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Keeping retirement weird.

December 14, 2013


Former IEA President Ken Swanson. He owns Senate Bill 7.

The truth is that I don’t like losing. It is a family trait. We are competitive.

For years my brother and I and other family members would play an annual Scrabble game after Thanksgiving dinner. It was as cut-throat and trash-talking a game as any game played in the  NFL or NBA.

One year I played the word clafouti.

It’s a French fruit and custard dessert.

I had used all seven of my tiles for 50 bonus points.

But the abuse I had to take.

“Challenge me, then!’

Every year at least one member of the Klonsky family will bring up the word clafouti with a sneer.

I decided that my first attempt to run as a delegate to the IEA RA as a retiree state-wide should be meaningful. I don’t need a weekend in the Loop. A hotel room at the Hilton. There are serious issues facing teachers and retirees.

As a local union leader, I was always elected. But Retirees run state-wide.

Taking nothing away from some of the good people who ran and won, these elections are usually without substance. Or turnout.

IEA-Retired is small. 9,000 members. Remember that the IEA itself has over 100,000 members and the Illinois Retired Teachers Association has over 30,000 members.

The election turnout was around 20%.

Frankly, I think the leadership likes it small.

They do very little to build the Retired group. You can’t even join online. You have to down-load a paper application and send it in with a check by mail. Like it’s 1985. All that has changed is you don’t have to pull off the perforated sprockets from the paper when you print the membership application out.

I ran as an opponent of the leadership. That’s because I oppose them. Not just one or two things they do, but their approach to the fight. Their defensive posture. The willingness to concede too easily. Their desire to be at the table at all cost.   I could go on.

And I will.

But right now running against the leadership is no way to win a state-wide election as RA delegate.

And I didn’t.

Frankly we need more young retirees to join and create new chapters like our Skokie Organization of Retired Educators IEA-R.

I even lost to former IEA President Ken Swanson.

But Swanson’s legacy is Senate Bill 7. That’s the law that took away our tenure rights and seniority rights. It tied our performance evaluation to individual student test scores and forced the CTU to get a 75% approval vote to strike. It was written by Jonah Edelman of Stand for Children along with the IEA’s Executive Director Audrey Soglin under the direction of Ken Swanson.

SB7 is his. He owns it.

And current IEA President Cinda Klickna too. She was on the leadership team at the time.

That I got fewer votes than Swanson does piss me off.

Almost as much as I pissed off my family with the word, clafouti.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. Joe Fougerousse permalink
    December 14, 2013 6:56 am

    You got our vote, Fred.

  2. Hugh permalink
    December 14, 2013 9:27 am

    Some of these “representatives” may be OK in your book. I don’t know many of them personally. Those I have had interaction with don’t seem to act much like representatives of the worker.

    They have been on occasion belligerent, self serving, not interested in representing worker interests, and demanding of unquestioning subservience to the I.E.A. party line.

    Just like you, when we questioned what we were told to do, we were called disloyal and anti-union. The merits of each directive must be blindly accepted. When our contract was settled with their involvement, we were sold down the river and our union president became a principal. Many teachers quit the IEA and the local in disgust.

    Even today, the IEA party line has been harmful to our interests. I do not wish to continue to support an organization that views retirees as chips to be negotiated away. I prefer the IRTA. They will stand with us and fight.

    All the IEA ever talks about is having a “seat at the table”. Meanwhile we are trampled by the anti-public worker interests. When do they propose to fight back?

    Anything seems to be OK as long as the Union leadership’s personal positions and perks are unaffected. The argument they use is “It could be worse.” What have they accomplished for us besides appeasement of forces out to destroy us.

    Others speak out, while the IEA is silent. In short, they don’t look out for us.

    Sorry you weren’t selected. You could have been a voice for retirees. I’m going IRTA. You already knew the IEA’s “election” was an incumbent controlled vote. It is a way to hide behind a charade of democratic process. That is how they get rid of people like you.

    • Fred Klonsky permalink*
      December 14, 2013 9:30 am

      They’re not getting rid of people like me. Don’t leave. Fight the power.

    • December 14, 2013 10:14 am

      Hugh, very well put. I found much the same experiences with my local. Very self-serving, centering on appeasement of the district. My working within the local accomplished little and when I started asking questions suspicious looks began. Shortly thereafter no representation or support at all. I ended up having to represent myself in a contractual dispute with the district concerning retirement benefits (and prevailing thru the courts) with no assistance from the local, not even the courtesy of returning phone calls. You are wrong though it’s not just retirees that are seen as bargaining chips, all subgroups of the membership are seen as bargaining chips. We need real representation for active and retired members. Right now we are just a means to someone’s self-serving end game. Fred you are the best! Keep it up!

  3. Anonymous permalink
    December 14, 2013 5:58 pm

    Should we as retirees be also very concerned about the TRS trustees who may have a conflict of interest of having NO interest of being a voice for retirees? Know for a fact many retirees have never been surveyed and also no ballots. How come the same voices seem to dictate the issues affecting retirees for years?

    • Fred Klonsky permalink*
      December 14, 2013 6:02 pm

      I don’t agree. The elected teacher and retiree reps on the TRS board are not the problem. As elected reps, there have been ballots.

      • anonymous permalink
        December 14, 2013 7:20 pm

        Except for walking conflict Klickna.

  4. December 14, 2013 6:32 pm

    There is a nagging thought at the back of my mind that any group of people who elected Ken Swanson deserve Ken Swanson.
    Then I come to my senses and realize how after several years of retirement I had never encountered anything in writing telling me about membership in IEA Retired. Every decent organization has an annual membership drive.
    This year I intentionally set out to become a member of IEA Retired in order to vote for people I knew would serve our interests as representatives. I went online. I got the paper applications and did the snail mail and checked the auto-deduct option for IEA membership and IPACE contribution.
    Although it was all complete in October for a ballot due by mid-December, I was told via email and phone that it was probably impossible for me to receive a ballot in time. I persevered (nagged, took names and dates, etc.) and also said that I would keep in contact with my blogger friends about it.
    I did receive the ballot. I did vote for you.
    No none – I repeat – no one should have to do that for a union they had been a member of for over a quarter of a century.
    What did I learn from that? Well, as I would tell my high school level students, “What do you think I learned from that?”

    • Fred Klonsky permalink*
      December 14, 2013 6:37 pm

      How does a staff that has time to go over my bio and worry about whether it says advocate or activist not have time to enroll new members in a timely way?

  5. Sold Out by Swannee permalink
    December 14, 2013 7:18 pm

    Swanson was also the guy who stood up at the RA, hugged Squeezy Quinn and proclaimed, “Now here’s a real Governor!” Don’t even get me going on what he used IEA’s goodwill with that “real Governor” to do instead of killing things like SB7.

  6. Pamela Verner permalink
    December 15, 2013 10:16 am

    Fred, Thank you sooo much for all you do. I really appreciate the history lesson about Swanson and Klickna. That explains a great deal to me. Pam Verner


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