By DAVID BERNT
CHICAGO-In a major victory for area teachers, a reform slate won a recent election for the Chicago Teachers Union. The reform slate, Pro-Active Chicago Teachers and School Employees (PACT), won all officer positions and 39 of 47 executive board seats that represent the 33,000-member union.
PACT ran on a platform calling for more union democracy, defending the rights of teachers, increases in salary, benefits, and working conditions, and a promise to “wage a real fight against [management’s] anti-teacher policies.”
Teachers in Chicago have been polarized by attacks on their rights by the Chicago Board of Education. The board, led by Chicago Public School CEO Paul Vallas, has consistently blamed teachers’ performance for the lackluster state of public schools in Chicago. PACT, on the other hand, cites lack of funding for inner city schools, overcrowded classrooms, and low wages and poor working conditions for teachers as the reasons public schools fail to adequately serve area children.
Part of the board’s “reform” plan includes the ability to fire teachers en masse at high schools not performing up to standards and privatization of school services, among other anti-teacher “reforms.” PACT focused their campaign on the current union leadership’s collaboration with the board.
President-elect Deborah Lynch-Walsh attacked seven-year incumbent President Thomas Reece for “acting more like an agent of management than a guardian of teachers.” Reece had often boasted about his good relationship with management. School chief Vallas had all but endorsed Reece during the election campaign. The board tried to help Reece’s campaign by voting for a one-time 1 percent lump payment for teachers only weeks before voting began.
Despite this attempted bribery, Lynch-Walsh won handily, winning 57 percent of the presidential vote.