Saturday, November 16, 2019

Chicago Teachers Ratify Contract by 80%

The second and third largest cities, social justice leftist oriented unions, in contrast to the UFT, have some interesting news to report.

Despite some controversy in Chicago over what was won by the recent strike and some questions raised about how democratic the process was, the 25,000 membership ratified by 80%. Not too shabby and not far below the numbers here last year.

Read: Chicago Teachers Didn’t Win Everything, But They’ve Transformed the City—And the Labor Movement
Rebecca Burns
November 1, 2019
Working In These Times 


Class size was a premium issue and some gains were made. Some gains were made in terms of enforcement here in NYC but the numbers remain the same here as they were in 1970. The last time the UFT went on strike over class size was in 1967 - I was on that strike - my first days on the job and I didn't have a clue what it was all about. The class size wins in Chicago seem limited but made some progress. The UFT is also lauding the progress. You know I am a critic of the UFT over class size and I think more can be done but when pro-Unity people point out a comparison of contracts by our so-called "business union" vs the CTU "social justice" union, I don't have an easy answer. But I do point out how the Chicago people used community ties and made a case of pointing out where the money was while here we never hear a word about the outrageous real estate and corporate deals -- like let's give Amazon and Hudson Yards funders enormous tax breaks while arguing there is not enough money to at the very least reduce class size in the early grades as was done in the early 90s but reversed by Bloomberg.

The Mayor is a liberal -and probably a neo-liberal who wanted to hold the line on the ed budget but seems to have no qualms about giving breaks to certain corporate or real estate interests. By the way, de Blasio is no different despite claiming to be left of liberal.

I want honest reports not ideologically tainted reporting. I trust Fred Klonsky's analysis. He is a retired union leader in the Chicago area and does not fawn over the CTU even if he is a big supporter.  So here is his report listing some of the gains and why they are important.  Chicago’s teachers approve their contract.  

Here is most of Fred's report:

The vote came two weeks after an eleven day strike that put thousands of teachers on the picket lines and in the streets for nearly daily mass protests.
Late Friday night, with 80% of the vote counted from 80% of the schools, votes for approval were running at 81%.
I found no information on what schools the vote was coming from or whether that information will be made available later.
79% approved the deal after the seven-day 2012 strike. The 2016 CBA received a 72% vote of approval.
Teachers have reason to be proud of their unity and militancy during the bargaining.
Members will receive a 16 percent hike over the five year length of the agreement. That is a long time compared to most contracts, and to the 3-year deal that the CTU wanted.
There will be no increases in health care costs for the first three years, a quarter-percent increase in the fourth year and a half-percent increase in the fifth year.
A disappointment for many was the failure to add to elementary teachers prep time and the dispersal of veteran pay must still be negotiated.
The contractual numbers of students in a class – a central demand of the CTU – seems limited.  A teacher may appeal for a remedy to a newly constituted Joint Class Size Assessment Council, consisting of six members appointed by the district and six by the union. The council will determine if, and what, action is to be taken.
Class size and staffing were huge issues in the strike. The union demanded that class sizes and staffing numbers be put in writing in the contract.
What was important for the union was that the numbers and the procedures for remedy be written into the contract which would allow them to be grieved if the numbers and process for remediation were violated.
Now the numbers and remedy are in writing in the collective bargaining agreement.
Still, the numbers themselves remain high.
As for staffing, the union won 209 additional social workers and 250 additional nurses over the duration of the contract.
CPS must now add an additional 44 social workers and 55 nurses next year above what the district had already budgeted. 
There was no agreement to add school librarians.
The new contract designates funds to hire community representatives at schools with large numbers of homeless students.
A stipend will also be available for some schools to hire a Students in Temporary Living Situation (STLS) Liaison. Together, the representative and liaison will ensure homeless students are attending class, have transit passes, and are aware of neighborhood resources.
There were other improvements for teachers in the agreement as well.
Some will continue to argue over who won, the CTU or Mayor Lightfoot. Or whether an 11-day strike significantly improved the agreement over what Mayor Lightfoot and the CPS board offered before the walkout.
As someone who has some experience in bargaining teacher union contracts, I think the fundamental issue is whether this contract is an improvement over the previous one. In this case, it appears the members believe it is and their vote is the one that matters most.
What I am most pleased about is that unlike in a growing number of right to work states, Chicago public school union teachers had the right to bargain it and to vote on their agreement.
That is no small thing.

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