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CTU Organizing: Press conference on ERSB fight and end to toxic swaps deals

by Norine Gutekanst - CTU Organizing Coordinator  |  December 19, 2014

Amisha Patel, Grassroots Collaborative, anchored and emceed the press conference, which featured speakers Jose Olivares, Erana Jackson (Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization) and Marc Kaplan (North Side Action for Justice), who all connected the needs of their school communities to the need for an elected, representative school board, and for the need for this appointed school board to end the toxic swap deals to fund critical education programs.  Matthew Luskin from CTU delivered a brief speech as well, targeting the Board for protecting the banks, not kids. 

Following the press conference, a delegation of leaders from Pilsen Alliance, Communities United, North Side Action for Justice and the Chicago Teachers Union visited the high-rise offices of Loop Capital, where they attempted to deliver a holiday stocking with a lump of coal inside for CEO Jim Reynolds, a key supporter of Mayor Rahm Emanuel (VIDEO). The community leaders were delivering this coal to ask Mr. Reynolds to immediately agree to renegotiate Loop Capital’s toxic swap arrangements, which contribute to the loss of $36 million per year from CPS’ budget. The leaders asked him to do this so that Chicago’s students have fully functioning libraries, smaller class sizes, social supports such as nurses, counselors and social workers, art and music classes in every school, and strong after-school programming. However, instead of meeting with the leaders, Loop Capital representatives refused to accept the holiday stocking, called security and threatened to have the delegation removed by the police.

ILLUSTRATION: Coal for Loop Capital CEO Jim Reynolds

REMINDER: Notice of Delegates Elections

by ctu communications  |  December 18, 2014

Citywide/PSRP/Clincian Delegates

Citywide Delegate ballots will be mailed to members' homes on Friday, December 19, 2014. Returning ballots must be postmarked by Tuesday, January 13, 2015 or dropped off in person to the CTU office by 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, January 22, 2015.  Citywide ballots will be counted at the CTU office on Saturday, January 24, 2015.

Citywide Delegate candidates wishing to mail campaign literature to citywide members may provide stamped and stuffed literature to CTU no later than Friday, December 19, 2014 at 5:00 p.m. in order for it to be labeled, processed and mailed to members.

Retiree Delegates

Retiree Delegates ballots were mailed on Tuesday, December 16, 2014 to members' home addresses.  Completed ballots must be returned to CTU with a postmark date no later than Tuesday, January 13, 2015 or dropped off in person to the CTU office by 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, January 22, 2015. Retiree Delegate ballots will be counted at the CTU offices on Saturday, January 24, 2015.

Retiree Delegate candidates wishing to mail campaign literature to retiree members may provide stamped and stuffed literature to CTU no later than Friday, December 19, 2014 in order for it to be labeled, processed and mailed to members.

Sun-Times: Protesters want elected Chicago Public Schools board

by Mitch Dudek - Chicago Sun-Times  |  December 17, 2014

Protesters gathered outside Chicago Public Schools new Loop headquarters Wednesday to demand an elected school board.

The group — a coalition of neighborhood groups and members of the Chicago Teachers Union — boasted it had collected enough signatures in 37 wards to pose a non-binding question to Chicagoans on their February ballots: Do you want an elected school board?

"It's a fight for democracy that we'll continue to wage!" said Amisha Patel, executive director of Grassroots Collaborative.

The protesters gathered outside of Chicago Public Schools new headquarters at 42 W. Madison before the planned meeting of the school board.

The group of about 12 also placed lumps of coal in Christmas stockings and hand-delivered them to the School board President David Vitale and a private banking executive to show displeasure with a series of city financial deals known as "swaps" that they said resulted in the loss of millions in CPS funds in the years following the financial crisis.

They called for CPS officials to renegotiate or take legal actions to try to recoup those lost funds.

"We demand the board of education do everything that they can to fight back to get this money that is rightly ours, that belongs in the schools, that belongs in the classrooms," Patel said. 

CTU, Coalition to Hold Board of Ed Press Conference to Continue Demand for ERSB, Reversal of Crippling Swap Agreements

by ctu communications  |  December 17, 2014

CHICAGO—The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) and a coalition of grassroots community organizations will hold a press conference today, Dec. 17, at 9:30 a.m. to demand that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s handpicked Chicago Board of Education challenge the financial improprieties embedded in its swap agreements with big banks, and reclaim more than $1.2 billion from dishonest banks for the city and Chicago’s public schools. The coalition will also be delivering lumps of coal to Board president David Vitale and venture capitalist Jim Reynolds, chairman and chief executive officer of Loop Capital, for their naughty financial dealings over the years.

The coalition will also continue to call for an elected, representative school board (ERSB), a referendum for which will appear on the ballot in 38 wards in the February 24, 2015 Municipal General Election. The presence of the referendum on the ballot is the result of a successful campaign by the CTU, Grassroots Education Movement, United Working Families, Grassroots Illinois Action, SEIU HCII and scores of volunteers throughout the city of Chicago.

“As the mayor and the Board tout their so-called achievements of the past four years, the fact that both our members and the public are rallying around the district’s financial incompetence and lack of parent and community voices at its highest level shows just how much their words are lacking in substance,” said CTU Vice President Sharkey. “We’re speaking out because as parents, teachers and those who are truly invested in public education, we’re committed to the city our students deserve.”

WHO: Chicago Teachers Union officers, staff and a coalition of grassroots community organizations including Grassroots Collaborative, Communities United, North Side Action for Justice and the Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization.

WHAT: Press conference calling for the city and the Chicago Board of Education to fight to reclaim the more than $1.2 million lost to financial improprieties embedded in swap agreements with big banks, and continuing overwhelming community support for an elected, representative school board.

WHEN: Wednesday, December 17, 2014 9:30 a.m.

WHERE: Chicago Board of Education 42 W. Madison St., Chicago, IL 60602

CTU and Four Other Unions Sue to Overturn Mayor Emanuel’s Pension Theft

by ctu communications  |  December 16, 2014

NEWS

Dec. 16, 2014

Contact: Anders Lindall (AFSCME) at 312-641-6060, Stephanie Gadlin (CTU) at 312-329-6250, Chris Martin (INA) at 630-670-2745 or Annie Sanchez (Teamsters) at 847-939-9707

Chicago employees, retirees, four unions file suit to overturn city’s pension-cutting law

A group of active and retired Chicago city employees and four unions that represent them—AFSCME Council 31, the Chicago Teachers Union, the Illinois Nurses Associations and Teamsters Local 700—filed suit today in Cook County Circuit Court to overturn Senate Bill 1922 (Public Act 98-0641), legislation to sharply reduce pension benefits for city workers and retirees who participate in the Municipal Employees Annuity and Benefit Fund (MEABF).

The lawsuit notes that active and retired city employees earned their promised pension in retirement and always paid their share into the pension fund. Meanwhile, politicians failed to make adequate payments, and now seek to force workers and retirees alone to bear the burden of pension-cutting legislation that violates the Illinois Constitution.

The constitutional pension protection clause is “a straightforward promise that the pension benefits a public employee receives … cannot be diminished or impaired,” the suit states. This is “an ethical and moral promise to provide a certain level of retirement security for the women and men who chose public service. For many of these individuals, their pensions comprise their life savings and are all that that stands between them and poverty.”

In fact, the average yearly pension of a city retiree in the municipal fund today is just $34,000—and city workers are not eligible for Social Security.

In addition to the four unions, the suit is brought by 12 individual plaintiffs who work in or are retired from city libraries, schools, and the health, aviation, transportation and streets and sanitation departments.

These and all other city employees and retirees “have upheld their end of that constitutionally-protected bargain,” the suit continues:

“Those who currently are in the employ of the City of Chicago or the Chicago Board of Education teach our children, serve in libraries, make Chicago airports safe, fix our roads, collect our garbage, care for the ill, and perform myriad other essential services for the City of Chicago and its citizens. Those who already have retired similarly dedicated their careers to the men, women and children of the City of Chicago. Each faithfully has contributed to the MEABF the substantial portion of their paychecks the Illinois Pension Code requires.

“In stark contrast, for years the City of Chicago contributed … systematically less than actuarial reports provided by the MEABF indicated were needed to meet future pension benefit obligations. The pension funds were treated, essentially, as a piggy bank used to finance other things. But rather than take responsibility for this deliberate underfunding, the elected officials responsible for passage of Public Act 98-0641 would place squarely the purported remedy for this problem on the backs of the individual Plaintiffs and the other members of the MEABF.

“Specifically, for those members of the MEABF who already have retired, Public Act 98-0641 unlawfully reduces the amount of the automatic annuity increases to which they otherwise are entitled …. [For current employees, it] requires them to contribute more of their salaries toward their pensions only to suffer when they retire the injustice of the same reduced automatic annuity increases that current retirees will suffer immediately.

“Those are the very diminishments and impairments of pension benefits that the Pension Protection Clause forbids.

Because plaintiffs face irreparable harm if the pension-slashing law is implemented that could not be remedied by later monetary damages—for example, one plaintiff would be forced to delay needed surgery she could not afford if her benefit is reduced—we will seek an injunction to prevent the legislation from taking effect on January 1, 2015 as scheduled.

“I applaud this important lawsuit to defend hard-working public servants against the attacks on our retirement security,” said Gloria Prince, an Audiometric Vision Screening Technician paraprofessional who works in schools throughout the city, and a member of the CTU. “We should not be punished for the failure of politicians to fully fund retirement security for countless workers, like myself, who have dedicated a lifetime of service to children and the public.”

“The constitution says clearly that pension benefits cannot be diminished or impaired, but that's exactly what this legislation does to the modest pensions earned by city workers and retirees,” AFSCME Council 31 executive director Roberta Lynch said. “For workers and retirees who earned and paid into a modest pension of just $34,000 on average, and who aren’t eligible for Social Security, these cuts are unaffordable as well as unconstitutional.”

“The men and women who plow the streets and the runways, clear away our garbage and manage water distribution for the entire city are among the very workers who will suffer under the city's unconstitutional bill,” Teamsters Local 700 President Becky Strzechowski said. “The city is trying to balance its budget on the backs of the hard-working men and women who keep this city running, and we will not stand for it.”

“The public depends on nurses when a public health crisis strikes,” said Alice Johnson, executive director of the Illinois Nurses Association. “Nurses and other public employees who provide vital public services depend in turn on the retirement promise made to them when they chose a career of public service. Going back on that promise is unacceptable.”

The MEABF and its board are named defendants in the suit. The plaintiffs are represented by the law firm of Freeborn & Peters.

Click here to view or download the complaint.

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Positions Available for Members in CPS

by CTU Communications  |  December 16, 2014

Now Hiring SignDownload the list for PSRPS.

Download the list for Teachers.

Today’s Paychecks Reduced By One Day’s Pay

by CTU Communications  |  December 12, 2014

Unpaid Days Off

Wednesday, November 26 was an unpaid day off work. Thursday and Friday, November 27–28, were paid holidays. This will be reflected on the paycheck issued December 12, 2014. That check will reflect 9 days worked instead of the usual 10 days. CTU members, bear in mind that your net pay on that check will be less than 90% of your normal net pay because most of your biweekly deductions will not be reduced proportionately.

A good way to get a ballpark estimate of the net amount disbursed for a nine-day paycheck would be to divide your gross pay by ten and subtract that amount from your net pay. Your result will be a safe estimate of net pay. While your final net pay may not be quite this low, it is better to be surprised pleasantly than unpleasantly.

It is also important now to prepare for late January. The January 23, 2015, paycheck is the one in which CTU members will be paid for only their five vacation days. Also note that members who began working for CPS this school year will not have enough vacation days accumulated to cover all five days of the winter break. Their January 23 paycheck will be even shorter, since new employees earn vacation pay on a prorated basis, per Article 43-1.3(a).

Your Deferred Savings

If you followed our advice at the beginning of this school year and began saving 23% of your net pay each pay period then you will have enough saved by now to cover the shortfall both this week and in January. You will also have enough saved by the time of your final paycheck for the 2014–15 school year (which you will receive on July 10, 2015 and which will likely reflect only four work days) to maintain the same net spending until your first full paycheck of the 2015–16 school year (which will likely be on October 2, 2015 after an initial check of less than ten days’ pay).

If you have not yet begun to save for the summer it is not too late to start, but you will need to save a higher proportion of your net pay to cover the gap. We calculate that—to be on the safe side—you will need to put aside 28% of your normal net pay (as calculated on your Nov. 14 or Nov. 28 paycheck) during each pay period to catch up. If you start now and save the same amount each paycheck (minus withdrawals to equalize your spending money in mid-December and late January) you will be in good financial shape all summer long until you begin receiving full paychecks again in October.

The easiest way to accomplish this is to simply set up a separate account with your current bank and schedule an automatic money transfer from the account into which CPS deposits your paycheck to the new one. These automatic transfers should occur every two weeks with your first transfer on Saturday, November 29, 2014, and your final transfer for this school year on Saturday, June 27, 2015.

CTU Lauds Student, Parent and Teacher Contributions to Increased Graduation Rates

by ctu communications  |  December 10, 2014

CHICAGO—The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) would like to recognize the thousands of teachers and education support staff throughout the district, as well as Chicago’s public school students and their families, for their dedication and efforts in substantially increasing the number of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) graduates earning four-year undergraduate degrees since 2006, according to data from the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research (CCSR). The CCSR estimates in its new report, “The Educational Attainment of Chicago Public Schools Students: A Focus on Four-Year College Degrees,” that out of 100 CPS ninth-graders, 14 will earn a four-year college degree within 10 years of starting high school.

Much of that change, the report notes, is attributed to an increase in CPS graduation rates, which have steadily rose despite the chaos caused by failed top-down policies such as charter expansion, the irrational expansion of selective enrollment, leadership turnover, constantly changing mandates and tests, and the annual threat of school turnaround and closure. These policies have ramped up under the administration of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, whose education agenda has been a threat to the progress that students, teachers and school communities have been making for nearly a decade.

In 2007, backed by research from the CCSR, Chicago public schools began to make a concerted effort to focus on the transition of students from elementary school to high school through their ninth-grade year, as research showed that ninth-grade credits and course failures had much to do with high school graduation. With a focus on individual students identified through grades and attendance, schools were highly attentive to what at-risk students were doing day-to-day in schools and in the classroom. Subsequently, ninth-grade teachers shared with each other information on grades and attendance to help get students at risk of failure back on track.

In 2009, CPS began to issue monthly data reports to help track at-risk students, but what mattered for student success were nothing that standardized tests or Performance Policy measures could indicate, but a push for solid classroom work, good attendance, career and college counseling and preparation, and the support of their families, teachers and education support staff.

“The percent of freshman on-track has been increasing steadily since 2007—long before the current administration—which has led to improved graduation rates in the last several years,” said CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey. “We still have a long journey ahead of us to get a higher percentage of CPS graduates through college, but if there’s credit to be given to anyone, it should be given to our students’ parents and their families, and the teachers and staff who devote a tremendous amount of time to working with them.”

Illinois Federation of Teachers Mourns Loss of Judy Baar Topinka

by Dan Montgomery - Illinois Federation of Teachers  |  December 10, 2014

Statement from IFT President Dan Montgomery:

“Judy Baar Topinka was one in a million. She was an undeterred pioneer, a friend to working families, and an advocate for all Illinoisans. Judy believed and showed that doing what’s right has no political party. She was guided instead by her principles and when she came before our Executive Board earlier this year, we laughed together as Judy told stories in her own candid, inimitable way. She loved serving the public and did so with honor, grit, and integrity. We join so many others this morning in shock and grief, and extend our sincere condolences to her family, friends, and colleagues. Judy will be deeply missed."

The Illinois Federation of Teachers represents 103,000 teachers and paraprofessionals in PreK-12 school districts throughout Illinois, faculty and staff at Illinois’ community colleges and universities, public employees under every statewide elected constitutional officer, and retirees. 

http://www.ift-aft.org/news/2014/12/10/illinois-loses-a-political-pioneer-and-public-servant

Union coalition: Follow the rules, preserve fair court process

by dan montgomery - illinois federation of teachers  |  December 09, 2014

In response to a motion by the state seeking to short-circuit the Illinois Supreme Court’s normal procedure and replace it with an unfairly rushed schedule in the appeal of a ruling that struck down Senate Bill 1—pension-cutting legislation affecting active and retired teachers, state employees and university employees—the We Are One Illinois union coalition and the other plaintiff groups have requested that the Court follow its established rules to ensure a fair process with ample time for all parties.ILLUSTRATION: We Are One Chicago

Attorney General Lisa Madigan has requested a significantly truncated schedule for her appeal of a Sangamon County Circuit Court ruling that overturned SB 1.

Saying that a rushed process is unnecessary and could be unfair, our union coalition and other plaintiffs have asked the Supreme Court to adhere to its normal schedule for hearing appeals, allowing all parties adequate time to respond.

While the state claims to want a decision before the end of May for budget-making purposes, our filing points out that the state’s own appeal seeks only to return the case to the circuit court, where a decision would certainly not come before the supposed May deadline. In short, the state’s argument is based on trying to create “a false sense of urgency.”

Further, our reply notes, “The defendants made no effort to consult with the plaintiffs on any agreed briefing schedule prior to filing their motion. The reason is obvious. The defendants seek to impose a manifestly unfair briefing schedule on the plaintiffs” by severely reducing our time available to prepare required responses.

“As we have always said, our unions remain ready to work with anyone of good faith to develop fair and constitutional solutions to fund the retirement systems for teachers, police, nurses, child protection workers and other public employees,” the We Are One Illinois coalition said. “Similarly, we want a fair process for hearing this critically important appeal and have urged the Supreme Court to ensure it.”

The coalition's filing will be posted to our website when available.

The Illinois Federation of Teachers is a leading partner of the We Are One Illinois coalition.

Chicago Teachers Union