Keeping retirement real. In contract bargaining there is no such thing as a premature strike vote.

Moving NBI 13 at the 2012 NEA RA calling for support of the CTU in their battle with Rahm’s hand-picked board. It passed by unanimous voice vote.

Teacher strikes are on my mind this morning.

It was six years ago that the Chicago Teachers Union was in the middle of it’s historic strike against Rahm Emanuel and his hand-picked board of education.

I was not working for CPS at the time. I had retired that year from my teaching job in a suburban Chicago school district. But not before I presented a resolution to the national convention – the Representative Assembly – of the NEA calling for national support of the CTU in their battle with the mayor’s unelected school board.

As CTU organizer Marty Ritter pointed out on our radio show/podcast yesterday, the current Chicago CTU contract is up this year and bargaining begins soon.

In Los Angeles, the United Teachers of Los Angeles, (UTLA) is in the middle of bargaining.

L.A. teachers have overwhelmingly voted strike authorization.

Exposing his ignorance of the bargaining process, former advisor to former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Peter Cunningham, recently tweeted that the L.A. teacher vote was “premature.”

What is a premature strike authorization vote?

After all, it’s not a vote to strike.

And, like Illinois, California labor relations are governed by statutes, which includes timelines and requirements before a strike can take place.

A strike authorization vote being one of the requirements. A strike authorization vote has to take place way before a strike can happen.

In Illinois, the legislature created a special law that required Chicago teachers – and only Chicago teachers – to give strike authorization by approval of 75% of all members.

If only we needed that margin to elect the legislators.

I’ve been involved in strike authorization votes many times. Once we ended up having a strike. More often it didn’t. The vote was a bargaining chip and both sides have them. The vote is a message to the board that the membership stands behind its negotiators.

How can that be premature?

But that is just one of the things about the union process that Peter Cunningham doesn’t get.

Updated: The same Peter Cunningham who believes a strike authorization vote is unfair bargaining, has signed on as Bill Daley’s communications guy for Daley’s mayoral campaign in Chicago.

Keeping retirement real. What I miss. Cherubs on the ceiling.

Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore in Bergamo, Italy.

The temperature in Chicago will reach 95 degrees today and some my former teaching colleagues are even now getting their rooms ready for when students walk in in mid-August.

This will be the start of my seventh year out of the classroom since retirement.

Like most retirees I often get asked what about teaching I miss.

There are lots of things I miss, which doesn’t mean I regret the choice to retire. I was ready for that.

One of the wonderful things about my time as an elementary Art teacher was the freedom to take the experiences of my life and use those experiences to create an activity and a lesson.

Among the worst things that has happened to undermine the value of teachers since I began teaching in the 80s has been a phony teaching quality movement, a standards movement and the check-list accountability that has led to expectations of cookie cutter teachers in cookie cutter classrooms with the aim of producing cookie cutter students.

A Nation at Risk report – which came out the year I began teaching – claimed our public schools were as great a threat to the country as any foreign enemy.

Welcome to teaching, I thought. I was about to be a foot soldier in the army of the enemy.

Yet, for me, any walk down a street, any trip abroad, any visit to a museum, any story in the newspaper, any memory from my childhood might result in an Art project.

I often would joke that I practiced the Fred-centered curriculum.

Aside from the fact that there was time in my classroom for students to do the very same thing of drawing (literally and figuratively) from their life experiences, part of teaching is modeling behavior. So, I would always tell the students the story of where the project idea came from.

One year a visit to the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore in a lovely  piazza in the northern Italian town of Bergamo was the inspiration. The ceiling of the church was full of terra cotta angels that were so over the top that it made me laugh. It  led to a project of students making clay cherubs. “Decorate them to look like your grandma’s lamp,” I told my students.

And they knew exactly what I meant.

I still will see things that spark an idea, “That would be great for a classroom project,” I will say to Anne.

And it is then that  I miss the process of creating the Fred-centered curriculum.


Keeping retirement real. Taps for Oil Can Eddie.

A local veteran plays taps for Eddie Sadlowski.

A small plane landed on Lake Shore drive at about four o’clock yesterday afternoon just as Anne and I were about to drive to 92nd and Chicago Avenue on the East Side.

We were driving to the east side to attend a memorial for my old Steelworkers union District Director, Eddie Sadlowski.

Sadlowski died last month at his retirement home in Florida

The plane thing turned what would have been a bit of a trip on a Friday afternoon anyway into a two-hour journey.

We listened to Friday morning’s podcast of Hitting Left and still had an hour to fill.

It took me a moment to realize that the church building, where hundreds had gathered to pay their respects to Sadlowski, was my old Local 65 union hall. In the ealy 70s when I worked in the 96 inch rolling mill at South Works, Local 65 represented 10,000 steelworkers in South Works’ nine mills. Like other steel mills in the area, Southworks is gone.

It is just open prairie now, waiting for some kind of development.

Our old union hall, now a church, was packed with folks wanting to say goodbye to our old District Director.

The old union hall looks different now as a church.

In those days we sat on hard folding chairs and there was beer at the rear of the hall.

By the time we got to the church, the room was packed.

Anne and I managed to find a couple of chairs up front.

Family and friends shared their stories of Ed, who was a complicated guy, but as genuine a leader of the the working class and as dedicated a rank-and-file union organizer as I ever knew.

Eddie’s daughter, Alderman Sue Sadlowski Garza, shared some of her stories of Eddie as a dad on a May, 2017 Hitting Left episode.

John Nichols, writer for the Nation Magazine, spoke near the end and compared Eddie to founding father Tom Paine, which I told him after the program was appropriate.

Paine was the radical among the country’s slave-holding, exclusively male, more conservative founders.

When our Steelworkers Fightback, organized by Sadlowski, challenged the suits in the union headquarters in Pittsburgh, it was a very radical thing to do.

In 1973 the leaders of the national steelworkers union had agreed to a no-strike agreement with the basic steel industry bosses.

It was a stunning sell-out of those of us in basic steel.

Imagine if public employees had imposed Janus on themselves. That is the level of betrayal that the no-strike agreement represented.

It presaged the decline of American industrial unionism.

The Sadlowski Fightback movement went national. He challenged the sell-out Lloyd McBride in an election for USW President, winning US. basic steel locals, but lost eventually by losing smaller locals and those in Canada to McBride.

When Sue was running for Alderman of the 10th ward (an echo, but a successful one, of Eddie’s challenge to the union machine), Eddie had come north from his retirement home in Florida.

He wasn’t about to miss that fight.

I went by Sue’s house for a conversation with Eddie that lasted a few hours before he got tired.

I’m glad for that time together.

Keeping retirement real. For god-sakes, the Queen?


It seems that DT has created controversy by walking in front of the English queen while on his visit to the UK, where that is considered a breach of protocol.

It I were the queen (I know), I’d want that ass grabber as far ahead of me as possible.

Besides, kids are still in cages.

There seems to have been a lot of discussion about what constitutes a diversion since DT became president.

This definitely qualifies.

Kids are still in cages.

I also kind of think the argument about who pays enough to NATO is a bullshit discussion.

It was only a few years ago that Rahm brought the NATO meeting to Chicago and I was joining thousands of others protesting the whole bunch of them.

I still believe that too much of our treasury goes to defense and not enough goes to schools and the welfare of our people.

Do I think we need a military alliance to defend western Europe from a Russian invasion?

I think Putin is a danger because he is part of a fascist global alliance that includes Alexander Gauland in Germany, France’s Marine Le Pen, Hungary’s Viktor Orban, Poland’s Jaroslaw Kaczynski, and Italy’s Matteo Salvini.

And DT.

Note: All are members of NATO.

Well. Not Putin, of course. But these days that’s a difference without a distinction.

And at our southern border families are still separated.

And kids are still in cages.


Keeping retirement real. Dockless motor scooters.


I have been thinking about urban transportation lately.

There was the whole controversy about Rahm’s proposed deal with Elon Musk to build a 12 minute transportation pod and tunnel to O’Hare. I know it was supposed to be done with Elon’s private money, but pardon my skepticism.

Plus, why is private ownership of public transportation a good thing?

Clearly the MuskTran is not being designed for me. Or any other Chicago locals who rely on low-cost, accessible, efficient bus and train service to get around or get to work.

Since retirement, we have gone from two cars to one. If we are going to where a bus and train can get us, we use them. I bike around the neighborhood. We drive half the miles we drove before retirement.

I read yesterday there are discussions to extend protected bike lanes past the intersection of Western and Logan – an intersection I must bike through on my way to the gym.

Crossing that intersection on a bike is alway scary.

I have also discovered that I am not the only one that has developed an interest in transportation policies.

The evil Koch brothers are interested as well.

Their interest is in doing away with public transportation.

Public transit, Americans for Prosperity says, goes against the liberties that Americans hold dear. “If someone has the freedom to go where they want, do what they want,” Ms. Venable said, “they’re not going to choose public transit.”

The Kochs’ opposition to transit spending stems from their longstanding free-market, libertarian philosophy. It also dovetails with their financial interests, which benefit from automobiles and highways.

One of the mainstay companies of Koch Industries, the Kochs’ conglomerate, is a major producer of gasoline and asphalt, and also makes seatbelts, tires and other automotive parts. Even as Americans for Prosperity opposes public investment in transit, it supports spending tax money on highways and roads.

I don’t know what Americans Ms. Venable is talking about or what they hold dear.

Maybe they are the Americans who buy “I just don’t care” jackets

Maybe they live on a farm.

A good public, low-cost, accessible, efficient transportation system is held dear by many of us.

For example, get on a Chicago bus and there is priority seating for seniors and those with disabilities.

You know why? Because we use it.

I will hold it even more dear now that I know the Koch brothers aren’t making as much money off of me using it as when I drive.

In San Francisco there is a scooter backlash.

“This is a political backlash against what is perceived to be, rightly or wrongly, a very arrogant gilded age-style approach toward public space by tech companies,” says Jason Henderson, San Francisco State University professor and author of “Street Fight: The Politics of Mobility in San Francisco.”

We were out in Santa Monica a couple of weeks ago.

The streets were filled with  motorized scooters. They are the dockless types. You download an app. You hop on and zip around at about 15 miles an hour for a dollar an hour and you leave them where you are when you get off.  In many cities, dockless bikes are showing up as well.  In Santa Monica the sidewalks are filled with bikes and scooters that have been just left where the rider got off.

Not in a dock.

A GPS thing tracks all this so the next rider can find a scooter or bike.

It may be okay for Santa Monica, although drivers need to be extra careful that they don’t take out the kid on a scooter who just cut in front of him.

And even Santa Monica is considering putting limits on the spread of these things.

I don’t see this for Chicago’s Loop.

Anyone in a wheel chair or some of the elderly must navigate around the bikes and scooters that seem to clutter every Santa Monica sidewalk.

Which is to say, I don’t have a problem with private dockless bikes or scooters. Certainly for older folks and those with disabilities, they are no substitute for busses and trains.

I do have a problem with the MuskTran and privatizing public urban transportation.

And Santa Monica is beautiful this time of year.

Keeping retirement real. “You’re no better than Scott Walker.”

Madision, Wisconsin. 2011.

“You’re no better than Scott Walker,” a person on Facebook wrote to me.

Man. That’s a first.

I flashed back on the winter of 2011 when Anne and I drove the three hours between Chicago and Madison, Wisconsin almost every weekend to support public employees who were fighting to save their collective bargaining rights.

Walker was out to gut them.

And it was cold.  Walking circles around the Capitol was brutal.

Somehow, now that I am opposed to the boondoggle that is the Elon Musk speed pod tunnel from the Loop to O’Hare, I have become another Scott Walker to one person on Facebook.


I still don’t quite get it. But that’s is true about a lot of what I read on Facebook.

Another group of Facebook posters was impressed that the billionaire, Elon Musk, was offering to build the tunnel and pods with his own money and at no cost to taxpayers.

Excuse me, but maybe there are some parking meters and a skyway to Indiana you might be interested in.

“Complaining about a privately-funded infrastructure program is one of the biggest wastes of time when there are so many more important things that you should be focusing your effort on,” commented Daniel on my Facebook page.

Perhaps Daniel is right. It may be a waste of time. The first time we heard from Rahm talk about a public/private partnership to rebuild Chicago’s crumbling infrastructure  it was right after he was elected the first time.

It may have also been the last time you heard about it.

Some friends are impressed by anything that involves high speed rail. They have been on vacation in Europe or Japan and liked it.

Me too. We took a three hour train from Paris to Bordeaux a few years ago that would have taken us nine hours to drive. And the wine they served was good and inexpensive.

I mean, we were in Bordeaux!

But I recall that the rail systems in Europe are government owned. They have this odd idea that certain parts of the economy that serve the public should be commonly held and not sold to private interests strictly for profit.

Like public transportation, schools from pre-school to the university,  health care and libraries.

Instead, Daniel tells me that since Elon Musk is paying for it out of his own pocket, why should I even care.

That is exactly why I care.

Why should Elon Musk own a part of our city’s transportation? And what happens if it goes bust in three years or he decides to play with some other toy?

You better believe we’re paying for it.

Is this any more than another Rahm scam like his Infrastructure Trust?

A campaign stunt to take the headlines off of his pile of scandals?

Rahm’s public transportation efforts have been like most of this promises: Corrupt or empty.

Rather than a comprehensive plan for urban mass transit, his early familial relationship with Uber has worsened gridlock in the city and resulted in an actual decline in ridership on the CTA.

The thing is that as a retiree and now 70 years old, I use, depend on and like public transportation.

I drive out to the suburbs and can only wonder how people my age and older get around if they don’t, can’t or shouldn’t drive. They are trapped in their homes and must depend on the generosity of others. The city is senior friendly in large part because of public transit.

Most of us will never benefit from Elon Musk’s pods. And public transit, no matter how fast it goes, should be publicly owned and democratically controlled.

Even in Chicago.

Keeping retirement real. Steelworker dreams and nightmares.


It has been 45 years since I moved to Chicago and got a job at the United States Steel’s South Works complex of mills.

Years after I no longer worked at Chicago’s U.S. Steel’s South Works plant, I would have this dream.

In my dream it is twenty years since I worked at the giant steel mill, but I am walking to the 96″ plate mill that – now no longer – sits on the far end of the collection of production mills.

The wind is bitter and cuts through my clothes.

It a freezing cold as I take the windy walk along Lake Michigan from the employee parking lot on 79th Street.

It is dark and the dead of a bad Chicago winter. 11PM shift.

My oil and grease covered clothes and safety helmet are where I left them, still in my locker.

In this dream I change clothes and put on my metatarsal boots, as I had always done. I walk into the shop. Nobody asks where I had been all these years.

Nobody has aged.

It was as if I had never left.

For years this has been a recurring dream.

I only worked in the mill for a half dozen years. United States Steel became USX, and began moving their money into chemicals and other things besides making steel. The steel mills began to close and I went looking for work elsewhere.

From 1892 until it closed down for good in 1992, South Works employed tens of thousands of workers, mostly from the east and south east side of Chicago.

Now the land sits empty.STEEL

Plans for a residential and commercial complex on the site are on hold.

There are soil contamination problems that need to be cleared. The land is toxic.

While I worked at South Works for only a half dozen years, others from the neighborhoods nearby spent their entire working lives making steel there.

So did their fathers.

And grandfathers.

The mills are gone. The jobs are gone.

For generations men – and later, women –  worked in air, slag and other materials that have made the land too toxic to build houses, stores and restaurants on without further testing and cleaning.

It was toxic when I worked there.

So, now I have new dreams.

Keeping retirement real. Right wingers, Trump and the need for differentiated blogging.

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When I was teaching one of the fads that swept through the nation like this winter’s flu was differentiated instruction.

Like many education fads, the idea was based on some common sense truth that most of us already knew.

The truth part of differentiated instruction was that in a room of 25 or 30 students, each student is an individual human person. People learn in different ways, at a different pace, often based on different interests and past experience – what they bring with them when they walk in the classroom door.

Left to professional development hucksters and district curriculum bureaucrats, this common sense idea was turned into – ironically – a set of one-size-fits-all rules.  It needed to be simplified to put into a power point and then into a teacher evaluation rubric.

I recall a first grade teacher coming into my room all upset because the principal had observed her and wrote up a bad evaluation because she was reading a book aloud to her entire class, part of the district-directed curriculum. She had failed, the principal wrote, to differentiate her instruction.

Which brings me to this news.

White House aides to the President have found it necessary to make his daily briefings oral reports. They have adopted differentiated instruction for Trump.

Trump doesn’t read.

If you have read this blog for a long time then you have noticed that since I retired from my job as an art teacher I post a lot of drawings.

I do a bunch every day and I post one to share.

I love cartoons. I believe that they are a high art and I don’t pretend to be all that good. Like the blog itself, I do it for the personal satisfaction it gives me and then hope it makes a difference.

What you may not know is that I have a small cohort of right-wingers who send me comments almost daily. They are always anonymous, of course. They can be very personal, racist and homophobic.

I trash them.

What I have noticed as I do more drawings is that the right-wingers are tending to only comment on the drawings. Not the commentaries I write.

Like Trump, they apparently don’t like to read.

I wonder if my old Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning (Yes. That was her title.) would consider this differentiated blogging.




Keeping retirement real. How Chicago public television pushes the IPI pension story.

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Last week I wrote about the story that Chicago public television station WTTW did on teacher pensions.

In a screaming headline worthy of the National Enquirer, Chicago Tonight reporter Paris Schutz informed us that “Retired Illinois Educators Taking Home Millions in Pensions.”


Well, yes. There are over 100,000 retired members of the Illinois Teacher Retirement System (TRS) with an average pension of about $50,000 a year. So, twenty teachers at $50,000 a year is a million dollars.

40 retired teachers gets us to the plural, “millions.”

Schutz chooses to select out a dozen or so high-paid administrators, one an indicted felon, as examples of those getting six figure pensions.

I said that Chicago Tonight and Schutz were repeating Illinois Policy Institute talking points.

IPI is a corporate funded lobbying group. Their views on pensions and taxes and public employee unions are thisclose to those of the Governor.

Some doubted my characterization of the Schutz and Chicago Tonight report.

But representatives of IPI have nearly a permanent seat on any panel Chicago Tonight puts together to discuss pension issues, even though their views have already been dismissed as unconstitutional in a unanimous decision of the Illinois Supreme Court.

In the most recent story Chicago Tonight did, IPI talking points weren’t just one side of the story. They were the story.

The other day, Springfield reporter Bernard Schoenburg described how IPI manipulates the media to promote its talking points: “the Illinois Policy Institute’s favorite targets — public pensions, taxes and flight from Illinois.”

IPI has established its own fake news outlet in Illinois.

Schoenburg writes that a Springfield radio station, WMAY regularly carries “news” stories distributed by the IPI media front, the Illinois News Network.

One recent story on WMAY (94.7-FM and 970-AM) that caught my attention was by BENJAMIN YOUNT, whose “Illinois Watchdog Radio” is on Cities 92.9 in Bloomington-Normal. Following up on news that KEVIN GORDON, the manager of the Illinois State Fair, is retiring at the end of the year, Yount did a story claiming — apparently wrongly — that Gordon would receive a pension of more than $68,000 a year.

Yount also quoted a “tax watchdog,” who, in Yount’s words, “says the astronomical cost of Illinois pensions are one of the reasons that taxes in the state are so high, and one of the reasons why so many people are leaving the state.”

Who was the “tax watchdog”?

The tax “watchdog” was JIM TOBIN of Berwyn, head of Taxpayers United of America. Tobin recently told me “taxation is theft.” I also recently recounted how Tobin in 1998 unfairly labeled then-state Sen. LARRY BOMKE, R-Springfield, among “top taxpayer enemies” because of Tobin’s survey of 25 past votes — even though Bomke wasn’t yet in the Senate for eight of those votes. 

That’s the same Taxpayers United of America that Schutz cited as his source in his “retired educators take home millions” story.