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Swiffers. My days as a custodian.

September 19, 2014


I just finished reading Ben’s Reader article about the janitorial scandal at CPS.

It seems that to cut costs and make more profit, Aramark took away mops from custodians and gave them Swiffers.

Mopping is a two-step process. You soap mop to clean. And then you rinse.

Swiffers are those things you buy at Target. They have disposable pads. It’s a one-step deal. It saves time. Let’s get real, though. They don’t really get floors clean.

Reading Ben’s article took me back to my days as a custodian.

Yes. When I say that I was in the private sector before teaching for thirty years I never meant to suggest I worked on Wall Street.

I made Uni-Royal tires. I worked at a Chicago auto parts factory making oil gauges. I built Schwinn bikes over on Tripp near North Avenue. I constructed truck trailers. Soda vending machines. Steel worker. Taxi driver. You know.

The private sector.

And way before that I was a school custodian. A janitor. I worked the four to eleven shift at East Los Angeles Junior College.

That was back in the 70s.

Unlike the day shift, the second shift was heavy-duty stuff.

There was a lot of moving furniture around. “Never lift when you can slide. Never walk when you can ride,” the old guys taught me.

We used those big stripping machines to take old yellow wax off hallway and classroom floors. And then there was the trick to swinging the big mop to put the wax back down. And it seemed as if we were stripping and waxing every night.

Not a Swiffer in sight.

Those hand-held strippers with the spinning wax remover on the bottom took some practice to get good at it. It was a balancing act. The first couple of nights I screwed up and the machine went sailing across the room. Several times.

I was entertainment for the old guys.

It was the early 70s during the time of protest and campus rebellions.

One night I was driving the truck around the parking lots emptying the garbage cans when I was suddenly bathed in a sea of light.

Like something out of Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

“Step away from the garbage can with your hands in the air,” said a voice from above.

I did just as the aliens commanded.

“Lay face down on the ground.”

I was being kidnapped by Martians for experimentation.


It was the Los Angeles County Sheriffs in a helicopter. They thought I was planting a bomb in the garbage can.

I lasted for about 9 months.

It was hard work. Although I got pretty good at working the stripper.

They can take away the mops.

You can give the custodians Swiffers.

You can try to cut costs.

But this I know from first hand experience.

Things won’t be clean.

You don’t have to believe me.

Just ask a teacher at CPS.

I get comments.

September 19, 2014


That “Illinois public employee pension is less than $25,000 a year” statement is a bit misleading and low by most independent analyses. It includes folks who retired decades ago at salaries far lower than folks retiring recently. It also includes folks who didn’t spend their entire careers in the public sector, perhaps less than 5 years, thus have other retirement income coming in outside of the pension system. So it doesn’t paint a very accurate picture of where we are today and where we are heading.

A teacher retiring today or in the past few years with 30+ years of service is more likely to receive a pension over $60K. Even state workers get around $40K (but most are eligible for SS). Not a windfall, mind you, but not as dire as the folks who came up with the $25K amount would have you believe.

- Nixit71


Dear Nixit71,

Just because the numbers don’t tell the story you want to tell doesn’t make them misleading.

They are certainly  less misleading than yours.

Most teachers and public employees didn’t retire recently. 

As for whether teachers worked in the private sector or not, this is precisely the problem. If a teacher is vested in Social Security and is in the state retirement system, the odds are they won’t work long enough to collect the maximum pension in TRS and their Social Security is dramatically reduced and they are barred from collecting spousal benefits.

Half the retired teachers in Illinois make less than $50,000.

Just because a downstate retired teacher is older and retired longer doesn’t make her life less valuable or her situation less dire.

Not a windfall indeed.

- Fred



What’s a shame is that middle America continues to see a deterioration in income levels but hey, why not tax them some more to pay a 4% increase for teaches (sic), which is really a 5% increase for 9 mo. work and when the cost of living is only 2%. Plus an increase just for showing up.

- Thomas R. O’Brien


Dear Thomas R. O’Brien,

I’m not sure where you got these numbers from.

Maybe from Nixit71?

The teachers in Highland didn’t get a 5% increase no matter how many months you choose to include.

Most teacher contracts include a yearly step increase and some include a cost of living increase.

If contracts didn’t include these things than a teacher hired 30 years ago would still be making the salary they got when they were first hired. In my case, that would have been $18,000 after 30 years teaching.

Ouch! That wouldn’t work for me and my family, Tom.

If you are genuinely feeling shame that most working people have seen a deterioration in income levels, than why are you critical of teachers who are trying to buck the trend?

Or should teacher salaries be tied to the salaries of those who make the least?

By the way, paid for just showing up?

I know you think you are being cleverly snarky. But the way the whole job thing works is that when you show up you get paid.

Unless you are really, really rich.


- Fred

Kiss of death.

September 19, 2014

Kiss of death

Highland teachers end historic strike.

September 19, 2014


Highland teacher and mother Teryn Hoppes and her son Logan attend a prayer vigil in Higland’s downtown square before voting on a new contract.

Thursday Highland union members voted to end their week-long historic strike, the first in the district’s history.

After voting down a contract offer several days ago, members voted 150-2 to accept a contract recommend by their bargaining team.


HIGHLAND — Students will return to Highland classrooms Friday after a six-day teachers’ strike was settled Thursday.

“The Highland Education Association would like to announce that there will be school in Highland tomorrow,” HEA President ShiAnne Shively said about 5:30 p.m. Thursday on the steps of the Highland Masonic Temple, which has served as the union’s strike headquarters.

The HEA ratified the three-year agreement by a 150-2 vote, ending the six-day teachers strike, which started Sept 11. It was the first teacher strike in the history of the Highland school district.

The school board is expected to approve the accord and a $24 million budget at its regularly scheduled meeting on Monday.

All of the district’s regularly scheduled extracurricular events, including Friday night’s varsity football game at Jerseyville, will be played.

Under terms of the agreement, the district will pay an additional $555,850 over the three-year contract, Superintendent Mike Sutton said.

Highland teachers have been working without a contract since Aug. 31.

Sutton issued a statement at the district’s Administration Center shortly after the HEA vote.

“I am relieved the kids are going back to school,” he said. “This has been a very challenging 14 days for everyone involved.”

Sutton said the agreement will result in a 4.3 percent pay increase being awarded to teachers, while:

* maintaining their steps in the salary schedule for the next three years;

* maintaining their current family insurance benefits. The district had been looking to cap its annual family health insurance contribution from $8,400 to $5,500; and

* maintaining the retirement language included in the old contract.


George Wallace High School.

September 19, 2014


Rahm says that he is not going to name the new selective admission high school after President Obama after all.

Naming things after politicians is a big deal in Chicago.

They recently named the traffic-clogged circle interchange after former mayor Jane Byrne.

This was the idea of Alderman “Fast Eddie” Burke who still hasn’t gotten over the fact that Byrne was beaten by Harold Washington.

Washington has a library and a community college named after him. But I choose to think he wouldn’t care about that as much as he would want us to elect Karen Lewis.

That would truly honor him.

And Balbo Street is named after an Italian fascist who flew a plane to the opening of the World’s Fair.

Technically Balbo wasn’t a politician. Just a fascist.

Balbo is where the police riot at the 1968 Democratic Convention took place. The whole world was watching.

It seems that Rahm discovered there was a rule against naming schools after people who are still alive.

Charter schools are excepted from that rule. Which is why so many charter schools seem to be named after his friend Bruce Rauner.

That is how you can tell the difference between Chicago turnaround schools and charter schools. Turnaround schools are called Academy or have Renaissance in their name. Charter schools have “Rauner” in their name.

Rahm also has Chicago in the running for the Obama presidential library.

Ironic given that over 150 Chicago public schools have no library.

The controversy surrounding Barack Obama High wasn’t over naming rights, however.

The controversy surrounding the school was about Rahm pandering to his rich white base. Rich white folks who live near north  already have Walter Payton to send their kids to.

Walter Payton is the school Bruce Rauner got his kid clouted into after he decided New Trier wasn’t good enough for her. He bought a condo on the north side and gave Arne Duncan a call.

Bingo! She got in.

Naturally Rahm decided Rauner’s neighborhood needed another selective admission clout-ready high school a half a mile away.

The name may change, but the pandering clout-school continues.

Remember that Rahm closed 50 schools last year. Almost all of them were located in African-American neighborhoods.

It was the largest shut-down of African-American schools in American history.

Which provides me with a suggestion for the new high school.

George Wallace High.

He’s dead.

The Highland teachers strike. A great editorial in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

September 18, 2014


- St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Striking teachers in Highland aren’t making a lot of friends. Kids suffer when teachers aren’t in the classroom, and parents must scramble to make arrangements for child care for younger students. The Fightin’ Highland Bulldogs, one of the top-ranked small-school football teams in Illinois, already has had to forfeit one game and may have to forfeit again Friday night.

For all of that, the stand taken by the union members of the Highland Education Association is understandable. We are in an era that has seen corporate and financial interests wage war on public employees. In saying “no” on Sunday to the contract proposed by a federal mediator, the teachers took an old-school stance, asserting their rights to bargain for the contract and terms they want.

Illinois is among 11 states that allow public employees to strike, something that most unions, both public and private, are afraid to do these days. Even the states that allow public employee strikes impose limits on them. The most common is a ban on police and firefighter strikes, with the legitimate argument that their absence poses an immediate threat to public safety.

Not so for other public workers — such as teachers and transit workers. The reason for outlawing their strikes is because their walkouts pose an economic threat.
That is exactly the point. The only clout the workers have is to impose hardships on their employers by grinding their operations to a halt.

The war against public-sector employees has been remarkably successful. Strikes today are almost unheard of. Public policy experts say public opinion and low tolerance are the main reasons employees won’t strike. Legislatures in most states are dominated by corporate money, and are openly hostile to unions, both public-sector and private.

In the private sector these days, replacement workers and lockouts are routinely used to thwart the impact of strikers. Public employees are harder to replace, and lockouts would have the wrong effect. But the threat is intimidating.

And then there’s the economic climate. Strikes are harder to pull off when so many people are desperate for work. Solidarity isn’t what it used to be.

Since the Great Recession, corporate interests and their minions among Republican governors and lawmakers have portrayed public employees as greedy and unprincipled, saying they should accept cuts and lowered benefits as part of a shared sacrifice to deal with the nation’s problems.

It’s the worst sort of hypocrisy. Corporate interests have not shared the sacrifices. But many public employees have bowed to the pressure, making repeated concessions. Prime example: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker‘s successful effort in 2011 to take away most collective bargaining rights for public workers.

Even in a state with a Democratic governor, like Missouri, budgets have been balanced by slashing public-sector jobs, outsourcing work to private firms. Pay and benefits have been reduced or frozen. The value of public workers has been mocked.

The effort to cut public employees’ pensions is part of the war. Wisconsin’s Paul Ryan, Republican chairman of the U.S. House Budget Committee, has sought to cut pensions and pay for federal employees. And the Illinois Legislature, after years of failing to properly fund the state’s pension systems, finally succeeded in cutting pension benefits.

To be sure, some public pensions were excessive — particularly those for Illinois lawmakers. But the average Illinois public employee pension is less than $25,000 a year. Illinois raised its income taxes in 2011, so everyone got to share the pain. Which is as it should be.

The Highland strike is but a small part of this large and disturbing economic trend. But the 175 union teachers at least are fighting for what was promised them when they agreed to their last contract — a one-step increase in the salary schedule that would cost the district $270,000 a year. A community that values the work of the professionals who educate its children should find a way to keep its promises.

LAUSD 2014 Professional Development.

September 18, 2014



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