Thursday, September 13, 2012

Parents and Other Unions Support Chicago Teachers

The people running the Chicago union today were at the top level of their profession as teachers when they were elected 2 years ago. I got to know many of them when they were still in the classroom and much of their conversation was about the kids. They were as much driven by what ed deform was doing to their kids as what it was doing to teachers.....Even if they end up settling for relatively few gains on the surface, they have won already in the minds of teachers all over the nation.  – Ed Notes
 buoyed by energetic rallies in which even parents inconvenienced by the strike waved placards in support. Other unions were joining in, with school custodian representatives saying their members will walk off the job this week as well. -- NY Post
"This union figured out they couldn't assume the public would be on their side, so they went out and actively engaged in getting parent support," Bruno said. "They worked like the devil to get it." --Robert Bruno
 To get this level of support amongst the members, a union leadership has to engage the membership who will then engage the parents. To do that requires breaking the level of cynicism that exists amongst the rank and file towards the leadership. And there was plenty of that in Chicago before CORE took over in 2010, only two years after their founding. To inspire trust in the leadership the rank and file has to sense that the leadership is on their side. Maybe some view it as symbolic, but the large cuts in salary Karen Lewis and the others took made an impact. And helped balance the budget of a union in debt when they took over. They used money saved to hire organizers to prepare the teachers for whatever come. I know some of these organizers and still much of their talk is about the kids.

A leadership also has to be democratic both at the union level and within the caucus that runs the union. Don't discount the fact that CORE has to run for re-election this May and at last count there were 4 other caucuses. As far as I can tell, the leadership has mobilized the entire union in this strike and in the outreach to the community.
To win friends, the union has engaged in something of a publicity campaign, telling parents repeatedly about problems with schools and the barriers that have made it more difficult to serve their kids. They cite classrooms that are stifling hot without air conditioning, important books that are unavailable and insufficient supplies of the basics, such as toilet paper.
"They've been keeping me informed about that for months and months," Grant said.
It was a shrewd tactic, said Robert Bruno, professor of labor and employment relations at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
"This union figured out they couldn't assume the public would be on their side, so they went out and actively engaged in getting parent support," Bruno said. "They worked like the devil to get it.
In a short time, an upstart group of relatively young teachers convinced 92% of browbeaten teachers under 17 years of mayoral control, that a strike, even in Leo Casey's vaunted you have to consider "the climate of the times," was not only feasible, but offered an opportunity to reverse the direction of ed deform and turn it into real reform.

Will they succeed? It depends how you define success. There are many dangers in what they are doing and sometimes in the midst of an action like this, logical political direction can get buried. But a national debate has been opened up that was not taking place before. Not only about the policies of ed deform but about the direction the national and many local teacher unions have been taking (Anthony Cody vs. Randi Weingarten on NPR). Even if they end up settling for relatively few gains on the surface, they have won already in the minds of teachers all over the nation.

I hear here all the time from cynical older teachers how the young teachers have no union tradition or interest in the union. Maybe here in New York (and I'll let you guess why). Have you seen how young so many of the Chicago teachers are? How did they get to this level of consciousness and knowledge -- every Chicago CORE member I met is incredibly astute. At the chapter leader meeting yesterday I had conversations with people in Unity Caucus who barely had an idea of what was going on in Chicago. And don't forget how Unity opposed every progressive resolution on testing, charter schools and closing schools coming out of Chicago at the AFT convention.

The people running the Chicago union today were at the top level of their profession as teachers when they were elected 2 years ago. I got to know many of them when they were still in the classroom and much of their conversation was about the kids. They were as much driven by what ed deform was doing to their kids as what it was doing to teachers.

And parents and community seem to sense that.
As the teachers walk the picket lines, they have been joined by parents who are scrambling to find a place for children to pass the time or for baby sitters. Mothers and fathers - some with their kids in tow - are marching with the teachers. Other parents are honking their encouragement from cars or planting yard signs that announce their support in English and Spanish.
Unions are still hallowed organizations in much of Chicago, and the teachers union holds a special place of honor in many households where children often grow up to join the same police, firefighter or trade unions as their parents and grandparents. -- NY Post
So how did the CTU in a time of much vilified teacher unions manage to get public support?
To win friends, the union has engaged in something of a publicity campaign, telling parents repeatedly about problems with schools and the barriers that have made it more difficult to serve their kids. They cite classrooms that are stifling hot without air conditioning, important books that are unavailable and insufficient supplies of the basics, such as toilet paper.
"They've been keeping me informed about that for months and months," Grant said.
It was a shrewd tactic, said Robert Bruno, professor of labor and employment relations at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
"This union figured out they couldn't assume the public would be on their side, so they went out and actively engaged in getting parent support," Bruno said. "They worked like the devil to get it.
To those that disparage this fact, I don't see Stand For Children (last) out there being able to mobilize parents to march against the teachers. I heard their leader debating Diane Ravitch on NPR yesterday and he claimed to be grass roots. He must be smoking that grass.


Update: SCHOOL JANITORS FILE NOTICE TO JOIN STRIKE

Mark Naison: Can Michelle Rhee lead 50,000 people through the streets of Chicago? Bill Gates? Arne Duncan? Jonah Edelman? Hell no! But Karen Lewis can! And that's the message that needs to go out to teachers around the country! They are not condemned to be passive victims of Corporate Ed Reformers! United, they have the power to fight back and defend their students from policies that will deaden their minds, weaken their bodies and make them hate school!

=========
The opinions expressed on EdNotesOnline are solely those of Norm Scott and are not to be taken as official positions (though Unity Caucus/New Action slugs will try to paint them that way) of any of the groups or organizations Norm works with: ICE, GEM, MORE, Change the Stakes, NYCORE, FIRST Lego League NYC, Rockaway Theatre Co., Active Aging, The Wave, Aliens on Earth, etc.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are welcome. Irrelevant and abusive comments will be deleted, as will all commercial links. Comment moderation is on, so if your comment does not appear it is because I have not been at my computer (I do not do cell phone moderating).