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
HS English and Civics Teacher
CORE Founding Member
President, Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance- Illinois
Past CORE steering member
Past CTU Delegate
Past Media Director, IFT
Past Digital Communications Director, CTU
SpEd Teacher, CORE Steering Member
SECA, SEIU 73 Steward
School Social Worker, EBoard Clinician FVP
SpEd Teacher, EBoard Elementary Functional VP
CTU Financial Secretary, 2010-2016
HS Math Teacher
CTU Elem. Functional VP, 2011-2018
Middle School Teacher
HS History Teacher
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