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Brown: ‘You’re showing yourself to be a union out of control’

Chicago Teachers UniPresident Karen Lewis talks reporters Sunday evening after Chicago Teachers UniHouse Delegates did not trust Chicago Public Schools

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, talks to reporters Sunday evening after Chicago Teachers Union House of Delegates did not trust the Chicago Public Schools latest proposal. I Scott Stewart~Sun-Times

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Updated: October 18, 2012 6:25AM



Some people just don’t know when to leave well enough alone.

Apparently, such people comprise a majority of the Chicago Teachers Union’s House of Delegates.

Memo to Teachers:

You did as well as you’re going to do, folks. Declare victory and get back in the classroom. Immediately.

Don’t wait for the House of Delegates to vote Tuesday. Tell your union leaders they’re making a mistake by delaying. Tell them you want to reopen the schools. Now. Before a judge does it for you.

Oh, man. Talk about snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

When your negotiating team comes to you and tells you they’ve got the best deal they could get, you take it.

You complain as much as you want. You bellyache. You carry on.

And then you swallow, take the deal and give your union leaders a well-deserved pat on the back.

And if you’ve really been doing this for your students, even in part, then you get it done as soon as possible to get back in the classroom to show those kids and their parents the same good faith they showed you while you were on the picket line last week.

Be clear in your own mind. Your leverage is gone. The deal doesn’t get any better after this and your standing with the community only goes downhill.

In fact, it started going downhill precipitously the moment union President Karen Lewis stepped before the television cameras Sunday to say school won’t reopen until Wednesday at the earliest. I don’t need to wait for a public opinion poll to know this.

By delaying, you don’t underscore your distrust for Mayor Rahm Emanuel or the leadership at Chicago Public Schools. You only expose a lack of trust in your own negotiating team and the leader of your team, Lewis.

You’re not showing you have a democratic union. You’re showing you have a union that is as tone deaf as all those national commentators have been saying for the past week. You’re showing yourself to be a union out of control.

If you don’t take this deal, you might as well dump Lewis and her team and start over because their credibility will be gone at the bargaining table.

Waiting to see all the written contract language? Nobody waits for all the written contract language unless their union leaders tell them to wait for all the written language.

At her press conference Sunday, Lewis tried to act as if she were neutral on the question of whether the House of Delegates should have voted to end the strike.

If that’s true, then she’s a fool, and I do not take Karen Lewis for a fool. Lewis should have pulled every string at her disposal to sell the contract.

People have been saying for months that Lewis was the leader of an ideologically driven faction within the teachers union, and the danger was that in whipping up her members she had unrealistically raised their expectations beyond what she could deliver given the financial strain at CPS.

I kept dismissing that talk as CPS management propaganda. Teachers are smart, responsible people, I told myself. Surely, they understand that they can’t get everything they want. Surely, Lewis and the union’s other leaders have kept in close enough communication with their members to know what they need to accomplish to keep their support.

Now this. Obviously, I’m flabbergasted.

I’ve supported the right of the teachers to go on strike. Before Sunday, I believed they had emerged the winners of that strike, not dramatically so, but enough to feel that they hadn’t wasted their time and effort.

At this point, they’ve overplayed their hand. At this point, they shouldn’t be surprised by whatever Emanuel throws their way next.



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