Adam and the future of teacher unions.

Adam is a  working Chicago high school teacher.

He is also an activist in the Chicago Teachers Union.

I first met Adam in the schoolyard of Whittier School in Pilsen when the parents were fighting to keep a field house from being torn down. Whittier was one of the hundreds of Chicago schools without a library and the parents had occupied the field house demanding CEO Brizard and the Mayor turn it into one.

Adam was there supporting the parents.

In fact, anytime I can drag this old butt to some action about schools, Adam is there.

Last week Adam jumped on his motorcycle and drove here to DC.


Because he wanted to share his excitement about the kind of union the Chicago Teachers Union had become: a fighting union willing to take on the most powerful in defense of its members, their students, families and communities.

Nobody paid him. He has no official standing. He’s so typical of the young teachers I meet in the CTU.

While I worked the inside to get NBI 13 passed, I kept getting texts from Adam. He had spoken with a guy from Vermont. He had gone to a meeting of this or that caucus. He was talking to people from this state and that state. He was everywhere.

When the pessimists among us talk about the death of teacher unions, they forget one thing.

They forget Adam.

And there’s more like him.

We ain’t going away.

8 Replies to “Adam and the future of teacher unions.”

  1. Great post. We can all use an encouraging word every now and then, and I think you’ve just provided one.

  2. Adam is as you describe him, but also so much more. He is a committed educator who believes that the central purpose of a union is to protect the students and provide the students with a world – class education. The CTU needs to find a way to give him standing without taking him away from the good work he is doing now and also to get him to train others how to be a teacher!

    1. Anonymous-I disagree that the central purpose of a union is “to protect the students…” The central purpose of any labor union had darned-well be to protect the rights and working conditions of the membership. That being said, a well-bargained contract insures small class size/low numbers, good pay, opportunities for quality professional development, a good mentor program, etc. That way students will receive a “word class education”. However, the moment we lose sight of the purpose of what our union stands for, we are sunk as a union and therein lies part of the problem we are facing in America today as labor is struck down in every corner.

  3. To anonymous- I disagree! With all due respect the purpose of any labor union is to protect the rights of the workers and the working conditions. That being, excellent benefits, salary, and working conditions such as small class size, low numbers, etc. ultimately benefits students.

  4. I love “Adam’ and every teacher that stands against privatizing schools. That holds their Union to a higher standard that holds the public to the truth. Yes while we are being held to greater accountability there is a need stop reforms at the door of privatization. I am in love with the Adams that inform the public in civil conversations about what we do.
    I was talking to my OB/GYN today about being a teacher and I told her of my 88,000 a year salary. “That it is too much to pay and towns are going bankrupt”, she said. I stood by my words and said I am worth a middle class income. “it is not like they are paying me 200,000 a year. I have been teaching 25 years. Do you really want to pay me less for a masters degree and excellent teaching? She said I should pay more for my medical insurance than 10% and I said maybe so and then I said you should pay more in taxes to which she said nothing. Never before has a Union been so important, to speak out to make others aware of what working for a living wage should mean, to make people realize that it is not acceptable to lay people off, to deny them pensions and benefits to shortchange safety, children, to work with the highest of standards.

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