Teachers union president says Mayor Emanuel ‘exploded’ at her
The president of the Chicago Teachers Union says Mayor Rahm Emanuel “exploded” at her during a debate over a longer school day, pointing his finger in her face, yelling and cursing.
CTU President Karen Lewis made the allegations in a Friday morning press release detailing a complaint filed by the union to the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board over the ongoing battle between the union and City Hall.
“A couple of weeks ago I sat down with the mayor in his office to talk about how to roll out a longer school year and what components would go into making it a better school year for our students but he did not want to have that conversation,” said Lewis. “When I explained to him that a longer school day should not be used for warehousing or babysitting our youth he exploded, used profanity, pointed his finger in my face and yelled. At that point the conversation was over — soon thereafter we found ourselves subject to a full-scale propaganda war over a moot point.”
Asked for his version of the incident at an event Friday with U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Emanuel said “I’m not going to get into a he-said, she-said. ... We had a good meeting. ... She hugged me at the end of the meeting.”
However, Lewis, the CTU and its parent union, the Illinois Federation of Teachers were conspicuously absent from Friday’s event featuring key players in passing Illinois new school reform bill. All had been invited.
Duncan took the opportunity to tell a crowd of mostly officials and reporters that “teachers have been beaten down too long” and “I think we need to double the salaries for teachers... Great teachers should make $130,000, $140,000, $150,000. They shouldn’t have to wait to age 55 to make a good living. They shouldn’t have to take a vow of poverty.”
The teachers union on Thursday filed its first major legal salvo in the battle over a longer school day as Lewis charged that district brass and the mayor had “declared war’’ on the union through an illegal campaign to bypass it.
The union’s complaint with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board Illinois National Labor Relations Board came as teachers at a fourth school — Benjamin Mays Elementary in Englewood — voted to waive the existing CTU contract and add 90 more minutes to the school day in exchange for 2 percent raises and other perks.
At other schools, the CTU complaint alleged, the district conducted “sham elections” with non-union members, “intimidated” some teachers with the threat of layoffs and offered “inducements’’ to others “in an attempt to bypass the CTU’’ and the wages it already negotiated.
“They are going around us to negate the contract with our members, and that is unlawful,’’ Lewis said.
“This is just out-and-out disrespect and war. That’s what this is. This is an attempt to take down and make irrelevant the Chicago Teachers Union because if the CTU goes, they can roll over every union in the city.’’
Thursday’s CTU complaint contends waivers should be canceled at two schools — STEM Magnet and Skinner North — that allegedly conducted “sham elections’’ by allowing non-CTU members to vote. Systemwide, it asks that CPS be barred from “dealing directly’’ with employees about the length of the school day and extra compensation for it.
At STEM Magnet, the complaint charged, teachers were told the school STEM would be “the mayor’s new pet’’ if they approved a longer-day waiver. Mayor Emanuel later made his first school appearance of the new school year at STEM.
At Skinner, according to the complaint, the principal directed direced three non-CTU members who initially declined to vote to do so after the first ballot on the issue came back tied, 6-6.
CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll said the CTU contract gives individual schools the right to waive any part of the contract they want. She said the CTU complaint was “ill-advised” and “lacks merit