Kudos to the Chicago Tribune, which is doing some outstanding reporting on the teacher strike there. Today’s article includes some inside detail on why talks broke down Sunday: Socialist activists inside the union rejected the framework for a deal that Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis hammered out with the city late last week:
But as in many labor organizations, Lewis is faced with uniting a membership that spans the political spectrum. In CTU, that ranges from high-ranking officials who have written for socialist websites to more traditional members simply concerned with working conditions. Some of those more radical factions inside and outside her labor organization are now attacking her and others in union leadership.
Leaflets calling Lewis a “sellout” for concessions agreed to with CPS were distributed to union delegates at Sunday’s meeting. That phrase surfaced again among frustrated delegates as they left the meeting with few concrete details about the contract proposal and with serious concerns about what they were being asked to sign.
At the bargaining table, rank-and-file members of the union’s team often pushed back against Lewis and union Vice President Jesse Sharkey, seeking to fight the district harder on job security and raises.
And when presented with a framework Sunday, delegates said they did not feel comfortable ending a strike with an incomplete contract. They asked Lewis at the meeting why they were given a 27-page summary rather than the complete offer.
Members of socialist organizations, some of whom are union delegates, also took Lewis to task for failing to disclose more to delegates.
“This was done to allow the CTU (leadership) sufficient time to ‘package’ the sellout, and the membership insufficient time to consider it,” according to commentary that a socialist organization said it handed out to delegates at the meeting. (Emphasis added.)