Labor law.

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Chicago Magazine 2013.

Back in the day (“Oh, dad. Are you going to tell another story about the old days?”) when I sat on the union bargaining team, attorney Ted Clark sat on the other side of the table with the board.

Our little suburban Chicago school district was arguing against a 2% raise for teachers, for us to pay more for health insurance, and meanwhile they were paying Ted Clark’s law firm, Seyfarth Shaw, gobs of money. Seyfarth Shaw is one of the largest anti-labor law firms in the United States. They are like something out of The Good Wife. They have hundreds of attorneys and something like seven floors in the sleek office tower at 131 South Dearborn.

In 1947, the firms’ founder, Lee Shaw helped draft the Taft-Hartley Act. That same year, the firm filed the first strike damage suit in U.S. District Court in Chicago against the United Steelworkers . In the 1960s Seyfarth represented the Las Vegas casinos during their labor negotiations. In the 1970s Sayfarth worked for the growers against  Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers.  In the late 1970s, Seyfarth worked to break the walkout of United Steelworkers at Newport News Shipbuilding and the pressmen’s strike at the Washington Post. More recently the were hired by Yale University  to break the clerical union.

Ted was a character. I can remember that he never stopped talking about how much he loved his collection of old rhythm and blues 45s. And he was a slick negotiator. His main role in bargaining was to distract our side by saying something so outrageous that the real issues would get lost. Part of our bargaining training consisted of telling the new members of the bargaining team not to respond to Ted no matter what he said.

Even after Ted retired to shoot birds in Texas, he would still come up just to represent our board and to bargain with us.

The Chicago Public Schools has James Franczek as their Ted Clark.

CPS claims that Friday’s one-day walk-out by the CTU is illegal. CTU lawyers and leaders say that Friday’s Day of Action is perfectly legal since it is in response to existing unfair labor practices by CPS and not to the current state of bargaining.

CPS’ James Franczek argues otherwise. And attorney James Franszek wrote the law.

“Strikes are illegal, they’re prohibited except under very specific circumstances,” said Franczek, who helped write the state law that makes it harder for teachers to strike. “The only way you can strike at CPS is if you comply with that (state) statute.”

That’s the way it works. Who writes labor law? Management’s lawyers.

In a 2012 Sun-Times post, reporter Dan Mihalopoulos wrote:

James Franczek is the chief labor lawyer for City Hall, the city’s public schools, the parks system, City Colleges and the city-state agency that runs Navy Pier and McCormick Place — units of government that collectively have paid his firm, Franczek Radelet, $16.47 million since Jan. 1, 2005, records show. Here’s a breakdown:

◆ Chicago Public Schools — $6.74 million

◆ City of Chicago — $5.10 million

◆ Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority — $2.41 million

◆ City Colleges — $1.20 million

◆ Chicago Park District — $1.01 million

As one of the key people Mayor Rahm Emanuel turns to in many of his toughest spots, James Franczek played a major role in the deal that ended the first Chicago teachers strike in 25 years.

At the heart of the current negotiations, the City claims it is broke.

James Franczek ain’t broke.

4 Replies to “Labor law.”

  1. Having known Ted Clark as a lawyer for one of the richest districts in Illinois, I can only wish he goes hunting with Dick Cheney soon.

  2. The school districts and community college districts boards don’t care how much they spend on lawyers. It’s not their money that pays the lawyers, it’s taxpayer money, including taxes paid by teachers and other public employees. Unlike a business that takes these costs into account, these school boards get a couple of anti-union Rauner-like members who think union busting is worth destroying the school district. (Hinsdale High Schools for example.) The school board lawyers drag negotiations out for months (at several hundred dollars per hour), causing the unions to have to pay more to the lawyers representing the union members. Thus the anti-union school board members have the perfect situation, to launch insane attacks on unions at no cost to themselves.

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