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Three-million day.

July 27, 2015

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In a few hours this blog will receive its three-millionth visitor.

That could mean one person who keeps coming back over and over.

Or a lot of people who read it – which I hope is true.

When meeting a new person who tells me by way of introduction that they read my blog, I often go into that aw shucks mode and joke, “Oh! You’re the one!”

It is a bit of false modesty, because I know that what gets said here – and happily not just be me – has power to influence things.

I believe it was Karl Marx who said that our job wasn’t to just blog about the world, but to change it.

Three million is about the size of Chicago or Brooklyn.

But there are 40 cities in China – some you never heard of – that have more than three million people.

So I still have work to do.

Life in Rahm’s Chicago. Shutting down all but one City College Child Development programs.

July 27, 2015

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– By Jenny Alexander. Jenny is a professor of Child Development at the Chicago City Colleges.

Mayor Emanuel and his appointed City Colleges of Chicago Chancellor, Cheryl Hyman, have made the decision to close all of the Child Development programs at five of the City Colleges and consolidate the program to one location at Truman College, which is located on the far north side.

This top-down administrative action disproportionately affects traditionally under-served communities particularly on the west and south side neighborhoods of Chicago, and it has wide ranging consequences for current college students, potential students and, perhaps most importantly, to young children and their families.

The Child Development Department of the City Colleges of Chicago serves students, families, children and early childhood centers in six distinct Chicago communities. Our program is unique and dynamic. Our programs support both the missions of our individual colleges and the goals of Reinvention. Each individual community that we serve benefits from our program.

Child Development students attend the Community College that best suits themselves, their families and their work.

This decision was made without input from the impacted communities including many community-based organizations who provide services to young children and their families.

This decision is a great disservice to our students and the communities we serve.

With this decision, Chicago citizens from the south and west sides will lose access to a high quality, nationally recognized education in Child Development that is currently available to them within their communities, but will be lost as of Fall 2016.

The Child Development faculty team from six City Colleges that have offered the Child Development degree programs are concerned that Mayor Emanuel and Chancellor Hyman do not fully understand or appreciate the value of community-based education as this decision clearly goes against the mission of community colleges, which is to serve citizens within the communities in which they live, learn, and work.

Judge Novak says SEIU 73’s Christine Boardman could not bargain away retiree benefits. Which is what I said last December.

July 25, 2015

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From December, 2014.

Yesterday Cook County Judge Rita Novak ruled that mayor Rahm and union misleaders like SEIU 73 President Christine Boardman could not bargain constitutionally protected pension rights.

Which is what I wrote last December:

When city unions filed suit against Rahm’s pension cuts, Rahm said the cuts were good because he bargained them with city unions.

Those unions included Bricklayers District Council, Carpenters Regional Council, IBEW 134, Iron Workers District Council, IUOE 150, IUOE 399, Laborers’ District Council, Pipefitters 597, Plumbers 130, Sprinkle Fitters 281 and Christine Boardman’s SEIU 73.

The unions suing Rahm because he has violated the pension clause of the Illinois Constitution are the Chicago Teachers Union, AFSCME Council 31, IFT-AFT, Teamsters Local 700 and the Illinois Nurses Association.

Boardman’s SEIU 73 is notorious for agreeing to concessions with the Mayor and is a donor to his re-election campaign.

The legal question is whether union leadership can bargain away constitutional pension guarantees.

Since no single union represents all of the members in the pension funds, the answer is no.

This is in some ways similar to what took place between the state-wide coalition of public employee unions, the We Are One Illinois, and Senate President John Cullerton.

We Are One, hoping that they could hold off a more draconian pension theft bill designed by Representative Elaine Nekritz and Speaker Madigan, bargained an alternative Senate Bill 2404.

SB 2404 did steal less of our pensions. But it conceded on the principal of the constitutional promise that public employee pensions can not be diminished or impaired.

Pension members not represented by the We Are One Illinois coalition balked at the deal. The Illinois Retired Teachers Association said that no matter what deals were cut between union leaders and politicians in Springfield, they would go to court to protect the pension protection clause.

The result was that SB2404 died. Senate Bill 1 passed. Judge Belz ruled it unconstitutional. And now we wait for an expedited ruling by the Illinois Supreme Court.

Union leaders like Christine Boardman of SEIU 73 cannot bargain away constitutional rights with the Mayor.

No matter how much money exchanges hands.

Keeping retirement weird. The court says union misleaders can’t bargain away my pension benefits.

July 25, 2015

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Glen Brown, IEA Region Chair Erin Breen and John Dillon fighting for pensions at the Illinois Capitol in 2012.

Mayor Rahm was not the only loser in yesterday’s ruling by Cook County Judge Rita Novak that Chicago’s theft of public employee pensions was unconstitutional.

On the central issue Judge Novak ruled that the Illinois Supreme Court was crystal clear – her words – about the pension protection clause of the Illinois constitution.

Promised benefits may not be diminished or impaired.

But what Judge Novak added spoke to an issue that the Supreme Court was not able to address because it did not come before them.

Rahm’s lawyers claimed that the theft of city pensions was legal because union leaders bargained it.

Unfortunately that was true.

Yet Judge Novak would hear none of that.

“The contention that labor unions, undisputedly acting outside the sphere of collective bargaining, may bind all members of the funds ignores the individual constitutional rights” of retirees, she wrote.

“There is no evidence that, in reaching an agreement with the city, the union officials followed union rules and bylaws in such a way as to bind their members as true agents. Nor is there evidence that the membership voted on the agreement … Additionally, there is no showing that the unions could have acted as agents of retired members while at the same time acting as representatives of active employees.”

This is a powerful statement in defense of the rights of retirees and all rank-and-file union members when it comes to defending our pension rights.

It says that our fundamental rights as citizens of Illinois are also protected from spineless union misleaders claiming they speak for us. These rights are not in the sphere of collective bargaining. Our pension rights can no more be bargained away by our leadership than can our voting rights.

This was precisely what we argued when the We Are One Coalition bargained SB 2404 with Senate President John Cullerton.

SB 2404 was the pension thieving little cousin of SB 1. SB1 ultimately passed the legislature and was signed by Governor Quinn.

SB1 became the law the courts ruled unconstitutional.

SB 2404 never made it out of the Senate.

But what if it had?

What if the bill that our union leadership bargained had been signed by the governor and ended up before the courts

The Illinois Retired Teachers Association promised it would file suit.

I have no doubt that the Supreme Court would have ruled as Judge Novak did.

When it comes to my pension rights, union misleaders can’t bargain them away.

Another pension win in the courts. Rahm loses big time.

July 24, 2015
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No matter how many times they try to say the law doesn’t mean what it says, the courts say otherwise.

And so it was today when a Cook County judge overturned the city’s changes to two pension funds, declaring them “unconstitutional and void.”

The issue was a 2014 state law Emanuel pushed through the legislature that aimed at shoring up the financially imperiled pension funds by reducing cost-of-living increases and requiring workers to kick in more money.

The ruling was not only a rejection of Rahm’s plan, but another slap at the legislature’s irresponsibility and ignorance of the pension protection clause of the Illinois constitution.

How many ways can we say it?

You cannot cut benefits to solve the problem. You must raise revenue.

The story is just breaking.

More later.

Running on empty.

July 24, 2015

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We have been home for five days after living out of a suitcase for over three weeks.

The first ten days I was in Orlando at the NEA Representative Assembly. And then, with barely enough time to do some laundry and write an article on the debate over the Confederate flag for In These Times (actually I wrote it on the plane to Amsterdam) we were on a plane again.

Our itinerary was Amsterdam, Bruges, Ghent and then a flight home from Brussels.

I’ve already posted about being groped in Brussels and the terrible service from UNITED AIRLINES. We have sworn never to fly UNITED AIRLINES again and encourage others to follow that practice.

I also got sick from that flight.

Less than twelve hours after landing at O’Hare I had some congestion in my chest. Then a 102 degree fever. I never get a fever. And the coughing was so bad my stomach hurt.

Some have suggested I write UNITED AIRLINES  saying that they have done that and received a voucher for future flights on UNITED AIRLINES. But since I’m never flying on UNITED AIRLINES ever again, what would be the point?

Being sick is why I haven’t been blogging since coming home. I’m running on empty.

Anne called the doctor on Wednesday and Thursday morning I was in his office.

Doctor Mike is a good guy.

When you’re on the other side of 65 a viral or bacterial infection can get out of hand quickly. Dr. Mike said it was probably viral and would last from five to seven days. He prescribed some syrup, pills and nasal spray and that left us a few minutes to talk.

I asked him about the recent news that the use of over-the-counter non-steroidal pain medications increase the risk of heart attacks.

Arthritis in my lower back and pain from work-outs at the gym means I use naproxen, an NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug).

“There’s a risk factor,” Dr. Mike said. “But not going to the gym because you’re in pain after is a bigger risk factor.”

I like Dr. Mike because he is a common sense guy and explains things in a common sense way. So I decided to push him on one other topic.

“In Amsterdam I went to a coffee shop and smoked a joint,” I said. “And it led me to think that being over 65 should be considered a qualifying category for medical marijuana.”

It was an interesting thought, I thought, because I normally get offended at the idea that being over 65 should be considered a disease.

“You had that thought because you were stoned,” said Dr. Mike. “Marijuana should be legalized. Although I’m concerned about younger patients of mine who are heavy, daily users and what they will be like when they are over 50.  The system in Illinois in treating marijuana – like most things in this state – is just screwy.”

The coughing gets worse at night when I’m lying down. It is impossible to get a full night’s sleep.

I discovered that they show Democracy Now! on our local WYCC community television channel at 1 AM.

Wednesday night – Thursday morning – it was a full hour interview with Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Coates responded to a question about the New York Times resident idiot columnist David Brooks.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to ask you about another of the responses to your book. It’s New York Times columnist David Brooks, who—

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: A kinder, gentler conservative.

AMY GOODMAN: —who wrote in a letter addressed to you, quote, “I think you distort American history. This country, like each person in it, is a mixture of glory and shame. There’s a Lincoln for every Jefferson Davis and a Harlem Children’s Zone for every K.K.K.—and usually vastly more than one. Violence is embedded in America, but it is not close to the totality of America.” Those are the words of David Brooks of The New York Times.

TA-NEHISI COATES: Well, I would just challenge that on the facts. There was not an Abraham Lincoln for every Jefferson Davis. As the great historian Ed Baptist responded: Wrong, every president up to Abraham Lincoln was Jefferson Davis. It simply is—that’s not—I mean, that’s just like factual. You know, Abraham Lincoln is singular. Abraham Lincoln, before he was killed, stood up and, you know, for the first time from any sitting president, stood for the right for suffrage for African-American men who had served in the Civil War. And that’s a limited suffrage, but it was quite radical at the time. It is rumored that John Wilkes Booth was there, heard that, said, “By God, that means nigger equality! I’ll run him through!” and then shot Abraham Lincoln. Abraham Lincoln was killed by the forces of white supremacy. He stands out as unique. There’s no other president like that.

What Jefferson Davis did, the idea that somehow holding people in slavery was an essential part of America is a very, very old belief. I mean, he’s a white supremacist. White supremacy is a very, very popular and trenchant belief in this country’s history and heritage. So those two things are just not equivalent. The Ku Klux Klan is not the opposite of the Harlem Children’s Zone. The Ku Klux Klan is the most profligate domestic terrorist organization in this country’s history. The Harlem Children’s Zone is an organization just based in Harlem, that is doing good work, but that there is not enough of across this country. The Ku Klux Klan was a national terrorist organization. It is not an answer—you know, one is not the answer for the other.

Now that I know that it is on I can now schedule Democracy Now! on my DVR for when I get to sleep through the night again.

“I knew people in the church.”

July 22, 2015

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–  By Angie Sullivan. Angie was an NEA RA delegate from Nevada.

I was assigned South Carolina.

In my Nevada delegation to get a seat on the end, you offer to be a state delegate. I had several new business items I wanted to speak to and a couple I wanted to present. So I signed up to get my seat on the end.

At representative assembly one day, a stately tall African American man named Michael approached me and bowed his head and said quietly, “I knew people in the church.”

I wept.

I had just made my own South Carolina pilgrimage a few days before to pay my respects to that place. I was on my annual road trip. I had watched the news reports. I needed to visit the place and show I cared.

So I wept because Michael was from South Carolina.

I wept hard. I grabbed his hand and dragged him to my state president. We needed to make some time on the agenda to hear from South Carolina and this man. He was promised 5 minutes and I made arrangements to go get him the next morning.

I do not think Michael wanted to come. He texted me and said he wanted to quietly mourn and it was in the past. I told him that he did not need to come – but I would really love to hear from him. He was too polite to decline. I was too persistent because I wanted to hear the story.

So early the next day, I picked up the elegant man at his motel and drove him to the Nevada caucus. He was sitting straight and tall on a bench waiting for me. A military man and a prison teacher. He spent his life in the service of country and community. He was a mentor to young men who looked like him in prison. Trying to encourage them.

And he came to the Nevada Caucus.

This is what he said.

He spoke of his aunt who usually attended that church for Bible study. She has a hard time seeing at night so she had not gone that evening when all were killed. He spoke of relationships he had with people who were killed. He had gone to high school with one of the victims. He spoke of the text messages and the shock and the horror of his friends and neighbors on the day it happened.

Then he spoke about the Confederate Flag and the racist symbolism that rules in his town. He spoke of history and things of the past having a place in museums.

He spoke of respect and dignity.

Then he spoke of the KKK and the Panthers and the impending threats from outsiders coming there. The South Carolinians did not want or invite either.

Michael who did not want to come to Nevada told his story. A story of dealing with very difficult issues and people being strong and elegant.

And of course I wept.

When I took Michael back, I told South Carolina that the whole world was watching beautiful people deal with this horrific incident and we admired that community.

And that is why the Confederate Flag is a problem.

All the quiet and strong people who endure under that symbol waving, do not deserve one more day of oppression in that direct or indirect manner. We should take it down because real people died. The hate the flag symbolizes killed them.

And I weep again because Michael who served his country and his South Carolina community, told Nevada quietly but firmly, the flag has to be taken down.

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