legislature’s action today to stand up to the status quo and take a step in the right direction to balance the budget and reform government.”

Fitzgerald said Republicans were forced to act because of the boycott by Democrats.

“The people of Wisconsin elected us to do a job,” his statement said. “They elected us to stand up to the broken status quo, stop the constant expansion of government, balance the budget, create jobs and improve the economy. The longer the Democrats keep up this childish stunt, the longer the majority can’t act on our agenda.”

But in an interview Miller warned Republicans they would face recalls.

“The people I don’t think knew what they were getting when they voted last November, so there will be a do-over” Miller said.

Miller also said the fight over collective bargaining is soon to leave the domain of the Legislature but is likely to be taken up in the courts.

Republicans said they were able to push through the bill by taking out a few provisions, including a $165 million bond restructuring and the no-bid sale of 37 state power plants. But the bill still includes several monetary changes, including charging public workers more for health care and pensions, which will save the state $330 million through mid-2013.

Republicans did not explain how those provisions could remain in the bill with fewer than 20 senators voting. Fitzgerald said the move was deemed acceptable by three widely respected non-partisan agencies – the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, the Legislative Council and the Legislative Reference Bureau.

The budget-repair bill by Gov. Scott Walker would end most collective bargaining for public employees and has been at a stalemate for three weeks because Democrats have boycotted Senate sessions.

State Sen. Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) said Wednesday night he attempted to drive back from Illinois to Madison to get to the Capitol before Republicans passed the measure.

“This is on the Republicans’ heads right now,” he said. “If they decide to kill the middle class, it’s on them.”

Larson said Republicans will pay a political price for curtailing collective bargaining for public-sector employees.

“Everyone who is party to this travesty is writing their political obituary,” Larson said.

Demonstrations have rocked the Capitol for weeks as public workers have protested the changes to collective bargaining, but they have quieted somewhat in recent days. But the crowds swelled Wednesday as word of the conference committee meeting spread, and thousands chanted inside and outside the Capitol well after the building officially closed.

They cried, “Shame!” “This is not democracy!” and “You lied to Wisconsin!”

Earlier in the day, Republicans fined Democrats for missing the Senate session and lawmakers learned they had more time to resolve the budget impasse.

Walker had been steadfast in saying he would not negotiate on his budget-repair bill, but in recent days made offers to Democrats to slightly scale back some of his proposal with a separate piece of legislation.

Miller said Walker’s approach of making changes in separate legislation was unacceptable because Democrats are not sure they can trust Walker.

Walker’s bill would close a $137 million gap in the fiscal year that ends June 30, sharply curtail collective bargaining for most public employees, make public workers pay more for their pensions and health care, allow the no-bid sale of state power plants and give Walker’s administration broad powers over the state’s health care programs for the poor.

Walker had wanted the Senate to approve the budget-repair bill as written, but then have lawmakers make a few changes Democrats want in the state budget they will pass months from now. That approach raises concerns for Miller because state law makes it illegal for legislators to promise a vote on one bill in exchange for a vote on another one – a practice known as logrolling.

“That comes dangerously close to logrolling,” Miller said of Walker’s plan.

Earlier Wednesday, Senate Republicans voted to fine Democrats $100 each for missing the day’s session.

The fines passed 18-0. All Democrats were absent, as was Sen. Frank Lasee (R-De Pere).

Lasee had an excused absence in the morning, and was present for the vote on the budget-repair bill later in the day.

Fines can be levied under a resolution adopted last week that applies to those who miss two consecutive sessions without an excused absence.

Walker’s administration said when his budget-repair bill was unveiled last month that it had to pass by Feb. 25 because of a bond deal included in the bill. But officials said Wednesday they may have until early April to secure the bond package.

The budget-repair bill also relies on the restructuring of $165 million in bonds to free up cash for the current fiscal year. Walker’s aides said when he unveiled the bill that it needed to pass by Feb. 25 to capture the bond deal, though they later said they had a few days after that.

On Wednesday, the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau issued a memo saying the actual deadline may be in early April because of a move the administration is making.

Pinning down an exact deadline has always been difficult. Under state law, the administration must transfer money within state funds by a certain date to pay off existing bonds in May. Officials need about two weeks before that date to get an opinion from bond counsel, take bids and prepare for issuing the bonds.

Originally, officials said the fund transfers needed to occur on March 16, so the bill needed to pass by two weeks before that. Now, the administration believes it can delay the fund transfers until April 15 by prepaying some short-term debt – giving lawmakers until early April to pass the bill.

In a Wednesday memo to the governor, Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch said the move had never been tried before.

Also Wednesday, Fitzgerald said he was expecting huge crowds for hearings on the budget and was considering holding them in sports arenas. That could mean holding hearings at the Kohl Center in Madison and the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, he said.

Thousands of people – often tens of thousands of people – have protested at the Capitol for weeks because of Walker’s budget-repair bill.

Walker has proposed deep cuts to schools and local governments to balance a two-year, $3.5 billion shortfall – cuts that he said local officials could handle if collective bargaining is severely curtailed.

Timeline

4 p.m. – Senate meets abruptly to convene a conference committee on the budget-repair bill with about two hours’ notice.

6 p.m. – The committee meets and with no debate quickly advances a version of the measure.

6:10 p.m. – The Senate meets and without debate passes the new version of the measure, sending the bill to the Assembly.

Thursday, 11 a.m. – The Assembly is expected to pass the measure and send it to Gov. Scott Walker.

Bill Glauber in Milwaukee and Lee Bergquist in Madison contributed to this report.

March 7, 2011

Teaching Students About the Wisconsin Uprising

Filed under: Scott Walker,Unions — millerlf @ 3:37 pm

According to Labor historian, Mark Naison, the movement of workers that began in Wisconsin and is now spreading to other states is “the most important labor struggle in the United States in the 21st Century.”

The current uprising of workers in Wisconsin and other states presents a powerful opportunity to teach students about what the protests are about, the process of making laws, and why some teachers and neighbors are joining the struggle.  It’s an opportunity to critically examine issues, and to model for students responsible civic action and engagement in the political process. Teachers should approach issues at a developmentally appropriate level and make sure that multiple perspectives are presented, allowing students to form their own opinions based on an understanding of facts and history.

As members of teacher unions, we have an additional responsibility, summarized by the late Howard Zinn in an interview published in Transforming Teacher Unions:

“If teacher unions want to be strong and well-supported, it’s essential that they not only be teacher unionists but teachers of unionism. We need to create a generation of students who support teachers and the movements of teachers for their rights.”

In December of 2009, Assembly Bill 172 was signed into law, making Wisconsin the first state to require the incorporation of “the history of organized labor in America and the collective bargaining process” into the state standards for social studies.

February 27, 2011

Lessons for Wisconsin From the Flint Sit-Down Strikes of 1936-37

Filed under: Scott Walker,Unions — millerlf @ 10:53 am

By Mark Naison from the History News Network at http://hnn.us/articles/136764.html

Mark Naison is a Professor of African-American Studies and History at Fordham University and Director of Fordham’s Urban Studies Program. He is the author of three books and over 100 articles on African-American History, urban history, and the history of sports. His most recent book, White Boy: A Memoir, was published in the spring of 2002

With the state legislature in Wisconsin occupied and surrounded by thousands of state workers and their supporters, and with schools closed throughout the state because of teachers calling in sick, I cannot help but think of the greatest strike and building occupation in the history of the American labor movement—the Flint Sit-Down Strikes of 1936-37.  Though the Wisconsin struggle is being led by government workers, and the Flint strikes involved workers involved in automobile production, both movements took place during the worst economic crisis of their era and were fighting for the same goal— collective bargaining rights for working people through a union of their own choosing—and were much more about dignity and respect than about income.

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February 15, 2011

Thousands March on Capitol in Madison Today United and Thunderous: See PHOTOS BELOW

Filed under: Scott Walker,Unions — millerlf @ 4:59 pm

 

See Photos below:


February 14, 2011

Tony Evers, State Superintendent of Public Education, Opposes Walker’s Union Busting

Filed under: Scott Walker,Unions — millerlf @ 9:21 pm
 

February 14, 2011

Dear Senator Darling and Representative Vos:

I am writing today to express my opposition to some provisions in the proposed Budget Adjustment Bill that I firmly believe undermine the ability of our school districts, and our state, to succeed in the face of mounting challenges.

Growing up in Plymouth, I learned that Wisconsinites are good, hard-working people that come together in difficult times. Having spent 30 years as an educator in places like Tomah, Oakfield, Oshkosh, Verona, and Madison, I know this remains true today.

We need to make tough decisions, but we must be careful not to abandon fairness and a sense of decency in the name of boldness. Strong measures are needed, but we are better served by reasonable reforms than by radical reactions.

Many of us recognize that changes in the public employee benefits structure are necessary, given the difficult economy. However, we should enact changes strategically to minimize harm to our local economies and working families.  Together, we can tackle these problems and grow our economy without doing permanent harm to long-standing rights or undermining the Wisconsin Idea.

Public employees have been and will continue to do their part to move Wisconsin forward and help balance the budget. Despite furloughs and freezes, public employees have provided vital public services with fewer people, over longer hours, and for less money.

While change is necessary, the proposed bill will translate into an immediate salary cut of up to ten percent.  Hastily enacting such significant salary cuts will take money out of the local economy and could jeopardize our fragile recovery, especially in rural areas. In order to minimize the economic harm, the legislature could enact some benefit changes immediately, while phasing in others during the next biennial budget.

Alarmingly, the collective bargaining changes simply go too far, are not necessary for balancing the budget, and should not be included in this bill. This is a divisive and blunt method to deal with perceived imbalances in bargaining.

This bill will shatter relationships among educators and school leaders, undermining current innovations around teacher compensation, evaluation, and improvement. It will have a chilling effect on teacher recruitment and sends a terrible message about the value of public service.  Moreover, these changes will disproportionately hurt our lowest-wage workers, who often provide vital services, such as child care, elder care, and special education support.

Teachers have a great deal to offer our public schools and should be part of the solutions that move us forward, bringing a vital perspective on classroom, school, and district issues. There is a difference between balancing the rights of management and employees and silencing the voices of the hard-working employees who are in our classrooms teaching students.

These efforts will hurt our classrooms, our kids, and the people who educate them. I have been at the negotiating table as a superintendent, and I know that working together and remaining focused on the kids is the surest path to success.

Unfortunately, this bill is but the first step in a drastic transformation of our state. I fear this is only the beginning with cuts to wages and benefits soon followed by drastic reduction in school aids. Years of revenue controls and recent state aid cuts have harmed rural and low-spending districts, and it is disingenuous to continue asking schools to do more with less while expecting the same results. In the globally competitive 21st century, we cannot allow our commitment to education falter.

The legislature needs to make changes to this bill. It is possible to balance the needs of working families, the local economy, and the rights of workers with the challenges in the state’s budget.  I urge our elected officials to move forward without eliminating the long-standing rights of state and local workers, particularly the voices in our schools of teachers and education support staff.  Together, we can take care of today’s budget deficit without permanently harming our public schools.

Sincerely,

Tony Evers, PhD

State Superintendent

TE/mjp

c:         Members, Joint Committee on Finance

Governor Scott Walker

Gov. Walker promised jobs, but his plan would destroy 10,000 jobs

Filed under: Scott Walker,Unions — millerlf @ 9:18 pm

Gov. Walker promised jobs, but his plan would destroy 10,000 jobs

People in Wisconsin may disagree about many things—but everyone wants more jobs.

Gov. Scott Walker’s plan to slash take-home pay for public workers would destroy about 10,000 jobs in Wisconsin’s private sector. At a time when the state needs good jobs more than anything, it is the wrong economic strategy.

For more details, see the attached two-page release from the Institute for Wisconsin’s Future.

Or call IWF Research Director Jack Norman at   (414) 967-1682 or (414) 405-6210 [cell].

Read the IWF analysis at:

IWF_public_employee_cuts

Summary of Walker’s “Budget Repair Bill”

Filed under: Right Wing Agenda,Scott Walker,Unions — millerlf @ 3:55 pm

To see a summary of the bill go to:

Summary walkerbudgetrepair Bill

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