Chicago Teachers Union Threatens Strike One Month After Sending #RedforEd Delegation to Venezuela

Thousands of Arizona teachers march through downtown Phoenix on their way to the State Capitol as part of a rally for the #REDforED movement on April 26, 2018 in Phoenix, Arizona. Teachers state-wide staged a walkout strike on Thursday in support of better wages and state funding for public schools. …
Ralph Freso/Getty Images

The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) is threatening to strike, one month after it sent a #RedforEd delegation to Venezuela in support of socialist dictator Nicolas Maduro.

Breitbart News reported on the CTU delegation’s trip to Venezuela last month:

A four member delegation from the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), all active supporters of the #RedforEd movement, traveled to Venezuela earlier this month to provide support for the socialist regime of Nicolas Maduro.

The delegation consisted of Richard Berg,  a former Teamsters Union official who currently works for the CTU, and “rank and file” CTU strike captains Sarah Chambers, Fabiana Mariel, and V Voeta Vargas, according to press reports.

A running clock on the CTU website now says “CPS educators start working without a contract” in less than seven days.

Last month, CTU President Jesse Sharkey, who is described by Chicago City Wire as a “card carrying socialist,” threatened a strike if the union’s contract demands are not met by new Mayor Lori Lightfoot, according to WTTW:

“Candidate Lightfoot has vowed there will be no teachers strike on her watch,” he wrote in an emailed update about the union’s ongoing bargaining efforts. “Mayor Lightfoot has a month to make good on that and her campaign promises.” . . .

The union’s contract expired at the end of June and a clock on the CTU’s website notes each passing second they’ve gone without a new deal.

CTU leaders say they’ve been negotiating with the city for more than six months, dating back to the final weeks of former Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s term. They’ve been fervent in calling for better wages for educators and support staff, and adequate staffing of school nurses, and say Lightfoot should live up to her end of the bargain.

On Tuesday, WTTW reported that it “has obtained a copy of independent arbitrator Steven Bierig’s preliminary report, which has been submitted both to the board and the CTU, but won’t be made public until the end of the month.”

The union’s previous contract with the board expired at the end of June. The two sides have continued bargaining throughout this year – even as the city elected a new mayor – but have not yet reached an agreement. CTU President Jesse Sharkey has said a teachers strike is possible if negotiations sour, while Mayor Lori Lightfoot believes a deal will be struck before Sept. 3: the start of the 2019-20 school year.

In his 110-page report, Bierig leaned more toward the board’s proposal, recommending a five-year contract that would include a 16% cost of living adjustment (COLA) for teachers and a 1% increase in employee health care contributions over the life of the deal.

“I think what it shows is that the city has stepped up and made real commitments to teachers and support staff to make sure we are enhancing the educational experience for our young people.” Lightfoot said of the report during a press conference Friday.

The union also felt Bierig’s report favored Lightfoot’s proposal, stating in an internal memo, “It is clear, however, that the Fact-Finder’s recommendation is incomplete and insufficient, and will leave students and educators with more of the same. As ever, it is further clear to us that we will only win such a contract if we are willing to fight for it.”

Not all CTU members are happy with Sharkey’s leadership.

 The “recent pilgrimage to socialist Venezuela by a contingent of Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) extremists has some of the rank-and-file union members who stayed behind calling for the ouster of CTU President Jesse Sharkey,” Chicago City Wire reported:

A source within the CTU told Chicago City Wire that the trip “to learn what they could from Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution” and find out the truth behind the “imperialist policies of the USA” was not approved by rank-and-file members of the union. Yet, it’s coming across on social media and Venezuelan state TV as a union sanctioned trip.

“Sharkey claims the teachers went ‘on vacation as individuals,’” the source wrote in an email. “This is patently untrue, as they raised money in our union’s name, blogged in our name, met with Maduro’s government [Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro] in CTU’s name, and spoke with media in our name.”

“They are Maduro’s useful idiots,” the source added. “Many members are talking of either leaving the union or recalling Jesse Sharkey. This amidst contract negotiations. They have no one but themselves to blame.”

As Breitbart News reported in February, #RedforEd is “a teachers union effort… [whose] stated goals–higher teacher pay and better education conditions–are overshadowed by a more malevolent political agenda: a leftist Democrat uprising designed to flip purple or red states to blue, using the might of a significant part of the education system as its lever.”

As the ongoing negotiations between the city and CTU members over a new contract continue, students attending the Chicago Public School system consistently perform well below national averages on standardized tests of basic reading, writing, and math skills.

“With over 370,000 enrolled students, Chicago is the third-largest school district in the US. Its students’ test scores in grades three through eight are generally one-half to one-and-a-half grade levels below the national average,” a study conducted by the Stanford University Center for Education Policy Analysis, published in 2017, concluded.

“Chicago students fared slightly worse on this year’s PARCC standardized exam than in 2017, even as scores statewide remained flat,” Chalkbeat reported last year:

Across the state, nearly 37 percent of students in grades 3 through 8 scored proficient or higher in reading. In Chicago, that figure was nearly 10 percentage points lower: 27.4 percent. Last year, that figure was 28.5 percent.

And in math, 22.4 percent of Chicago students scored proficient or better, compared with 31.5 percent of students statewide. Last year, 23.7 percent of Chicago students met the state’s standards.

“The state [of Illinois] uses PARCC scores when it grades schools. On this year’s ratings, also released Tuesday, nearly half of Chicago schools received the two lowest grades, compared with 20 percent of schools statewide,” Chalkbeat noted.

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