Two Noteworthy Teachers’ Union Newspaper Stories

Contributed by Larry Smith

Labor and Employment Law News and TipsAt the beginning of November, Chicago Teacher’s Union (CTU) President, Karen Lewis, won a significant victory in front of the Illinois Education Labor Relations Board when the board rejected attempts by CPS officials and Mayor Rahm Emanuel to circumvent negotiations with the teacher’s union over the issue of a longer school day – the mayor and the CPS board of education had been offering teachers at specific schools a personal incentive to adopt a longer school day without negotiating the issue through the CTU.

In a statement following the meeting, Karen Lewis stated, “This victory is for all unions and members, not just the CTU and the hard working teachers and paraprofessionals who proudly don our name.” She continued, “It reaffirms what the future should look like for collective bargaining in Illinois, and that CTU will be at the table helping to craft the future for our 400,000 students.”

Additionally, Ms. Lewis thanked the mayor for pointing out the benefits of a longer school day and recognized the qualifications of Jean-Claude Brizard to be CPS CEO, but criticized their position as being politically controlled as opposed to being solely dedicated to the task of educating children. Additionally, Ms. Lewis criticized former CPS CEO, Arne Duncan, for not having a background in education and for implementing policies and procedures that had unintended consequences.  As an example, she surmised that children who attended high schools closed by Mr. Duncan simply dropped out of school rather than traveling through troubled neighborhoods to get to the next closest high school.

Karen Lewis is graduate of Dartmouth University and holds two masters’ degrees.  She is the daughter of two CPS teachers and the wife of a retired CPS gym teacher.  She has been a CPS science teacher for more than 20 years.

In another story, the political director for the Illinois Federation of Teachers, Steven Preckwinkle, and union lobbyist David Piccoli, are targets of an investigation showing they both took advantage of a, now-closed, loop-hole that allowed them to enter into the state teachers pension fund, counting their previous years as union employees, after working as substitute teachers for one day each. The $93.00 that Mr. Preckwinkle received as compensation for being a substitute teacher for one day allows him to qualify for a pension of approximately $108,000 a year at age 60.  The Illinois Teachers Retirement System, whose participants are public school teachers outside of the City of Chicago, is severely underfunded with respect to pension obligations to retired teachers.  No doubt the type of loop-hole that benefited these two individuals is a good example of why the pension system might be so severely underfunded. 

The Illinois legislature is currently working on legislation that will rescind these two pensions and, hopefully, make it more difficult for abuses to occur in the future. Look for an update to this post in the coming weeks.