Keeping retirement weird. Charters, unions and my aging memory.

Corky Siegel and me a few years ago on Live from the Heartland.

The kids gave Anne tickets to go see Corky Siegel and his chamber blues band last night at City Winery. It was a birthday present.

I got to go along.

It was a great show. I stopped Mr. Siegel and showed him a picture from my phone of the two of us when we both were guests on Mike James and Katy Hogan’s radio show, Live from the Heartland. 

Of course, he had no memory of this. He is 73 and I’m pretty sure meeting me was not a major event in his long career.

My memory of Corky Siegel goes all the way back to the Siegel Schwall blues band in the 60s.

He is one of the the reasons I decided to take harmonica lessons at the Old Town School of Folk Music.

I was doing okay the first semester.

But at the start of semester II we were to go around the room and demonstrate how we could bend a note, a requirement for blues harp.

Corky Siegel is a marvel at bending a note.

I never could master it. I left the class that first session and went home. It was one more failure in trying to learn to play an instrument.

I’m okay with these failures. I just move on to the next instrument. Failure is no excuse not to persevere.

The woman sitting next to us  at City Winery asked if I was Fred Klonsky.

It turns out she teaches in my old school district and remembered me as union president.

“You always had a strong voice,” she told me.

She was there with her grown kids who were students in my old district many years ago. Also at the table was her sister, who is Corky Siegel’s ex-wife from like forty years ago and is now with Corky’s former drummer, Sambo Arthur Irby.

If I followed all this right.

Memory being what it is.

Anne, who was sitting next to Irby, had a nice conversation with him between sets.

I’m bringing up memory today because I still get phone calls from my old local when there is a dispute over the interpretation of our collective bargaining agreement. Not everything can be figured out by what is on the written page in a contract.

Often times they have to go by the contemporaneous notes that were taken by each side during the bargaining to determine the intent of the language. Sometimes they have to call me, because I am still standing and I was there at the time.

They are depending on my memory about intent.

A phone call about a contract issue the other day made me think about the recent news that the Chicago Teachers Union and ChiACTS, which represent union charters in Chicago, will merge.

Some have interpreted this as the teachers union supporting charters.

I don’t see why. I think you can oppose the charter movement and organize charter teachers.

I see it as multi-tasking.

There is plenty wrong with corporate charter schools. I’ve already gone on too long to list all that is wrong with them here this morning.

But it doesn’t help that they treat their teachers poorly and pay them worse.

A major charter supporter wrote me recently and accused the unions who are organizing the unorganized among charter teachers as “just trying to get more members.”

Well, yes. Isn’t that the point?

Unions organize and get more members.

Illinois is a Fair Share state. That means that we have collective bargaining rights but no individual teacher must join a union.

They must pay their fair share for the work we do. We always bargained a contract and made sure the district abided by its agreements.

Nobody should get a free ride, receiving the benefits but not paying the costs.

This I remember:

Each year I met with the new hires and gave a pitch for them to sign up.

We always got 100%.

One Reply to “Keeping retirement weird. Charters, unions and my aging memory.”

  1. What does it say about us that some see us representing charter employees meaning that we like charters?
    Does the UAW love General Motors? Does the IBEW love Comcast?

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