What was Rahm doing at the memorial honoring Pullman workers?


Rahm went after the Chicago Teachers Union in 2012. 

– Posting from Brooklyn.

President Obama came to Chicago to dedicate the Pullman national monument.

The monument is not there to honor capital’s robber barons of industry. It’s not there for George Pullman. It is there to honor its workers, labor unions, the African American union of sleeping car porters.

Much is being made of the fact that Governor Private Equity was kept off the stage when the President was signing the paper establishing the monument.

Capitolfax posted these tweets:

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Even Crain’s pro-business Greg Hinz was forced to admit that Governor Private Equity appears to be in the tradition of George Pullman.

Rauner acted like a rich guy protecting his class in one key area: While poor people and middle-class people and workers and transit riders and just about everyone else is being asked to take it in the ear in the name of “shared sacrifice,” people of means get off scot-free. In fact, they’re actually better off.

Yet everyone agrees that the timing of Obama’s trip to Chicago had more to do with saving Rahm Emanuel’s behind than honoring labor.


The very same mayor who used the most offensive gutter language to the country’s most beloved teacher union leader?

Also kept off the stage was Rahm’s primary opponent, Alderman Bob Fioretti.

Ald. Bob Fioretti, 2nd, questioned why he was not granted a ticket to attend the event, given his history as a past president and current member of the Historic Pullman Foundation board.

Considering the mutual contempt with which Governor Private Equity and Rahm hold unions, they both should have been kept behind the velvet ropes.

But honoring labor, unions and the Pullman porters wasn’t really what today was all about.

Jesse Sharkey: Has the mayor ever offered any revenue plan that does not involve cutting worker benefits?


Karen Lewis and Jesse Sharkey.

Letter to the Editor of the Chicago Sun-Times by CTU VP Jesse Sharkey

The Chicago Sun Times in an editorial recently criticized teachers, nurses, library assistants and truck drivers for suing the city to retrieve drastic pension cuts imposed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Earlier this year, the mayor pushed for a bill to cut pension benefits by nearly 30 percent on city workers in the Municipal Employees and Annuity and Benefits Fund (MEABF) by lowering, and in some years eliminating, cost of living adjustments and increasing the amount that employees must contribute to their pensions. Many retired workers in the MEABF survive on modest benefits, an average of about $30,000 per year, that allow them to barely make ends meet.

One of the Chicago Teachers Union’s members covered by the plan is Arlene Williams, a former vision and hearing aide who is already paying nearly $1,000 in out-of-pocket monthly health costs, and stands to lose an additional $1,000 a year because of the new law. Arlene worries she may lose her home if she sees any further reduction in benefits. In an economy where rising costs and inflation are imminent, the future diminished retirement security for countless public servants, is all but inevitable. Instead of reducing the incomes of the most vulnerable workers in the city, the mayor could advocate for pensions for all workers. There are multiple ways to do this, and the Sun Times only offered a few.

The La Salle Street Tax could easily bring over $1 billion a year into city coffers, not to mention a graduated “fair” income tax at the state level, an end to toxic swaps, and reform of the city’s notorious TIF program. Has the mayor ever offered any revenue plan that does not involve cutting worker benefits, raking tax payers over the coals with red-light cameras, cellphone fees and the like? Perhaps it’s time for some real “shared sacrifice”  where the mayor’s friends at Bank of America, Goldman Sachs and Loop Capital give back some of the record profits they have reaped from the schools and the city. Tax fairness would allow retirees to enjoy a modicum of comfort in their golden years after a lifetime of service.

Jesse Sharkey, Chicago Teachers Union Vice President

Whoever thought of this at the CTU deserves an award.

Make every candidate who wants union money recite the words to Solidarity Forever.

Greg Hinz who writes a blog for the business publication Crain’s has his shorts in a ball over what he claims is the new Chicago Teachers Union candidate evaluation form.

Cheeky, boldly assertive and even arrogant, the form, will substitute for the usual candidate questionnaire asking for positions on issues. It demands that wannabe public officials recite the CTU’s policies and goals—supposedly to insure that contenders know what the union wants.

For example, in a section asking about legislation and issues, the union suggests as a sample answer that a candidate write in part: “The CTU mission is to ensure that educators and students in the Chicago Public Schools have fully resourced school communities. The CTU has demonstrated their commitment to the entire community by supporting issues like a living wage…I have a firm commitment to working people. In my practice, I have represented union members in arbitration proceedings. I have upheld the rights of workers because it is essential for our society to succeed. Labor has played a very important function of advancing the rights and earning power of women and people of color.”

Yes, the union really suggests—in writing—that a candidate thus reply.

Union officials did not respond to requests for comment.

Overall, CTU asks that those seeking its endorsement answer three general questions, with as many as five sub-questions each, about them and their campaign. On each—much like a a standardized test—the candidates will be ranked: unsatisfactory, basic, proficient or distinguished.

For example, in question 2e, dealing with cuts to public services, an “unsatisfactory” candidate would be one who has supported cuts in services such as health clinics, Medicaid, police protection and schools. A “proficient” candidate would have “consistently opposed cuts” via “pubic pronouncements and legislative initiatives.” To be rated “distinguished,” that contender would have to have “proposed reinstatement of prior cuts.”

Another example: campaign communications. The “unsatisfactory” candidate has “no strategy for communications,” but does have an “uncomfortable” public speaking style. But a “distinguished” one would speak “in multiple formats” in ways that are “easy to comprehend.” And the candidate should be such a good speaker that his or her future constituents will be “excited about the candidate.”

In other words, no dees, dose and dems, alder-people.

To those who think this all sounds a bit bureaucratic and onerous, the union pretty much says: tough.

In the form, it notes that, over its opposition, the state in 2010 adopted new teachers evaluation standards that have “four domains with 19 separate components,” with teachers being rated unsatisfactory to distinguished.

“We believe those who develop, pass and enforce laws should be held to the same standards as our members,” the evaluation form says. “To that end, the Chicago Teachers Union will assess candidates for elective office using this rubric based on the one used to evaluate teachers.”

This almost caused me to do a spit-take with my coffee this morning.

Whoever came up with this at the CTU: God bless ’em.

If you missed it, this completely mirrors what politicians in this and other states have foisted upon teachers.

Apparently Hinz misses this point. It’s arrogant for the union to demand of legislative leaders what they demand of teachers.

It’s not “bureaucratic and onerous,” Greg. It is pointedly sharp and necessary.

Hinz sarcastically suggests that the union make the candidates recite the words to Solidarity Forever.

Hell. My main criticism is that the CTU didn’t think of that first.

Karen Lewis. While I’m in this fight, please know I’ll continue to stand for the city we love.



“My husband, John, and I wish to thank each and every one you for your outpouring of support, thoughts, prayers and well wishes over the last few days,” said Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union. “Your expressions have given me a sense of renewed energy as I shift my focus to restoring my health. It has been said, that our city is one of big shoulders. I cannot agree more; today those shoulders have become the compassionate arms from brothers and sisters from all walks of life. I want to personally thank you for respecting my privacy during this difficult time. While I’m in this fight, please know I’ll continue to stand for the city we love and deserve; and look forward to joining you again on the battlefield.”

CPS budget. “The onus falls on the Mayor.”



CHICAGO—The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) released the following statement today regarding the Board of Education’s efforts to jam through a flawed budget for the coming fiscal year:

“The mayor’s handpicked school board is playing politics with the schools budget. By using 14 months’ worth of revenue in this fiscal year, it pushes the problems of funding into next year—until after the election—and into a contract year,” said Jesse Sharkey, CTU vice president. “CPS has been banking on solving their budget problems through pension theft, but the Illinois Supreme Court ruling that protected retiree benefits has negated that strategy.

“The current crisis has also been exacerbated by the unchecked proliferation of charter schools, which have seen their portion of the schools budget grow 30 percent faster than overall school spending—and is directly linked to the decision to close 50 schools last year due to budgetary reasons,” Sharkey said.

“Now the onus falls on the mayor to properly fund the public schools.”

The lies of Hinsdale’s board. And why you should care.


The Hinsdale High School Teachers Association exposes the lies that their board is spreading.

I’ve been focusing on Hinsdale – Chicago suburban high school district – because it is the perfect example of where a small group of ALEC and Tea Party activists have taken over a local school board for their own ideological purposes.

They are not representative of the town of Hinsdale.

They act in secret and call it transparency.

The tell lies about teacher salaries and call it the truth.

They spread fear by claiming that somehow the Chicago Teachers Union is involved.

While many teachers throughout the state support the CTU and their leadership, it is hardly an issue in Hinsdale.

Their agenda is not about better schools. Their agenda is union-busting

How did this happen?

People stayed home on election day.

The same thing happened in my old district in Park Ridge – another Chicago suburban district.

If you think it can’t happen to your local school board, just stay home next time.


AFT. Common Core will get debated on Sunday.


CTU President Karen Lewis pushed for the debate.

– Mercedes Schneider blogs at deutch29

A very good thing will happen on Sunday, July 13, 2014, at the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) convention in Los Angeles: The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) will be debated on the floor.

No behind-closed-doors killing of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) resolution opposing CCSS. As Politico states:

Weingarten, for instance, has repeatedly said she supports Common Core, but she also made a deliberate decision to allow a long public debate — which will be livestreamed online — on the standards. She has said the AFT is a democracy and will adopt policies favored by a majority of members, even if that means a dizzying about-face on the Common Core.

I spoke with CTU President Karen Lewis on July 10, 2014, about my concern that CTU’s anti-CCSS resolution would be somehow stifled. I learned that Lewis was instrumental in pushing for an open debate on CCSS.

There is another AFT resolution in support of CCSS. The supporting resolution assumes that CCSS is good, if only it were properly implemented. Sound familiar? As Politico notes:

The AFT will also consider a resolution — drafted by its executive council — asserting that the promise of the Common Core has been corrupted by political manipulation, administrative bungling, corporate profiteering and an invalid scoring system designed to ensure huge numbers of kids fail the new math and language arts exams that will be rolled out next spring. An even more pointed resolution flat out opposing the standards will also likely come up for a vote.

In order to preserve CCSS, AFT members are being offered a financial enticement to “rewrite” CCSS:

The American Federation of Teachers will open its annual convention Friday morning with a startling announcement: After years of strongly backing the Common Core, the union now plans to give its members grants to critique the academic standards — or to write replacement standards from scratch. …

The grant program does not need a vote from the membership to take effect. Union officials say they expect to begin distributing grants worth about $20,000 to $30,000 this fall. Local and state affiliates are eligible for the grants; AFT officials are encouraging applicants to build coalitions with parents and civic leaders, though teachers are supposed to lead the work.

Ironically, the grant money will come from the AFT Innovation Fund formerly financed by Gates to the tune of $4.4 million and doing exactly what he financed: “to work on… the Common Core State Standards.”

Read the entire post here.

I left Denver very pleased with the results.


The American Federation of Teachers is meeting in LA this weekend.

As I write this they are debating a resolution on the Common Core that was drafted by my friends in the Chicago Teachers Union and adopted by their House of Delegates.

Randi Weingarten has already said that if the delegates choose to follow the lead of the National Education Association – which met in Denver last week- and vote for Arne Duncan’s retirement from Secretary of Education, she has no objection.

As an IEA Retired delegate that was chosen in a statewide election, I left Denver very pleased with the results.

Included in those results I count the election of three women of color to lead the nation’s largest union.

I include a sharply worded New Business Item that criticizes standardize testing and the misuse of testing results to evaluate teachers. It supports the parent opt-out movement.

And I am very happy with the call for firing Secretary Duncan.

I was disappointed that the leaders of the NEA constructed a protective wall around the Common Core State Standards – unwilling to have even a discussion about them.

I spoke for such a motion in the Illinois caucus and received little support.

I think that in the long run this will not matter as much as the larger message that emerged from our convention.

The pundits and analysts have argued for a while that the Democratic Party and unions were in a troubled marriage. The Wall Street crowd was even boasting that the Democrats were cheating on us and sleeping with them.

When the NEA voted to endorse the re-election of Obama two years before the 2012 campaign, it seemed as if we were trapped in an abusive relationship, afraid to walk out the door.

We still seem to be sharing a house, even if we are now sleeping in separate bedrooms.

But to really break free, we need somewhere to go.

We need to build something new for unions members, people of color, women and for all those who call themselves progressives, remembering that these are not always separate groups.