CTU. Send lawyers, money. No guns.

In the shitty excuse for investigative journalism, yesterday’s alleged expose of CTU money, The Chicago Sun-Times focused on union money spent on the union’s law firm.

Since Lewis and her team took over the union’s leadership in June 2010, Robin Potter & Associates has been paid more than $1 million to handle discrimination cases and other matters involving teachers.

In 2013-14, the union paid more than $1.2 million to Robin Potter and two other law firms: $361,159 to Robin Potter; $500,201 to Dowd, Bloch & Bennett, for bargaining issues; and 361,958 to Poltrock & Poltrock, for employment law issues, the records show. It spent another $241,536 on in-house lawyers.

“What does the union need lawyers for?” asked a reader.

I could give you a list a mile long.

For example.

Years ago our little Park Ridge union local wanted to publish a newsletter that featured examples of the great teaching that went on in our district’s schools. We wanted it to go home with the paper take-home our students received each week. We promised it would not address any contractual or union/management issues. We just wanted the same rights that other community groups had, including church groups. Their stuff was often stapled as an attachment to the take-home. This was before information was mainly sent home electronically.

The board immediately said no.

We filed a federal law suit. The IEA provided us with a very good labor lawyer and a law student. The board had Seyforth Shaw. Seyforth Shaw is a giant national firm known for labor union busting, including legal work for agri-business in California against the Farmworkers union.

In Chicago their firm has their headquarters in seven floors of a fancy office building on Dearborn Street.

How much this cost the board and how much it cost the IEA, I have no idea.

I know that fighting for our legal rights didn’t come cheap.

Our legal position was that we could not be denied access to the take-homes on the basis of who we were. We argued that the board denied us access – not based on what we said in our publication – but only because we were the union.

The first step was a hearing before a magistrate. Apparently it didn’t go well for the board’s side. They quickly settled and  agreed to our wishes.

Full disclosure: CTU attorney, Robin Potter, is a friend of mine.

In the period covered by the Sun-Times story, I posted about a law suit filed by the CTU.

In 2011 the Chicago school board carried out large-scale layoffs of teachers and paraprofessionals.

African American board employees bore the brunt of the layoffs just as the board’s closing of neighborhood public schools two years ago mainly impacted African American communities.

As a result of the layoffs in 2011 the Chicago Teachers Union and three impacted teachers filed suit.

As I understand it, a law suit like this has three components.  First, the plaintiffs must show that they represent a class of people by a preponderance of the evidence. They were not just individual victims. It was not a coincidence that they were mostly African American. The judge is asked to certify that it is a class action before the case can move on to trial and a ruling of damages.

On Friday, Senior U.S. Judge Milton Shadur ruled in favor of the CTU and the three teachers.

However Judge Shadur didn’t just rule in the plaintiff’s favor.

The Judge was scathing in his rebuke of the CPS board.

“What does Board say on the critical issue of disparate impact in this critical case? Here are Amended Complaint 7 and 8 and Board’s “responses”:

7. In June, 2011, the Board terminated the employment of 931 classroom teachers through a round of layoffs. 480 of these teachers were tenured. African Americans made up 42% of the tenure teachers terminated, although constituting less than 29% of all CPS tenured teachers.

ANSWER: The Board denies the allegations of paragraph 7.

8. Defendant’s pattern and practice of targeting schools with high African American teaching populations for layoffs has a disparate impact on African American tenured teachers and staff.

ANSWER: The Board denies the allegations of paragraph 8 and further states that the Board does not “target” schools, or any demographic of teachers or staff, for layoffs under any circumstance.

And that’s it — the sum total of Board’s purported input on the subject of disparate impact, which is of course the essential linchpin for class certification purposes. Board has said not a word, then or since then, about the claimed basis for its unsupported ipse dixit “denial.”

In candor, that is totally irresponsible. This action has been pending for just short of 2-1/2 years: Plaintiffs filed their initial Complaint on December 26, 2012, and Board has known from day one about plaintiffs’ disparate impact contention and about the asserted numbers upon which those contentions rely.”

Judge Shadur’s ruling and order then proceeded through each requirement for certification as a class and sided with the teachers on each one.

He concluded:

Board’s only challenge to certification under Rule 23(b)(3) is its broken-record-type reassertion that individual principals fired plaintiffs, so that common questions do not predominate on that skewed premise. And that means Board has simply failed to raise any substantial challenge at all to plaintiffs’ arguments.

The case now will proceed to trial and damages.

I don’t imagine the members of the CTU affected by this lawsuit thought it was union money misspent.

5 Replies to “CTU. Send lawyers, money. No guns.”

  1. And there you have it. Clearly the public does not believe that teachers are citizens and taxpayers. Teachers should automatically have the same rights as any other citizen, including not being discriminated against in the workplace, the right to organize and for goodness sake, the right to procure legal guidance.

  2. Well Fred, you can find an exuse for anything.
    I understand paying lawyers, what I found interesting is that for someone who rants and raves about conflicts, paying friends etc. you missed the whole point of the Sun Times bringing it up. That would be the appearance of cronyism. You know what that is don’t you? You certainly bitch about it enough.

    1. Oh. Is that what the Sun-Times story was about? And if you are going after cronyism in Illinois, the teachers union is the place you go? You are right. I bitch about it a lot. So I know it when I see it. Please explain how talking about Ms Lewis salary is about cronyism? Or what payments to attorney Bloch have to do with cronyism. The Sun-Times isn’t interested in exposing cronyism. They are interested in teacher union bashing. And I know that when I see it too.

  3. Why does a union need lawyers for? In all dealings with school boards, the school boards have lawyers representing them, usually charging several hundred dollars per hour plus “expenses”. Typically, contract negotiations are dragged out for many months by these school board lawyers, because the longer it takes, the more money they make. One lawyer successfully stretched a contract negotiation out almost a year, and billed over a half-million dollars to the board. The school boards don’t care, the taxpayers are paying their bill. Meanwhile, the union lawyers are paid by the teachers union dues, and funds are limited. Many times, Tea-party types get on a school board, and use their position as their personal soap box, deliberately picking fights with the union. They will violate the teacher’s union contracts, and force the teachers to file unfair labor practice complaints with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board. The school board then sends their lawyers to gat continuances and drag out the case, (and the billable hours). Eventually, the Labor Board rules in favor of the union, but it does not end there. The school board lawyers appeal the ruling to the circuit court, then the appeals court, and the Illinois supreme court, even when they know they will lose. This is done to delay, delay, delay, and to cost the teachers more money in legal fees. The teachers, as taxpayers, also end up paying for the school boards lawyers.

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