Teachers union accuses ousted member of being a ‘spy’ for CPS
By ROSALIND ROSSI Education Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org May 15, 2012 8:32PM
Marc Wigler (right), an ousted Chicago Teachers Union member, is escorted out of a House of Delegates meeting by security on May 9. | Photo Courtesy John Kugler~Substance News
Updated: June 17, 2012 8:21AM
The official charge involves doing “the union and the cause of union labor, definite harm.’’
But Chicago Teachers Union officials are calling Marc Wigler “a spy,’’ a “stool pigeon” and a “rat’’ following his April 24 ouster for life from the union for allegedly feeding a top Chicago Public Schools labor official information about an internal union meeting.
Wigler was accused of sending CPS labor relations chief Rachel Resnick a 50-bullet-point email at 11:51 p.m., Aug. 24, detailing what CTU officials told union delegates during a special meeting the evening before, CTU officials say.
The House of Delegates meeting last August occurred at a tense point in CPS-CTU relations; the union was trying to determine how to respond to CPS’ insistence that it could not afford a scheduled 4 percent raise. Contract talks have since moved into a timetable that could end in a strike vote.
One of Wigler’s bullet points to Resnick noted that delegates were told, “Stop telling [CPS labor lawyer James] Franczyk everything and stop running to the Board and telling your principals everything,’’ said CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey.
The email allegedly began, “Here are my notes from yesterday’s [House of Delegates] meeting. If you have any questions, please ask. Wigler.’’
Wigler, who earned $85,000 last year as a resource teacher working in multiple schools, declined to comment Tuesday when reached in the CPS PreK for All office.
But his attorney, Andy Staes, said Wigler, who worked for the union and its “Fresh Start” effort to improve struggling schools under a previous CTU president, plans to appeal.
“Rachel Resnick is his friend,’’ Staes said. “If you saw that email, there is nothing whatsoever [in it] detrimental to union business, nothing confidential, nothing harmful in any respect. It is being used, pretextually, to remove someone who has been a thorn in someone’s side.’’
Wigler was a delegate for the United Progressive Caucus, whose website blasts CTU President Karen Lewis and her Caucus of Rank-and-File Educators.
He resigned from the CTU a day before his April 24 union trial, did not show up for the trial before the CTU executive committee, and then “rescinded” his resignation the day after the trial, Sharkey said.
“It’s an outrageous claim that his behavior is excusable and OK,’’ Sharkey said. “There’s a principle involved here, which is that members of our union shouldn’t be writing detailed reports to the head of labor relations in the middle of a tense period of negotiations and conflict with the board.
“There’s a term for that in union tradition. It’s called being a rat. I thought that was obvious. In case it wasn’t obvious, Karen [Lewis} said it during the meeting —’Don’t give information to the board’ — and Marc included that in his report.”
The email provided a “detailed listing’’ of union discussions about strategy, as well as CTU officials’ comments about Mayor Emanuel, Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard and CPS negotiators, Sharkey said.
“The idea that this was an appropriate thing to send to the other side, it’s completely disingenuous. If that’s a serious argument, let him make it seriously in front of a body of our members and let him see what our members think of it,’’ Sharkey said.
“He was a spy,’’ Sharkey said. “In the union tradition, we’d call him a stool pigeon or a rat.”
Union officials confirmed Wigler’s conviction after an article in Substance News detailed how Wigler tried to enter a May 9 House of Delegates meeting after his lifetime ejection from the union. Security escorted him out of the meeting.
Wigler’s email was uncovered accidentally, Sharkey said, after the CTU received 15,000 emails from CPS in response to a subpoena involving a court case.
Kicking someone out of the CTU for life is a rare punishment, usually reserved for strikebreakers, CTU officials said. The ban means Wigler cannot vote in CTU elections or attend House of Delegate meetings, but also that he does not have to pay union dues.
According to a website for Ithaca College, Wigler’s alma mater, he is scheduled to speak at a June 25 Chicago event called “Roundtables in Media Innovation.’’ Although Wigler hasn’t worked for the CTU for two years, Sharkey noted that the website calls Wigler a “partnership initiative coordinator with the Chicago Teachers Union” and says he will speak on “new models for collaboration between employees and management.’’
Said Sharkey: “I guess the guy does know a lot about collaboration between employees and management.’’
Contributing: Art Golab