CORE: The Caucus of Rank-and-file Educators
Under CORE’s leadership, the CTU has won class size protections, bilingual education provisions and sanctuary schools protections. We won big COLA raises in our current contract and bigger raises for paraprofessionals. We won safety agreements that protected us when a court outlawed school mask mandates and that allows flip-to-remote when quarantine rates are high.
We have huge opportunities around the corner for big improvements in our job conditions and in students’ learning conditions. That’s especially true since we have finally won the bargaining rights taken from us in 1995 and we will have elected members of the school board in the next election and a fully elected school board in 2026. But we’ll have to fight to win if we are to make the most of those opportunities. That’s why we need CORE to keep leading!
Parents already publicly support CTU strike, weeks before it could happen
Chicago Tribune 8/20/19
In the event of a teacher strike, a mom’s wish list
A Chicago Public Schools teacher strike is possible, maybe as early as Sept. 25.
The Chicago Teachers Union rejected Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s latest contract offer and urged the school board to delay voting on a budget, which union members say doesn’t address a critical shortage of social workers, certified school nurses and school psychologists. Board members voted Wednesday to approve the $7.7 billion spending plan anyway, by a 6-0 margin.
CPS parents know this dance.
My kids are entering fifth and eighth grades at CPS. They’ve been there the whole way — since kindergarten for my daughter, preschool for my son. We’ve been through a strike in 2012. We’ve been through a “day of action” planned by teachers in 2016 and mandatory furlough days imposed by CPS that same year.
I have a wish list, in the event that teachers strike again this year. Here goes:
That CPS doesn’t assume parents’ loyalty. In 2016, when teachers planned to turn April 1 into a one-day strike (the aforementioned “day of action”), then-CEO Forrest Claypool and then-Chief Education Officer Janice K. Jackson (who is now CEO of CPS) sent out a letter to families that left a bitter taste in my mouth.
“While there are still unanswered questions about what this day will look like, we know that (Chicago Teachers Union) leadership has proposed an illegal one-day strike, asking teachers to leave their classrooms empty and take to the streets,” the letter said. “To explain this divisive action, CTU President Karen Lewis asked teachers and families to think of this one-day strike as ‘an extra holiday.’”
“Illegal,” “divisive,” “classrooms empty,” “take to the streets” — rhetoric intended to inflame an already combustible situation and pit students’ families against their children’s teachers.
Never mind that CPS mandated three teacher furlough days that same year to save $30 million, which also left classrooms empty and parents scrambling.
CPS educates more than 360,000 kids in 642 schools, and the families served and employed by the district come from every imaginable ethnic, cultural and socioeconomic background. Some parents will resent a teacher strike with every fiber of their being. Some parents will applaud it as necessary, if inconvenient labor unrest. Some parents will bring doughnuts to the picket lines. Some parents will be the very CPS teachers striking.
We can make up our own minds about a strike. CPS should focus its efforts on negotiating, not antagonizing.
That parents take the long view. It’s a gigantic pain to have your kids’ teachers on strike. You don’t know how to plan from one day to the next. You don’t have child care coverage because your children are supposed to be at school. You worry about the hit to your kids’ academic progress. You worry when the days will be made up. (Spring break? Summer break? What if we get a bunch of snow days too?) I get it. It stinks.
But it stinks for the teachers too. They don’t get paid while they’re striking. They also have to make up the missed days. Many of them also have children who attend CPS and now need to find arrangements for them or bring them to the picket lines.
It’s not a decision the teachers come to lightly. And it’s not all about their paychecks. It’s about classroom sizes. It’s about schools functioning without school nurses. It’s about social workers being forced to divide their time among multiple schools — racing from building to building, juggling crushing caseloads, not able to be on site when kids need them.
It is, in large part, about kids’ needs. It’s also an opportunity to talk to your kids about labor unions and the power of organizing, if you’re so inclined. Teach them about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire. Remind them why we have weekends and 40-hour workweeks. Help them see the big picture.
That camps are in planning mode. If I ran a field house or park district program or kids art studio or kids theater company or kids science laboratory or kids cooking school or kids film camp or anything that provides space and learning and fun for kids, I’d be brainstorming my programming options for late September. I’d be selling parents some punch cards and letting them fill them up as needed. And the days that go unpunched, I’d be letting parents save for winter break. Or spring break. Or summer break. Or whenever.
That employers are flexible. Let your people work remotely if possible, bosses. Let them bring their kids to work if feasible, bosses. Let them switch their days off and adjust their hours and do the things they’d rather not be doing but need, suddenly, to be doing, bosses. It won’t last long and it will foster goodwill among your employees that is likely to pay off in dividends.
It takes a village to educate our kids. That’s true all year round, and it’s especially true when schools close — for any number of reasons.
Maybe the two sides will come to an agreement and a strike won’t be necessary. That’s my ultimate wish. But if that one doesn’t come true, I’ll settle for these.
The Real Subtext of CPS's efforts to subvert CTU's contract proposals
a response to CPS's latest propaganda
Preparing your schools to be Strike-ready
I’ve been a strike captain and contract action team leader for 3 strikes (2 public school & 1 charter school). Since my most recent strike was the charter strike, I want to talk about why we were successful (I did these same actions preparing for the cps strike too). To note, hopefully public school teachers won’t have to strike, but we probably need a strike authorization vote.
In the charter school strikes, we won very successful strikes with smaller class sizes, large raises, amazing clinician ratios, special ed protections etc. Some charters, like my school, only struck 3 days too.
Here’s how we were successful:
1)We built strong CONTRACT ACTION TEAMS (CAT) that were diverse in race, experience, subjects taught, grade levels, skills, which cliques they connect with, etc.
2) We created personal EMAIL LISTERVS where we started emailing articles about other successful strikes, upcoming actions & had debates around the strike vote
3) We made PHONE TREES to contact members about coming to union mtgs, about important votes, & during the strike, we called every single person every night so we could answer questions & hear any wavering in their voices
4) We INCREASED TURNOUT TO UNION MTGS by using our phone trees & email listserv, ordering food or having potlucks, posting notices of the union mtgs with the agenda on the time clock, teacher lounge & bathroom stalls. We also asked ppl for input on the agenda first in email. We also held multiple mtgs in 1 week so everyone could make a mtg.
5) One of our first union mtgs, we had an ORGANIZING CONVERSATION WHERE THE STAFF CAME UP WITH THE ANSWERS. We started off by asking what are the problems, what do we want, who are the enemies and our allies. Then we asked the staff, how do we win these things. The staff came up with the answers on escalating actions, talking with parents, etc. We asked them, “Why do we wear red? How does it help us win our demands?” -unity, shows our strength to the boss, etc
6) We TRACKED 1 on 1 CONVERSATIONS with all our members on a google doc. Each CAT leader had about 5-10 members who they spoke with, gave updates, etc. They also met with them and asked them questions about what did they want on the contract, how they were feeling about a possible strike vote and eventually how they would vote in the strike. If they were on the fence, we had multiple ppl talk to them, that were close to them.
7) We showed POWERPOINTS during our union mtg that showed what we are fighting for, the current climate, what unions have won around the country & why we need to take a strike authorization vote. Right before striking, we made a different PowerPoint about why we need to strike. We held these UNION MEETINGS OVER MULTIPLE DAYS AND TIMES so everyone could make a mtg.
8 ) We made about 10 FLYERS FOR STAFF explaining our different contract demands & encouraging them to vote yes to the strike authorization vote.
9) We also made FLYERS in Spanish & English FOR PARENTS. The flyers included issues, demand and a call in number to the ceo. We flyered in the am and pm outside about 10x before striking. You could split up the flyering days/times by department or grade level
10) We held CALL IN DAYS and made memes of our CEOs. We also had Twitter storms or social media storms where people spoke about our contact demands and shared the call in memes
11) We made PETITIONS and shared the links on social media.
12) As a staff, we had large GROUPS ATTENDING BOARD OF EDUCATION mtg. Multiple parents, teachers & students from our schools spoke at these mtgs. When they refused to let us all in the board of Ed mtg, we ALL OCCUPIED THE LOBBY & HELD A COMMUNITY BOARD MTG IN THE LOBBY.
13) STUDENTS ALSO GOT INVOLVED. They organized themselves by occupying the cafeteria for hours and demanding to speak to the CEO. They started a social media student group to share info. They also came to the rallies
14) We held INFORMATIONAL PICKETING AND RALLIES outside our school
15) We reached out to our ALDERMAN and the nearby community organizations to write statements of support to send to our CEO and to call our CEO to accept our demands
16) We got buses to go to LARGE RALLIES with parents and the community
17) One day we REFUSED TO GO TO PD and instead our whole staff went to bargaining and asked questions. It made them very nervous
18) Some teachers held SPECIAL EDUCATION KNOW YOUR RIGHTS TRAINING for staff and parents. When parents knew their rights, they fought for their students with IEPs and support our special ed contract articles
19) We held a FORUM FOR PARENTS with teachers, students, the alderman, parents and community members speaking. People spoke about the reasons to teachers are striking & for everyone to support the strike. We live streamed the forum too.
20) Before the strike authorization vote, we held a ballot MOCK STRIKE VOTE to see what percent of staff would vote yes.
21) When we struck, we assigned ppl roles. We were also CREATIVE on the picket lines. People brought instruments, music, we did like dancing. Ppl brought food and coffee. We had ppl in charge of signing and chants. We had a sign in sheet. If ppl were late or didn’t come, we called them. We assigned ppl to speak to the media and made sure we were all on the SAME MESSAGE.
22) On strike, majority of the staff went to the AFTER PICKET LINES RALLIES OR ACTIONS. We knew that the more pressure we had on them, the shorter the strike would be.
23) During the strike, we did CALL IN days everyday to the CEO & others and asked each member to share call in memes with at least 20 family members and friend
24) Almost EVERY MEMBER WENT TO THE AFTERNOON ACTIONS & RALLIES. We told members that if they wanted a shorter strike, then we needed all members on board for attending the afternoon actions. The stronger our actions are, the more leverage we have at the bargaining table.
25) We held late afternoon mtgs with members, where we DEBATED THE OFFERS ON THE TABLE & whether we wanted to accept them
26) And most importantly, UNITED TOGETHER and fought the boss, not each other!
The first week of school, start organizing your contract actions teams, so we can show our power and unity to be strike ready and win a strong contract!
Sent from my iPhone
After Years of Struggle CTU, IEA, IFT and Raise Your Hand abolish the Charter Commission!
Great work Team! Restoring democracy in our schools throughout the state of Illinois.
Core members lead the charge for Sanctuary Schools and a strong contract
COREs own Gabriel Paez did a beautiful job connecting sanctuary to our contract in this WBEZ piece for those who haven't seen it listen here.
Linda Perlaes threw down last week at the indivisible rally at Lipinski's office and connected dots for everyone to overwhelming applause. The demands for a strong contract and sanctuary schools are deeply connected and linked to CORE and CTU's efforts to address social, economic and racial inquiry in our schools and the city.
Elect a Dynamic CORE Ticket for a Fighting Union!
President: Jesse Sharkey
Vice President: Stacy Davis Gates
Financial Secretary: Maria Moreno
Recording Secretary: Christel WilliamsRead more
CORE re-election FAQ
If you are a CORE Candidate for our 2019 slate, get your basic information here
The Common Core of Goodwill by Michelle Gunderson
CORE's Michelle Gunderson published this article in Living in Dialogue
The Triumvirate of Upheaval in Our Classrooms by Michelle Gunderson
By Michelle Strater Gunderson. Originally published in Living in Dialogue March 5, 2015
I recently had an epiphany while listening to Melissa Katz, a wonderful student activist from New Jersey, talk about corporate education reform on the radio. When speaking about the swift and drastic changes in education based on implementation of Common Core and aligned tests she used the word upheaval.
Upheaval. Think about it. Is this what you are experiencing in your school setting?
The roll out of Common Core standards, aligned tests such as PARCC and Smarter Balance, and new punitive evaluations has produced what I call the Triumvirate of Upheaval. The combination of all three has disrupted almost every school in our country.Read more
Chicago Elementary School Votes to Oppose PARCC Common Core Tests by Michelle Gunderson
By Michelle Strater Gunderson. Published on Living and Dialogue Site on Feb. 28, 2015
“What the best and wisest parent wants for his child, that must we want for all the children of the community. Anything less is unlovely, and left unchecked, destroys our democracy.” John Dewey
Last week the Local School Council at Nettelhorst Elementary School in Chicago voted unanimously to write a letter of opposition to the PARCC exam, and gave permission to the parent/teacher organization to distribute testing opt out information to all families.Read more
Chicago Teachers’ New Political Awakening by Michelle Gunderson
By Michelle Gunderson. First Published in Living in Dialogue August 4th, 2014
What would our city look like if it were run by Chicago teachers alongside other labor and community groups? This was the thought that kept running through my head as we gathered to support the launch of the new United Working Families political organization in Chicago.Read more