“I will advocate for the kids when they have the money to bankroll my luxurious traveling and speaking schedule,” said Michelle Rhee at a recent meeting with her wealthy Wall Street investors.
Okay, admittedly that quote is made up and Rhee has never made that kind of statement (as far as I can tell). Unfortunately, she does not admit to using a quotation against teachers unions despite its fictional existence.
Rhee told to a group of people that former American Federation of Teachers President Al Shanker once said, “When children start paying teachers unions dues that’s when we will start protecting students.”
The new film “Won’t Back Down” uses the same quotation and paints a picture of corrupt teachers unions. One’s out for themselves and not caring about the students they educate day in and day out.
We went to the Library of Congress to search for the alleged quote in the Congressional Record since the free online database only goes back to 1989. Shanker is not on record as making the statement any time between 1979 and 1986. If the union boss uttered those words in 1985, or even a few years before then, as the Meridian Star suggested, it didn’t happen at a congressional hearing.
Shanker did mention something slightly related on Aug. 1, 1985. Here he is talking about trying to weigh in as a union representative on the need for education reforms:
“Typically the school board said this: ‘You’re a union. We’ll be happy to talk with you about the salaries and working conditions teachers want. But we will not talk to you about anything that’s good for children, because you weren’t elected to represent the children. Professional issues are not subject to negotiation.’ ”
Shanker was expressing frustration with the notion that teacher and student interests don’t go hand-in-hand. It’s quite possible that union critics twisted his words 180 degrees to claim that he doesn’t care about the needs of schoolchildren.
Guess what? Teachers unions typically do care about and represent the interests of the children they teach!
The Chicago Teachers Union is currently on strike against Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Public Schools’ Board of Education for reasons that pertain directly to the conditions in which they must teach and students must learn. They fight for a reinstatement of gym, art, and music classes. They want smaller class sizes so they can give more direct attention to students. They want heating and air conditioning in their classrooms so young kids are not passing out from 95 degrees or shivering because it is nearly freezing.
The local media might be focusing on the union’s desire to see laid off teachers brought back but they miss the point of the move. More teachers means more learning opportunities for the students. It means more options in school and more chances to engage. It means more mentors and positive role models while lessening the chances they will just be lost in the crowd.
But the bottom line here is for Rhee. The quotation is false. Stop using, apologize, get on with the facts. Or does that make it too hard for you to sell your corporate education reform agenda?
Let’s see. A person decides to dedicate their career to teaching at a livable but below par wage in an inner city school that is underfunded, overcrowded, and plagued by urban poverty and violence.
Another decides to spend their time in the limelight, make millions in the markets, and then become a leading politician in the same city.
Yet, it is the collective group of teachers who are selfish, greedy, and not thinking of the children they spend countless hours trying to educate despite near impossible circumstances?
One Day Longer. That’s what they say on the picket line when you ask when a strike will end. The dedication to the cause continues on until a just contract can finally settle a dispute between employer and workers. For nine years now, workers from Congress Hotel in Chicago have walked the picket line in a struggle for fair wages, benefits, and working conditions.
By now most of the workers have moved onto others jobs but remain invested in the fight. They spend an hour or two before and/or after work on the picket line and come home to their families. You may ask a common question, why?
“I hope it helps them,” said Imelda Martinez, a former Congress Hotel housekeeper. “We fight for our benefits, for fair pay, and justice.”
Martinez has struggled to balance family life, work at another hotel, and the strike. Her son served in the Army and did a tour in Iraq. She hopes the strike will end one day on a positive note.
Workers in other Chicagoland hotels know a fight is also coming their way. Just weeks after Unite HERE Local 1 and Congress Hotel celebrate a tenth anniversary, the union will be embroiled in contract negotiations with the other hotel chains. Mark your calendars now. August 31, 2013.
The fight pushes on not for a few dozen service workers at one hotel but for a city full of service workers. Workers that ensure a clean place to stay for the entire tourism industry that Chicago needs. A unionized workforce provides rules to keep employees safe as much as it provides guidelines on keeping rooms clean. Nonunion places overwork their employees and push housekeepers to clean a room in 15 minutes or less. Disgusting if you ask me.
Chicago housekeepers were making just $8.83 an hour when the strike began but now earn $15.70 an hour, according to Unite HERE.
“The sacrifice the strikers have made to go out on the line daily speaks to not only their dedication, but to the intense belief these individuals have for what they’re doing,” said Henry Tamarin, Unite HERE Local 1 President, in a statement. “The strikers know third dedication to the boycott will help working families now and in the future.”
In 2003, the Congress Hotel tried to freeze employee wages, eliminate healthcare benefits, and demanded the ability to outsource the work done by union employees. It was a power grab that the workers refused to allow as they walked out on June 15, 2003.
“[The hotel owner] doesn’t want to pay anything. We have to keep fighting. Every time it is the same thing but we want to get a contract. We’ve been fighting for eight years. We are not going to give up and say alright we lost,” declared Guadalupe Perez in an interview last fall.
Chicago-based rapper, Young General, performed his song dedicated to the efforts of the strikers. He teamed up with Columbia College students to produce the music video below:
The petition started by Chicago Public Schools’ teacher, Jennifer Johnson, is approaching 4,000 signatures. In an effort to continue pushing the narrative Johnson and a couple other teachers created a video reading from the petition.
You can tell a couple of them are reading from the script but the message is the same. Change.org is allowing a right-wing corporate funded group to use their platform. This isn’t progressive change at all.
More than 2,700 people, the overwhelming majority coming from Chicago, signed a petition demanding that Change.org stop supporting corporate education advocacy organizations. Well, Change.org decided to respond and it should not come as a surprise that the social justice oriented site cannot see its own wrongdoing.
A full response can be seen at the end of this post but I want to dissect some of the more egregious parts. Change.org’s Director of Communications, Benjamin Joffe-Walt, acknowledges, in a personal way, that Stand for Children opposes the Chicago Teachers Union’s strike authorization vote and links it to the disgusting tactic of crossing a picket line. So, we’ve set the stage here well. Union busting is truly disgusting. It’s is just one of the results corporate education organizations want to see. There’s more.
We’re an impact-maximizing company, not a profit-maximizing company. And we believe openness maximizes our mission. So our client policy allows sponsored petitions from any organization–even groups that our staff doesn’t agree with, and our campaigns staff would never work to support–so long as they don’t advance discrimination or private corporate benefit.
This is the first false claim in regards to allowing Stand for Children (along with Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst organization) to buy progressives emails under false and misleading petitions. The corporate education agenda is one dedicated to private corporate benefit. We will get back to this.
Outside groups, such as Stand for Children, Education Reform Now and New Schools for Chicago, are placing a big bet on the impending contract negotiations between Chicago Public Schools Board of Education and the Chicago Teachers Union. All three organizations serve as advocacy groups that tend to push for charter schools, merit pay, and stronger testing.
With such innocent sounding names, who can be against them? They want new schools, are looking out for the kids and reform always sounds like a positive thing. But that’s not what why they are beginning to push their influence in Chicago. Both New Schools and Stand for Children held ceremonies for parents that participated in their training program. More than 130 parents are now in the communities advocating for these two organizations. Stand for Children held their sessions at two charter schools run by Academy for Urban School Leadership. CPS Board Chair David Vitale is the former leader of AUSL. The current COO of CPS, Tim Cawley also worked for AUSL prior to joining CPS.
These organizations claim to hold an attitude of students first but the board members public actions deem otherwise. CEO of Exelon Corporation, John Rowe serves as Chairman of New Schools for Chicago. As the CEO of the energy company, Rowe has advocated for lower and lower tax rates despite record profits. The decreased tax revenue has hurt public schools and underfunded other public run programs. Rowe is not alone on the board either.
These are corporate CEO’s, money managers, and venture capitalists. Are we really supposed to believe they have the best interests of community children at heart when they have done little to nothing to prove it when they run billion dollar corporations?
Education Reform Now sent Chicago parents a robo-call to denounce the strike authorization vote taken by the teachers union.
In the “robo-call,” a woman identifying herself as a Local School Council member says that, “Teachers deserve a raise. But it bothers me that the union is taking a strike vote before an independent arbitrator offers a compromise.”
Matthew Blake of Progress Illinois writes more:
CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll says that the district has not coordinated with any outside group in getting their message out to parents.
While that might be the case, the message from CPS and Education Reform Now is identical on the strike authorization vote, they argue that CTU violated the spirit of last year’s landmark state education law by holding the strike authorization while an independent fact finder reviews both sides’ proposals.
In a letter to CPS parents (PDF) dated June 6, CPS Chief Executive Officer Jean-Claude Brizard writes that the two sides “are in the middle of a contract negotiation process that was established in the recent Illinois Education Reform Legislation and designed specifically to foster negotiation and avoid a strike.”
“Teachers must be allowed to see the final independent compromise proposal before making the decision to authorize a strike,” Brizard added.
An identical message sent only to CPS parents? PURE Parents wonders if CPS shared the phone numbers with the corporate education advocacy organization. It would not be unthinkable as CPS provided grant money to a Pastor that then ended up paying people to appear as protesters in favor of CPS’ agenda.
The connections are there but just a bit off to make a direct accusation. It won’t just be the weather that heats up this summer. Look for more to unfold.
Change.org, a petition based social advocacy site, promotes organizations focused on corporate education at the expense of progressive values. The company recently ran a petition by Stand for Children – Illinois, an innocuous and misleading name, demanding the Chicago Board of Education and teacher’s union go back to the bargaining table. Harmless enough but the text of the petition reveals the organization’s for-profit and anti-teacher agenda, forcing a Chicago teacher to create a petition against Change.org on Moveon’s Signon petition site.
The letter sent to the board of education and the Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis reads:
400,000 Chicago students could be locked out of Chicago classrooms because contract negotiations are starting to break down, causing a premature strike-authorization vote to occur before anyone knows what is in the contract proposal. We strongly call for all parties to bargain in good faith to reach a new agreement. Don’t hold our students hostage in a negotiation where they have no voice!
These words are the same talking points used by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, calling the vote premature and saying the students are being held hostage. Advocates of so-called “education reform” like to claim neither side looks out for the students’ interests. Meanwhile, CTU’s demands include lowering the student to teacher ratio, programs to educate the whole child, and improving the conditions of schools.
Change.org’s promotion of Stand for Children-Illinois runs counter to the company’s state mission.
We accept sponsored campaigns from organizations fighting for the public good and the common values we hold dear – fairness, equality, and justice. We do not accept sponsored campaigns from organizations that consistently violate these values, support discriminatory policies, or seek private corporate benefit that undermines the common good.
Chicago Public Schools teacher, Jennifer Johnson decided to demand Change.org’s founder and CEO, Ben Rattray, stop promoting anti-labor groups.
I’m a public school teacher who has taught high school History for 9 years in Chicago. I am one of many teachers who are tired of being blamed for everything that is wrong with public schools when our system is underfunded and our efforts under supported. I and other teachers have been trying to honestly negotiate with the school district, but they refuse to negotiate over the actual conditions in our schools. The district refuses to negotiate with teachers to fully provide and staff schools so that students receive basic art and music instruction or a reasonable number school nurses and counselors, playground and libraries. Forty percent of our schools do not have full time art and music programs. Ninety-eight of our schools don’t have playgrounds and 160 schools don’t have libraries at all.
The state of public schools in Chicago is not a result of teachers getting rich. Who goes into teaching expecting to retire a millionaire? The lack of music and art programs comes from state and city budget cuts. The City of Chicago has diverted hundreds of millions of dollars from property taxes into a corporate slush fund for the Mayor. Tax Incremental Financing districts (TIFs) were supposed to help blighted areas but now serve to give millions to profitable companies. But it is the teachers union who is somehow at fault?
Sponsored campaigns (read paid campaigns) provide a great way for organizations to grow and spread their message. Sadly, Stand for Children does not uphold to common values stated by Change.org. Fairness, equality, and justice do not exist in the organization run by Jonah Edelman, who gave a very blunt speech last year.
So our analysis was he’s still going to be in power, and as such the raw politics were that we should tilt toward him, and so we interviewed 36 candidates in targeted races. … I’m being quite blunt here. The individual candidates were essentially a vehicle to execute a political objective, which was to tilt toward Madigan. The press never picked up on it. We endorsed nine individuals – and six of them were Democrats, three Republicans – and tilted our money toward Madigan, who was expecting because of Bruce Rauner’s leadership … that all our money was going to go to Republicans. That was really an show of – indication to him that we could be a new partner to take the place of the Illinois Federation of Teachers. That was the point. Luckily, it never got covered that way. That wouldn’t have worked well in Illinois – Madigan is not particularly well liked. And it did work.
After the election we went back to Madigan, and I confirmed – reviewed the proposal that we had already discussed and I confirmed the support. He said he was supportive. The next day he created an Education Reform Commission and his political director called to ask for our suggestions who should be on it. And so in Aurora, Ill., in December, out of nowhere, there were hearings on our proposal. In addition, we hired 11 lobbyists, including four of the absolute best insiders, and seven of the best minority lobbyists – preventing the unions from hiring them. We enlisted a state public affairs firm. We had tens of thousands of supporters. … We raised $3 million for our political action committee. That’s more money than either of the unions have in their political action committees.
Edelman readily admits to buying off legislators in order to get a venture capitalist’s (Bruce Rauner) ideas enacted in Illinois. Edelman continues:
So in the intervening time, Rahm Emanuel was elected mayor … and he strongly supports our proposal. Jim [apparently Crown] … talked about the talking point that we made up and he [Emanuel] repeated about a thousand times, probably, on the campaign trail about the Houston kids going to school four years more than the Chicago kids.
Dividing schools and taking away the rights of teachers only disenfranchises students. It takes away the person they interact with the most outside of their own parents! The steady increase in charter schools (who can pick their students) has further depleted resources in deteriorating public school buildings. Politicians want to listen to campaign contributors and lobbyists, instead of investing and trying to improve upon what is already in existence.
Change.org says they do not take any official position and only asks that the organizations are ethical in their practices and policies. Edelman’s blunt admissions show that Stand for Children is anything but ethical.
Stand and other organizations want to promote an education agenda that follows the same ideals of Michelle Rhee and her tenure in D.C. Her success though, falls short of her claims. The achievement gaps she left in D.C. point to failures of her leadership and ideology, not successful reforms.
For Change.org to promote and accept money from organizations like Stand for Children and StudentsFirst flies in the face of it’s own mission statement. The mere presence of these petitions deceives progressives and should be taken down. Sign the petition to stop these kinds of petitions! Yes, a little meta but it does make a difference.
*Full disclosure – I write as a freelancer for Care2.com’s Causes & News site. I have petitioned for the company to drop StudentsFirst and engaged internally my frustrations with their promotion of Rhee’s organization as well.
Chairman Terrence Duffy lied to shareholders during the Chicago Mercantile Exchange’s annual shareholders meeting, held downtown on May 23. Protesters holding proxy shares attempted to probe Duffy with questions pertaining to CME’s lobbying for state tax breaks and their massive profits. Duffy rebuffed the questions as out of order because they did not address items on the agenda while telling them they could be asked during the open question and answer session at the end of the meeting.
Roughly 50 protesters scattered themselves around the room prior to the meeting but stood in solidarity with each other as proxy after proxy attempted to question CME’s profitable lobbying for a state tax break last fall. The company threatened to leave the state after more than 100 years of operation if it did not get its way. Duffy tried to hedge against the protesters’ concerns at the beginning of the meeting in his opening remarks.
“We are a global company, and we asked to be taxed like every other major company based in Illinois, many of which are much larger than CME Group,” said Duffy. “The Illinois Legislature recognized and corrected the unfair treatment by giving us an apportionment that is equitable and puts us closer to other Illinois companies.”
The supposed correction in the unfair treatment will deprive the state of nearly $1 billion over the next decade. The impact of this correction is severe as Stand Up! Chicago’s Elizabeth Parisan noted in the Huffington Post:
© Aaron Krager 2008-2013 | Have any questions? Send me an email.