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Social justice slate sweeps to victory in the Chicago Teachers Union

By Ron Whitehorne on Jun 14, 2010 10:23 AM

Chicago teachers last week elected CORE (Caucus of Rank and File Educators), a group that has worked along side the community to fight school closings, teacher firings, and privatization over the past two years, to head the 30,000-member Chicago Teachers Union (CTU).  

In a five-way race this spring, CORE finished second to the incumbent slate headed by current CTU president Marilyn Stewart by a handful of votes. But in the two-way runoff CORE won by a landslide, winning nearly 60% of the votes cast and sweeping all nine citywide offices and all of the 23 vice presidencies for elementary and high schools.

The United Progressive Caucus headed by Stewart used all the advantages of incumbency, out spending the opposition by a huge margin. But the tide of anger at Stewart's failure to defend teachers from the corporate inspired Duncan school reform known as Renaissance 2010 swept all before it.

Pauline Lipman from Teachers for Social Justice describes CORE as " an explicitly anti-neoliberal, social justice union and a key member of the Grassroots Education Movement in Chicago, a coalition of teachers, parents, students, and community organizations fighting Renaissance 2010 and for equity and justice in education."

President-elect high school chemistry teacher Karen Lewis sees public education as under assault from corporate interests. "The business people do not have a clue, but they are the ones calling the shots," Lewis said in Catalyst Chicago.

The Chicago Fox affiliate reported on CORE Monday morning.

With schools facing budget cuts, increased class sizes, and more teacher layoffs on top of the continuing program of privatization, CORE faces major challenges. However, its history of rank and file mobilization and partnership with grassroots community forces put it in a strong position to meet this test.

This election has important implications both nationally and here in Philadelphia.   CORE has been critical of the AFT's national leadership for its response to the Obama Duncan program which mirrors the worst aspects of the Chicago Renaissance initiative.

Here in Philadelphia the rise of CORE is a challenge to both the PFT leadership and rank and file. Agressive organizing, alliance with the community, and a clear message about defending public education are the keys to mounting an effective resistance to our home grown version of the Renaissance.  

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Comments (20)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 14, 2010 4:18 pm


Submitted by radical teacher (not verified) on June 14, 2010 4:24 pm

This is monumental. At a time when union busting + unions not protecting teachers, the little engine that could prevails!!!! We in Philadelphia should take notes from the strong and motivated REAL teachers in Chicago. After duncan-zation ravaged CPS, the only way to improve things is to get back to basics. Parents, students, and teachers in Philadelphia--our time is coming.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 14, 2010 5:15 pm

Anyone know how we can get involved with bringing CORE here to Philly?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 14, 2010 6:05 pm

We can't bring CORE to Philly, but there is another group growing, and working hard to see some of the same changes that CORE seeks. Check out the Teacher Action Group

Submitted by Philly Teacher (not verified) on June 14, 2010 8:31 pm

We need a new, strong voice like CORE's leadership here representing the teachers of Philadelphia. Not someone like Jerry Jordan who railroads a contract that gives Ackerman carte blanche to fire as many teachers as she wants by "renaissance-ing" a school. This fiasco at West Philly, in addition to countless displaced teachers at the 14 turnaround schools, wouldn't have been possible without the contract that Jordan and his cronies negotiated then rammed down the throats of the rank and file by calling a last minute ratification meeting where it was obvious there would be a low turnout. Then, when Ackerman did what she was allowed to do in the new contract - which is basically bust up the union - Jordan went crying foul.

Come the next election, Jerry Jordan and the PFT will be joining the unemployment line. If you are running for Union President and not PFT, you've already won my vote.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 14, 2010 8:31 pm

Philly teacher! Thank you for your thoughts and honesty. I really, really would urge you to join TAG Philly if you have not already. We need teachers to step up to the line and take back our schools with parents and students. Please contact us if you would like to get organized!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 15, 2010 5:44 am

CORE may be an excellent organization, however, if you put them in Pennsylvania and Philadelphia, they would have the same problem the PFT faces. The Pennsylvania state legislature RUNS the school district under the take over act of 1999 and is decidedly anti-teacher, as is the state Supreme and Common wealth courts. The State Legislature passed the Take Over Act back in 1999 which limits the PFT BY LAW to only being able to negotiate benefits and salary NOTHING ELSE in any contract negotiations, plus forbids teachers from striking under threat of losing their state certification to to teach anywhere in the state. CORE, TAG whoever would be under those same restraints and restrictions. Are the people from CORE and TAG telling teachers in Philadelphia that they are willing to roll the dice and gamble that the anti-teacher, anti-union state legislature would NOT fire and de-certify the teachers who strike and bring in the cheaper, non union Teach for America and Philadelphia Fellowship teachers in our place? That's a hell of a gamble that CORE and TAG seem to be willing to make with Everyone else's jobs!

Second, the State Commonwealth Court ruled last July, in a decades old segregation case, that the School District could implement Ackerman's Renaissance Program WITHOUT PFT (teacher) input, in fact Judge Smith-Ribner (who ran for Lt. Governor in the May Primary) threw Jerry Jordan out of her courtroom last July when Jordan strongly objected to the teachers being shut out of the process!

The PFT has done a heck of a job in fighting both the state legislature and Commonwealth court trying to hang on to what we have as they try to strip it all away. If the CORE and TAG supporters really want to make a positive change for teachers, they need to join with the PFT and work to get these non educator weasels out of Harrisburg in the next elections, otherwise there will be no changes regardless of whether it's PFT, CORE or TAG.

Submitted by Interesting (not verified) on June 15, 2010 9:49 am

That's exactly what the Chicago teacher's union told CORE before it organized. Bigger things than the PA establishment have been defeated. Please get on board with TAG or start your own group. We don't need naysayers.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 15, 2010 10:56 am

Listen...Ted Kirsch was a no nonsense, tough, front lines PFT President. I liked him. Jerry Jordan, I used to like quite a bit. He is an intelligent individual who fights for the PFT but doesn't have that extra edge to put him over the top in the likes of Kirsch. The one thing that really irked me was the handling and rushing of this new contract. Other than that, it does preserve UNION jobs (which is vital) at this point. I do feel that PFT lawyers should challenge the CONSTITUTIONALITY of ACT 46 (until this is done and overturned teachers will have to put up with antics from Ackerman). CORE makes a stand. As far as teachers losing their certifications, absolutely would never happen. At this point, if all 10,000 unionized PFT teachers decide to take a stance and fight for what they believe in, there isn't enough teachers to #1 replace them and #2 do you realize the rampant lawsuits that would take place if the State tried to take away certifications (which were earned and deserved by the teacher themself). Teachers need to take a stand. With Charter Schools being investigated for corruption, Ackerman wasting $180,000 salary on an ex- Edison failure who is making more than the Mayor, there needs to be change. As for Obama Administration, his own crony Education Secretary Arne Duncan supports Vouchers and Charter Schools and could care less for unions----Since when does a Democrat not support UNIONS?????? Next topic please....

Submitted by teachon (not verified) on June 22, 2012 9:05 pm

Impeach them all now.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 15, 2010 8:22 am

An unjust law is no law at all. I say its time to get radical. We cannot operate in fear of the educational bueracrats and anti-teacher policymakers. Instead, like CORE and TAG, we must challenge unfair and unjust policies against teachers and students. In this process, we may lose some of the battles, but we will win the war. Good always defeats evil. These educational bueracrats are only concerned about the bottom line--MONEY. They are evil and greedy, and they use teachers as scapegoats to advance their personal and political agendas. We must take ACTION NOW!!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 16, 2010 8:20 pm

AFT and PFT ---I hope you watched the video. This is the type of leadership a Union needs. I feel Jerry Jordan was too laid back when negotiating this contract and should never have railroaded this contract so swiftly and so fast that PFT members didn't know the whole story of what was going on. Take note Jordan, you may not get re-elected again. As for the AFT, Randi Weingarten needs to stop being so over friendly with Education Secretary Arne Duncan (who happens to be a union buster). The AFT could have stepped in and tried to help the PFT with their battles too. Where were they???? A new kid is in town---it is called the INDEPENDENT TEAM---VOTE FOR THEM NEXT UNION ELECTION---Maybe teachers will get a raise every 12 months again NOT the crappy raise every 18 months (who has heard of such a thing)?????

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 16, 2010 9:24 pm

"a crappy raise every 18 months", "who has heard of such a thing?"

Are you kidding me! How about the 99% of Americans out here who are lucky to see ANY raise every two or three years, after having to beg management for a few crumbs (because they don't have a Union). That is, the Americans that still have a job, let's not even talk about the health benefits you teachers get (thanks to your Union) that the rest of us have to pay for OUT OF OUR OWN POCKETS!

And you don't understand why the public won't support teachers more?


Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 17, 2010 10:15 am

It's quite obvious from your comments that you are neither a teacher nor a family member of a teacher. That being said, I challenge you to work as a teacher in Philadelphia. Do you think you could handle it??? Our Philadelphia School teachers work very hard to earn their rightful benefits. Compared to other School Districts, Philadelphia teachers are actually underpaid (look at suburban districts), they receive a measly $100 stipend for school supplies when School Districts such as Colonial in Plymouth Meeting give their teachers $1000 stipend for supplies. My wife, Mother, and sister, all Philadelphia teachers spend well over $1000 every single year out of their own pockets to have adequate supplies for their classrooms. They do this because they love their job and their children. They also have to deal with unruly behavior that gets brushed under the rug by their Principals. Try teacher 30 (5year olds) with no classroom assistant---all by yourself--Do you think you could handle it???? Seems like the Philadelphia spends too much $$$ on their Administrators---Hmmmm $180,000 for a Deputy Assistant who failed in Edison Schools. Before you open your mouth about a topic, MAKE SURE YOU KNOW ALL OF THE HARD FACTS SURROUNDING IT!!!
Oh yeah, as far as their pension, it is in PSERS (the money is taken out of their pay and put aside----THEIR IS NO MATCHING 401K DOLLAR FOR DOLLAR LIKE Private sector companies have). Any response???? I rest my case.

Submitted by Meg (not verified) on June 17, 2010 4:26 pm

Thank you for the support. My sister tried to track my spending one year and I made her stop at 1000. I've been in the same basic grade level for my entire career and still spend a fortune each year to make my classroom feel like a safe, energetic environment. I just placed an order for September supplies. WHo gives the teachers 1000? That's nice. That's respect.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 17, 2010 10:06 am

Don't forget that Police, Fire, Nurses, Health Care Profeesionals, Principals, Contractors, Pilots and Air Personnel, Government Employees, Teachers, and the list goes on and on.....all are professions that are UNION. Anything more derogatory to say about UNIONS?? It might be that union Nurse who saves your life one day---Don't forget that!!!!

Submitted by Meg (not verified) on June 17, 2010 4:43 pm

But out of our pockets come basic supplies. Can you see a doctor buying his own needles? Or a police officer buying the tickets he is required to write? Teachers most often have to buy pencils, paper or even the record book to keep the required grades. Yes - I could print out official forms - with no printer. My classroom has no working computer, but my grades have to be entered that way. I get emails from the district, with no working desktop computer... explain that to me, please. That raise did not cover what I spent on my room this year.
I think more people would support teachers if they would hear the truth - that I am in work daily at 6 am so that I can keep up on the room, grading, record keeping, parental contacts and lesson planning. Teachers get put down for the "summers off"... yeah right. If a teacher is actually not working with kids over the summer, they are roganizing, planning, hunting for supplies and racing for the Staples sales.
The health benefits, by the way are mostly union based.

Submitted by radical (not verified) on June 17, 2010 6:04 pm

I am both offended and disgusted by your comment. Teachers perform one of the most socially, mentally, and physically taxing jobs around. The school year is over, but please respond and let's set up a time for you to work ONE day in my shoes. I am grossly UNDERPAID. I have a masters degree, I come to school everyday by 7:30 and I don't leave until 5. I go home and grade everyday from 5-630 while making dinner. Then, I call at least 10 parents about their children (I teach over 160). I make my lunch, and wake up and do it all over again. EVERY Saturday, I lesson plan, complete behavior observations, and photocopy at home because we don't have a working copy maker that only take 5 hours.

More important though, is the social worth of teachers. For every student we inspire, that's one less desperate citizen who is likely to end up in jail or in abject poverty. For every student we mentor, it's one more young person who can help someone in their community. For every phone call I make, I send the message that I care about my city and my community.
You wouldn't last one day in my chaotic, disorganized, and underfunded district. But, I sure do welcome you to try.


Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 22, 2012 11:40 pm


You lack the courage and conviction to Unionize your work place and receive the same benefits Unionized workers have . . .so you want to take mine away.

Absolutely pathetic. Man or woman up, cry baby, and fight for your rights like we did

Submitted by Mark (not verified) on June 22, 2012 9:26 pm

Get rid of Jerry Jordan. Bring these people to us. We are going to be the next Detroit.

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