The Letter from CORE activists.

CORE Support Letter
We the undersigned are union members, members of CORE, and activists in our schools. Some of us are currently serving on leadership bodies of the CTU and are running for elected positions with the CORE slate. We have decades of combined experience fighting for better schools and a stronger union, and some of us are co-founders of CORE. We are endorsing the CORE slate in the 2019 leadership election and urge all members to vote for the slate in order to register their support for organizing a strike-ready union that’s fighting for a strong contract.We think a Members’ First victory would set the union back in negotiations and represent a move away from a fighting approach. While we respect many of the individuals in MF, and intend to continue working alongside all our union brothers and sisters, we do not believe they have the vision or the commitment to stand up to the bosses and win the schools our students deserve.

However, we recognize that many members are concerned about the direction of our union under the current CORE leadership team. We share many of those concerns. We are deeply sympathetic to members who feel that their working conditions, which are our students’ learning conditions, have been getting worse for years. As active rank-and-file teachers, clinicians, PSRPs, and school workers, we have experienced the bullying, the disrespect, the micromanaging, and the intense pressures and workloads personally.

We are not content with the state of our workplaces or the past contracts won. To be frank, our union has suffered a number of defeats in the past years. We know how damaging the REACH evaluation system is. We understand how Student-Based Budgeting and the School Rating System hurts members and students alike. We have labored under the longest school day and school year. We suffered through furloughs, skyrocketing healthcare costs, and the loss of raises.

We fully recognize that the author of our worsening conditions is the 1% and the political establishment of both major parties, who have rained down attack after attack on public education and unions everywhere. We are members of CORE precisely because of the major role CORE had pushing back against this neoliberal assault. We are proud of the organizing for the 2012 strike, for the resistance to testing, school closures, punitive evaluation systems, and the call to join our union fight with the broader needs of the communities where we live and work.

However, it’s our contention the current leadership has made a series of mistakes that have deepened the defeats and taken us off the road to fighting back. One of the most concerning was the top-down decision of this leadership to call off a strike in 2016 accepting what we consider a weak contract. We also believe our union has not done a sufficient job defending members and our contract in the buildings and that leadership has become too far removed from the everyday abuses we experience. In addition, we are in deep disagreement with our leadership’s turn towards funding Democratic establishment politicians, like our endorsement of Toni Preckwinkle, with the aim of buying influence and cutting deals. We believe that we need an electoral strategy that challenges the status quo, but to win gains we need to rely primarily on the power of our members and the broader communities we work in.

Alongside these errors, this leadership has seriously mismanaged the internal finances of our union.

As CORE activists and in our capacity on union leadership bodies, we have been raising these concerns for some time inside CORE, on Executive Board, within the Trustees, and among fellow union members. The drafting of this letter was not our first recourse and was not taken lightly.

Before now, we’ve taken practical action to correct course. Undersigned Trustees were those that brought financial mismanagement to light. We’ve also called for Open Bargaining, so our rank-and-file can directly observe and participate in this round of negotiations. Undersigned Executive Board members have made motions to stop some of the political spending in order to focus union time and resources on the building-level fights we must win. We led the fight to stop the dismantling of special education services. Through these actions and more, we have called for a return to the CORE’s founding principles: Member Driven Union, Transparency & Accountability, Education for All, Defense of Publicly Funded Public Education, and a Strong Contract.

However, now we feel that it is necessary to bring these concerns openly to the whole of the membership. After fighting to be heard inside CORE and within leadership bodies, we have been met with opposition, and in some cases vilification and isolation. We feel that this letter stating our current reality is a necessary first step to turn the tide from recent defeats to gains for our members and students.

The undersigned stand against the very real pressure under 1% attacks towards top-down union bureaucracy, insider political dealings, and the call for secrecy. We are fighting to be strike-ready this fall and to build a union that is truly led by the rank-and-file. We believe that we must rebuild trust with membership around a way forward that can win victories. We’ve advocated for the need to coordinate more strongly with other unions in our buildings, like SEIU 73 for instance, whose members are also in a contract struggle and building to be strike ready. The power of the West Virginia education strikes were based on all-building unity and we need to organize towards the same. We know we must also base ourselves on wider solidarity with local school communities and working people. We must win smaller classes, more clinicians, nurses, case managers, and the time and resources to do our jobs well. We can no longer settle for smaller, symbolic wins. Our students and communities depend on it.

We hope that CORE is reelected and plan to support the new CORE leadership with words and deeds whenever they take positive action. However, we the undersigned intend to take steps starting immediately to fight for the type of union that we think is necessary. Union members who support these ideas should reach out to us to get involved. Email: CTUFAIRCONTRACTNOW@gmail.com and be sure to join the #CTUFAIRCONTRACTNOW facebook page (bit.ly/FBCTU19).

We can win. And we will win. Together

In Solidarity,

Kenzo Shibata
HS English and Civics Teacher
CORE Founding Member
President, Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance- Illinois
Past CORE steering member
CFL Delegate
Past CTU Delegate
Past Media Director, IFT
Past Digital Communications Director, CTU

Erin Young
SpEd Teacher, CORE Steering Member
CTU Delegate

Tammie Vinson
SpEd Teacher
CTU Trustee
CORE Steering

Nick Wozniak
SECA, SEIU 73 Steward

Emily Penn
School Social Worker, EBoard Clinician FVP

Katie Osgood
SpEd Teacher, EBoard Elementary Functional VP

Kristine Mayle
CTU Financial Secretary, 2010-2016

Drew Heiserman
HS Math Teacher
CTU Trustee

Kimberly Goldbaum
CTU Elem. Functional VP, 2011-2018
Middle School Teacher

Alison Eichhorn
HS History Teacher
CTU Trustee
CTU Delegate

Natasha Leigh Carlsen
K-4 SpEd Teacher, EBoard Elementary Functional VP, CORE Steering

Xian Franzinger Barrett
4th-6th Grade SpEd Teacher, EBoard Elem Functional VP
CORE Founding Member

4 thoughts on “The Letter from CORE activists.

  1. So, Fred, for those of us who watch from afar and with no understanding of the internal conflicts of the CTU, can you explain what is going on?

    1. I think the letter from long-time leaders of the CORE caucus is pretty self-explanatory. And I would not want to speak for them anyway. They have issues with the current CORE leadership while being committed to CORE, but feel the need to raise those issues openly and in a principled way.

      1. Thank you. Not being a Chicago resident, it was not quite as obvious to me what was being addressed. Since I am not a Chicago resident, I do not watch the inner workings of CTU the same way you do. I remember being surprised and disturbed that the union was so quick to endorse Preckwinkle, but was not in a position to know the internal reaction to it. It seems to me quite serious that a segment of the CORE leadership (?) feels the need to address the internal stresses publicly since that would seem to indicate an unwillingness between the factions to compromise. I would not want that schism to be exploited by entities less interested in the health of the CTU. I am not suggesting any course of action, current or past, as more appropriate. It just rang some alarm bells for me. CTU has been such a positive force not only in the fight for fair treatment of Chicago teachers but as an inspiration to other teachers and unions .

      2. Understood. I posted the letter at the request of a CORE leader, and so I did. I have confidence in open union debate.

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