Third NOLA charter falls to unionization.


Following Hurricane Katrina’s destruction, New Orleans public schools were disbanded and all union teachers were fired. The city became the first all-charter school district in the country.

Last week teachers at Lusher Charter School became the third school in the city to join the teachers union.

The Lusher board voted 6-5 to refuse to recognize the union.

Teachers have asked the Labor Relations Board to force a vote.

The statement from teachers at Lusher:

Teachers and staff at Lusher Charter School announced today they have formed a union. Educators at Lusher made public their commitment to stand together as the United Teachers of Lusher, an affiliate of the United Teachers of New Orleans and the American Federation of Teachers. Teachers delivered to management a petition of union support signed by a majority of teachers, teacher assistants and other certificated staff at Lusher. They are now calling on management to recognize their union and move forward with negotiating a collective bargaining agreement.

Lusher educators have come together to improve working conditions, job security and transparency, in order to strengthen the education they provide to their students.

“I look forward to continuing Lusher’s tradition of success while working hand-in-hand with administration to improve our school,” said Julie Sanders, a social studies teacher at Lusher. “It’s important to commit to a partnership that gives teachers a voice in how to best meet the needs of our students. Granting teachers this voice will help us attract the highest-quality and most innovative teachers to our school and keep them. Our students will benefit from programs designed with input from our highly qualified staff.”

“I am proud to be a member of United Teachers of Lusher because I love Lusher,” said Brad Richard, a creative writing teacher at Lusher. “In my 10 years here, I have seen students achieve phenomenal things, and our effort toward greater transparency, fairness and a stronger voice for teachers will only make this an even better place for our students and their families.”

“Teachers in charters are building a movement for a real voice for themselves and their students, so they can secure respect and fair workplace conditions, and help shape professional development, evaluations and other decisions that affect their students. The AFT will continue to stand with them at Lusher and across the country,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers.

Educators at Lusher Charter School will be the third such group at a charter school in New Orleans to form a union with UTNO, joining teachers and staff at Benjamin Franklin High School and Morris Jeff Community School.

“We stand with the teachers of Lusher and with teachers in charters across New Orleans as they organize for a voice in their schools,” said Larry Carter, president of the United Teachers of New Orleans. “We know we share many common challenges and a common vision of professionalism and high-quality, student-centered education.”

“At the heart of real reform is the formal recognition of the voices and the value of those who instruct and care for students,” said Steve Monaghan, president of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers. “It’s both admirable and inspirational that teachers and instructional staff at Lusher Charter partner with administration in the best interests of their students. We’re hopeful that administration will welcome this partnership.”

Founded in 1917, Lusher is a K-12 school authorized by the Orleans Parish School Board that combines rigorous academics with a fine arts focus. It is consistently ranked among the best schools in Louisiana. Its graduates have won tens of millions of dollars in combined scholarships to attend top universities throughout the United States.


Pankaj Sharma goes to Washington.


Mr. Pankaj Sharma teaches History, Government and Politics, African and Latin American studies at Niles North High School in Skokie.

He has a B.A in History and Education and a M.A in Teaching from Washington University in St. Louis.

He is a former president of the Niles Township Federation of Teachers.

On Monday at 9:30 AM Mr. Sharma will stand on the steps of the Supreme Court in Washington and call on the justices to rule in favor of union rights and fair play.

One half hour later oral arguments will begin in the case of Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, an historic labor case that threatens workers’ rights to join with colleagues and advocate for the communities they serve.

The Court will be asked to rule whether those who receive the benefits of a union contract should pay something in return whether they choose to be members of that union or not.

The suit is backed by the Center for Individual Rights, a right-wing group funded by the Koch Brothers, and supported by Governor Bruce Rauner, a proponent of the move to eliminate unions, who has filed his own amicus brief with the Supreme Court in the Friedrichs case, a move Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has called unlawful.

Notes from a dictator.


Rauner’s campaign turn-around agenda to destroy public employee unions is clear enough.

But his speechifying has gotten more and more incoherent.

And is it me, or has he seemed to have lost some weight lately?

He doesn’t look good.

The other day he was babbling something about Chicago and teachers being dictators.

This was just as 500 Chicago teachers were handed pink-slips.

Dictators firing themselves?

What a lunatic.

In all the years I was a union activist – president of my union local for almost ten years – it never quite felt like I was a dictator.

Like every IEA local leader I was elected. Sometimes with opposition.

LIke most IEA local presidents it was a voluntary position. No pay. A bit of release time.

And God knows what local presidents did before there was email, texting and smart phones to communicate with their members in even a middle-sized local union like mine.

I do remember in my early days of teaching that the kindergarten teacher and union president, Mrs. Burke, would drop off her students in my art room and head straight for the phone booth which was located next to my room.

Yes. A phone booth. No internet. And no classroom had a phone.

She would spend the next 45 minutes doing union business. That was her planning time. She would do her classroom planning after school and at home because the only time she could talk to administrators and other teachers was on her own planning time.

In a phone booth.

Since most locals are voluntary organizations, things don’t always run like a well-oiled machine.

Bruce Rauner may think our dictatorship’s trains run on time.

Trust me. They don’t.

When I first got hired I had to go find my building rep so I could join the union.

Nobody seemed to know who he was.

But he was a volunteer too. So you work with what you have.

We changed that a few years later. We negotiated time for the union at our new teacher orientation. The superintendent agreed to give us the half hour just before lunch on the first day. The membership chair and I would give a little rap about the union and hand out membership slips.

I say “membership chair” as if she had a committee she was chair of.

There was no committee. Like most of our chairs, she was a committee of one.

A dictator, if you will.

The thing about being a union dictator in Illinois is that nobody has to do what you say.

No teacher has to join the union.

Some dictatorship, right?

What our local did was fight for the rights of teachers and against the whims and autocratic leadership styles of many of those who thought they were the educational leaders in our district.

But who rarely ventured into a classroom. Or even had a copy of their contract in their office.

Oh. Here’s some dictatorial advice for some new local union leaders. Always carry a copy of the contract with you when you walk into a principal’s office. Slap it dramatically on the principals desk just before making your point. They’ve never read it. They have no idea what is in it. Make a reference to it. They will have no idea.

I remember many a call to our union staff person who this dictator needed to go through before I could file a grievance.

“Well, Klonsky. That’s kind of a stretch,” he would always say to me after I described what had happened and showed him where it violated the contract.

“I know,” I would respond. “I don’t care if it strictly violates the contract. We may not win it. But they can’t treat teachers that way without us responding. If we win, we win. If we lose, we lose. At least we will show them we have some spine. And our members will know we have their backs.”

The words of a dictator. Who had to argue with a paid union staff person in order to file a grievance.

But the grievance would get filed.

I’m happy to say we never lost one.

What would happen if teachers did what the NYPD is doing?


Thousands of Chicagoans supported the teacher union strike in 2012.

Yesterday the rabidly pro-police New York Post reported that members of the NYPD have refused law enforcement duties.

The Post obtained the numbers hours after revealing that cops were turning a blind eye to some minor crimes and making arrests only “when they have to” since the execution-style shootings of Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu.

This, of course, begs the question: What were they doing before? Making arrests when they didn’t have to?

The directive to stand down is coming from the Patrolman’s Benevolent Association, the police union, and their leader, Patrick Lynch. Lynch went nuts over Mayor Bill De Blasio’s suggestion that young Black New Yorkers, including the Mayor’s own son, might have justified concerns about their safety when dealing with the NYPD.

So Lynch and his Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association told members to not make arrests “unless absolutely necessary.”

I think Lynch should include that language in their next contract.

Meanwhile friends of mine have wondered what would happen if teachers did this.

But I already know.

When the Chicago Teachers Union went on a legal strike in 2012 the teachers had the overwhelming support of the people of Chicago.

The cause was just. Teachers had made it clear that the strike was for the students and the neighborhoods.

During the strike thousands of Chicagoans joined hands with their teacher neighbors in huge marches and rallies. Nobody viewed what the teachers did as extortion.

While the PBA and the CTU both claim to be unions, there is a fundamental difference.

The CTU, which aspires to be a social justice union, works to be one with those in the neighborhoods in which the members serve.

Not so with the PBA.

So, while the New York Times rightly accuses the PBA of extortion, millions of New Yorkers are breathing easier today.

Local union prez Gus Morales wins one.


Local union president and teacher Gus Morales (right).

Gus Morales is the local union president in Holyoke, Massachusetts.

He is an outspoken critic of corporate school reform.

So the district fired him.

And the Massachusetts Department of Labor says they believe that Morales has shown probable cause following a complaint by the Massachusetts Teachers Association.

Agustin Morales, a former teacher in Holyoke and current president of the teacher’s union, expressed a clear message to Holyoke Public Schools: rehire him or face the state.

In early July, one week after Morales was laid off from his position as an English teacher at Maurice A. Donahue School, the Holyoke Teachers Association filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Department of Labor Relations. The complaint alleges that Morales was fired in retaliation for criticizing educational reform.

It was announced at a rally held outside the Holyoke School Committee meeting on Monday that the Mass. Department of Labor Relations has found probable cause in the complaint.

“Based on the evidence presented during this investigation, I have found probable cause to believe that a violation occurred,” Brian K. Harrington, of the Department of Labor Relations, wrote. “Therefore, this Complaint of Prohibited Practice shall issue, and the parties will be given the opportunity to be heard for the purpose of determining the following allegations.”

In the three-page report, the complaint says it will look into allegations regarding collective bargaining and teacher evaluations.
Holyoke teacher Dorothy Albrecht: ‘Teachers – including myself – fear retribution’
“The Massachusetts Department of Labor has sent [Holyoke Public Schools] a message: There is probable cause to believe that the administration violated the law in the way they retaliated against me,” Morales said on Monday. “Because of that, there will have to be a full-scale hearing about the case.”

Morales said he’d “much rather have the school committee do the right thing, put me back in the classroom, avoid the messiness of a full-scale hearing and allow us to improve schools for the students of Holyoke.”

Approximately three dozen teachers, students and activists were in attendance at the rally held outside of Dean Technical High School.

NEA RA. My dinner with Barbara Madeloni.


I messaged the president-elect of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, “Can we meet for dinner?”

Barbara Madeloni is a Facebook friend who I have never met.

“Love to meet you,” she messaged back.

When Madeloni takes office on July 1st she will represent most of the teachers in Massachusetts except for the ones in Boston.

Her election represents – much like the election of the CORE caucus and Karen Lewis in Chicago – a break from the go-along, only-play-defense MTA leadership of the past.

But unlike the AFT-affiliated Chicago local, the MTA is a statewide NEA affiliate with locals that are big and small.

She and Educators for a Democratic Union – the caucus that supported her – have long been strong voices against the corporate reform agenda.

Madeloni is an advocate for greater union democracy and an end to business unionism – a top-down bureaucracy with centralized control of information and decision-making.

Business unionism characterizes much of what goes on in the NEA and the AFT.

Her election surprised many.

But it didn’t surprise her.

“I was traveling around the state, meeting with teachers and when I spoke I could see the heads nodding. And at each gathering in the campaign more heads would nod. I could see that the message of a union that creates a space for imagining what is possible was resonating with members.”

“Tell me about you,” I said.

“I come from a family of social activists.”

She taught English in high school and was a teacher educator.

When I asked about her experiences in caucus building and her challenge to existing leadership, her challenge to me was to be clear about my vision of unionism when talking and organizing among members..

“It’s got to be done by the young teachers now,” I said. “I can talk issues and organize among my retired colleagues, but it is up to the actives now.”

While agreeing with the need for active teachers to take responsibility for their union, she would not let me downplay the role and the power of organized retired teachers.

The NEA has changed since even a year ago. A new rising class of leaders is coming to power in locals and state affiliates.

And it’s right on time.

Massachusetts’ Madeloni is unapologetically adversarial.


Barbara Madeloni was just elected President of the Massachusetts teachers union.

This story appeared in the Boston Globe.

Don’t make the mistake of talking about “teacher training” to Barbara Madeloni.

“Oh, please don’t use the word training,” she chided a reporter. “We educate teachers. We don’t train them. We train dogs. And I love dogs.”

Beacon Hill better get used to that sharply pointed, confrontational style.

A self-described social justice activist from the liberal college town of Northampton, Madeloni was until recently a complete unknown in political circles. But her upset election last month as president of the 110,000-member Massachusetts Teachers Association has already jolted lawmakers and officials worried about the dawn of a more adversarial relationship with the state’s largest union.

The 57-year-old former psychologist turned teacher won her race by openly criticizing the current union president, Paul Toner, for his record of negotiating with — rather than fighting — officials on the development of teacher assessments and the Common Core, a set of national education standards adopted in Massachusetts and 43 other states.

Her agenda forcefully rejects those policies, which have gained increasing support from Republicans and Democratsover the last 20 years. She supports a three-year moratorium on standardized testing and teacher assessments and denounces charter schools. Though these initiatives have never been popular with teachers unions, the Massachusetts Teachers Association, under Toner, took a softer line, seeking compromise rather than confrontation.

That seems highly unlikely when Madeloni takes office July 15 for a two-year term. She says teacher assessments and testing are part of the “general assault on public education by people who are looking to privatize it, to profit off the public dollar, and to bust our unions.”

She has a flare for firebrand rhetoric. She recently told Commonwealth Magazine that she wants to wrest the education debate away from “rich white men who are deciding the course of public education for black and brown children.” At a conference at Barnard College in March, she said standardized tests require schools “to get rid of difference.”

“In our culture, which is infused with white supremacy, that’s what white supremacy is,” she said.

Read the entire article here.

Hinsdale board member: Our salary and benefits should be lower than other districts.


As I have been reporting, Hinsdale High School District teachers gave their union leadership full backing last week in the union’s bargaining with their board. With nearly every member voting, a strike authorization vote received 100% of the members support.

I can see why.

The current board is now controlled by ideologues who are willing to sacrifice Hinsdale’s quality public schools on the altar of their anti-government, anti-tax agenda.

Rich Brandeis is a board member of Cass District 63.

Cass is a separate school District from Hinsdale 86 but is a feeder district. Cass’s students go to Hinsdale for high school.

In an exchange of emails that were supplied to me, Brandeis gets attacked by one of Hinsdale’s anti-tax board member, Ed Corcoran, for siding with the union.

Brandeis is a graduate from Bradley University with a Bachelor in Business Science and an MBA from Indiana University.

Brandeis wrote to the Hinsdale board:

As you consider your options with regard to the upcoming tax levy, I’d like to caution you to consider your actions carefully. What you decide will impact Hinsdale D86 for many years to come. I have heard you are considering a 0% increase. While it may be a popular decision with the majority of the homeowners in the District, I believe your decision must go beyond that factor alone. Your number one responsibility is to ensure that Hinsdale Central and South continue to provide an excellent environment for teaching and learning. You are, after all, trustees of an asset that is owned by all of the taxpayers. It continues to be an asset only if both schools provide the opportunity for excellence in education. If the quality slips, ultimately so will the value of homes within the District. Having Hinsdale Central and South provide the education they do is a major reason people want to buy homes in the area.

Hinsdale board member Ed Corcoran responded:

Unfortunately I do not share any mutual interest to increase the levy and taxes and would like to see you support a zero levy as well.

The Teacher’s Union has delivered a demand to bargain and is aggressively pushing for a levy increase with no basis other than self interest. My concern is that your push appears to be a clear sign of support for wage increases for the teacher’s Union vs showing your support for and respect for the taxpayer. With 75%+ of taxpayer spending going to Union represented employees who are already paid generously over the market rate, and who received large raises during the recession (compounded annual since the recession), we need to show some restraint here in Illinois and in D86.

So since you are pushing so hard to increase funds over and above what is necessary for operations, the main question is “Is Rich Brandeis advocating for the Union?”.

As a person elected by the taxpayers, I hope you understand your duty and to advocate for only 2 parties. The student and the taxpayers.

With the excellent work conditions and benefits teachers realized in District 86, the salary levels would be lowered substantially by market forces. Our salary and benefits should be lower than other districts due to the great parents and great students and excellent work environment/conditions – not to mention the prestige our teachers enjoy in the education community. There are large numbers of unemployed and highly qualified teachers, so it should be obvious to anyone that we should not be paying above market wages with taxpayer’s hard earned money.

I believe a zero % or negative levy in D86 is the only approach to instill proper respect for tax payer’s hard earned money and move our spending in the right direction, since we already have adequate revenue and many efficiency gains to be made. I would also challenge your District to consider the same.

Board member attacks Hinsdale teachers for being unionized. “They’re like Karen Lewis!”


Members of the IEA and NEA affiliated Hinsdale High School Teachers Association voted unanimously last week to authorize a strike, not wanting to leave for the summer without demonstrating their full support for their union leadership.

Meanwhile the Hinsdale school board has been busy beating the anti-union drums.

Two recent letters to The Doings, a local Sun-Times publication:

One year leading Hinsdale High School District 86, School Board majority members Claudia Manley, Edward Corcoran, Victor Casini and Richard Skoda have made bad decisions. With our highly-regarded teachers in contract negotiations with this team, you should be concerned. Here’s why:

In spring 2013, the board majority forced then-Superintendent Wahl to rescind salary offers (made by the previous board) to nine new teacher hires, lowering their salaries by $3,000 to $12,000. Would you trust this majority?

Did you know that board President Skoda sent a media statement to the public on June 2, that other School Board members had not seen? Board members Kay Gallo and Jennifer Planson objected to the inflammatory content (comparing our teachers to Karen Lewis and the Chicago Teachers Union) at the board meeting that night. The document was produced by taxpayer-funded staff at District 86 promoting the majority’s divisive agenda. Would you trust this leadership?

Did you know that a majority member made negative statements about teachers in a public email? Stating “There are large numbers of unemployed and highly qualified teachers, so it should be obvious to anyone that we should not be paying above market wages with taxpayer’s hard earned money.” Would you trust this member to negotiate teacher contracts for our nationally-ranked schools?

NOT voting has serious consequences. In April 2013, we saw 10.8 percent of Cook and 18.1 percent of DuPage County’s eligible residents vote. The results are disastrous. Now this majority is negotiating with great teachers from our award-winning schools. Are you concerned? You should be!

Eileen R. Meyer


* * * *

In recent newspapers nearly identical letters decried “Illinois-style union politics” in relation to school board business. The letters echo the themes, nearly verbatim, of open letters written by new Hinsdale High School District 86 Board majority members who say they appreciate teachers while attempting to demonize the teachers’ union as though.

The Hinsdale High School Teachers Association is made up of the very teachers these writers claim to appreciate. Our members include award winning librarians, Golden Apple Teachers, state champion coaches and teachers of the year.

When Central guidance counselor Carol Bobo openly shared her concerns about new board majority changes, the board president at the time tried to discredit her opinion by emphasizing her union membership. It is true that Bobo is a member of the teachers’ association — just as is every teacher in District 86. Bobo has also been a teacher and guidance counselor at Hinsdale Central for nearly 35 years, is a state championship swim coach, is a Central alumna and is a life-long resident of Hinsdale. Bobo’s credentials are impeccable and embody the district’s tradition of excellence. But the only rebuttal to her concerns was the character attack of “union member!”

The teachers’ association was formed in 1957, well before teacher unions were the norm. Harvey Dickinson, for whom Dickinson Field at Central is named, was an award winning athletic director, coach and teacher. He was also the first president.

It’s time members of the new board majority and their supporters focus on our students and maintaining the district’s tradition of excellence and stop promoting such a divisive political agenda.

Kathy Wynn Saylor

Association president 2008-2014