City skeptical of teachers’ tally
NEIL STEINBERG email@example.com Twitter: @NeilSteinberg June 7, 2012 9:04PM
Updated: July 9, 2012 6:08AM
Friday the Chicago Teachers Union is supposed to announce the results of its membership’s vote whether to authorize a strike or not. Consensus seems to be that reaching the 75 percent approval threshold is likely, if not a done deal, and the city isn’t wasting any time condemning the election: before the ballots were even cast, never mind counted, it was already whispering loudly that the results might be a sham.
“What we have an issue with is they’re not using an independent monitor to oversee this process that is going to have a huge impact on the city, to at least ensure there’s integrity,’’ said Becky Carroll, spokesperson for the Board of Education. “[Superintendent] J.C. Brizard said today, ‘If I were in Karen Lewis’ shoes, I would want to assure the masses this is done with integrity, that this could be defended in the event there is a call of voter fraud.’”
Is there a real risk of that?
“There’s a history of voter fraud allegations,” Carroll said. “Considering there has been a history of allegations of fraud, and tampering, it would be in the best interest of all of our students and their families to have peace of mind that this vote is being done by the book and can be defended.”
As bad as a strike would be, I can’t see many students losing sleep about the risk of no school in the fall. “Mommy, mommy, I can’t sleep — what if summer never ends!?” At least not now; September would be another story.
Still, you have to admire the city’s brio — we aren’t making accusations, we’re just concerned that others might and about the peace of mind of parents and children, which might be unsettled by allegations we aren’t making.
So will these results be illegitimate?
Carroll said that, without independent verification, the truth is, “we don’t know. It’s left to the sole discretion of the union president to decide how to run the vote, how to count the ballots.”
Is she saying Lewis might rig the election?
“No, it’s not a matter of that,” Carroll said. “It’s a matter of whether or not, given the history of voting in these types of elections, is it worth giving parents, students and the public peace of mind that everything is being done by the book?”
So there a chance that the teachers — last seen in a riotous rally thundering their displeasure at negotiations, which have dragged on since last November — might, were their vote not skewed by historic-yet-unalleged fraud, vote down strike approval? You betcha, Carroll said, though not in those words — these are the words she said it in:
“Teachers in Chicago are doing pretty well. Average salary $76,000; 67 percent pay increases in the past 10 years. That’s not chump change.”
No it isn’t. Which is the bottom line. We’re seeing, not just in Chicago, but Wisconsin and across the country, an extraordinary shift in public sympathy, brought on by the endless economic slump, where the government, starved by lost tax revenue, yanks back the sweet deals that unions have negotiated during the flush decades. The public, rather than sympathize with fellow workers, is indifferent or hostile. Those of us thrashing in the chilly chop of the jobs crisis cast an increasingly envious and unsympathetic eye toward those nestled in a raft — or a cabin cruiser — thanks to their as-yet-unbroken unions.
The old ways certainly seem unsupportable. It was one thing to start a job when you’re 25, work until you’re 65 and enjoy five or 10 years of retirement. Now, you go to work at 25, work until 55 and retire for the next 30 years. With our booming senior population, we can’t afford to keep doing that, and since the wealthy have so thoroughly hoodwinked the public that they can’t be asked to shoulder more than their ever-shrinking share, the only way to find revenue is by squeezing workers or slashing programs for the poor.
There’s no question that Karen Lewis is capable of lying — earlier, she vigorously denied the CTU requested a 29 percent pay raise; now the union says they had to, because they’re being asked to work more. Boo hoo. We’re all working more. While the CTU doesn’t need fraud to approve a strike, the city’s pre-emptive barrage, trying to dismiss the results before they’re announced, is a reminder of the my-way-or-the-highway, reach-into-our-cage-and-draw-back-a-bloody-stump buzzsaw that the teachers are marching boldly into.
Before Carroll got off the phone, she added, basically: Oh, by the way, if teachers do strike, children will go hungry and perhaps die.
“Parents haven’t gone through this in a while,” she said. “Once it starts to sink in, thinking about child care, having to adjust your work schedule, making sure your kids are in safe place. Most kids in system get two meals a day, sometimes their only meals are here. It’s very serious.”
No question about that.