Illinois

SEIU Security Officers Approve Historic Contract [Progress Illinois]

from Progress Illinois, 4/23/2013

SEIU* security officers have reached an agreement with the Building Owners and Manager’s Association (BOMA), voting unanimously for a three-year contract that went into effect Sunday.

The contract secures annual wage increases for the security officers and keeps comprehensive family health insurance intact for the workers and their families.

“When responsible companies do their part and invest in good jobs with family health care and a livable wage, our whole city benefits,” said Tom Balanoff, President of SEIU Local 1. “This three year agreement will boost our local economy in the communities that need it most. Now we will call on employers in the suburbs to follow BOMA’s lead and invest in good jobs that support hard working families.”

The workers have been rallying for a fair contract that included a wage increase since March, as Progress Illinois has previously covered. The new contract will bring in more than $4,000 in increased wages for the security officers.

“We worked hard, we persevered, we fought, and we won. Now we can feel a little better about our jobs, and, ultimately, our lives,” said Tonya Yarbrough, a security officer at the Chicago Stock Exchange. “This contract is not going to fix our neighborhoods overnight; but if we come together and fight for our neighborhoods the way that we fought for our jobs, we can make a safer Chicago.

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Downtown Security’s Historic New Contract

Tanya Robinson calls for a unanimous vote at the 4/20 contract ratification meeting.

Tanya Robinson calls for a unanimous vote at the 4/20 contract ratification meeting.

While Chicago’s security officers protect corporations that generate more than $500 billion a year, most of them go home to the most dangerous and economically depressed communities in the city. Starting in January, a dedicated security brigade took to the streets to rally support as they fought for fair wages. On April 20th, security officers unanimously approved a new union contract that preserves their ability to support their families. About 2,000 officers and their families will benefit from more than $4,000 in increased wages and access to family health care over the next three years. Together, the officers will bring $8.9 million into the local economy, pumping much needed resources into our city’s struggling neighborhoods. Winning the highest wage increase in SEIU Local 1 Security history, downtown security officers fought hard for good jobs and a safer Chicago… and they won.

“We worked hard, we persevered, we fought, and we won. Now we can feel a little better about our jobs, and, ultimately, our lives,” says Tonya Yarbrough, a security officer at the Chicago Stock Exchange. “This contract is not going to fix our neighborhoods overnight; but if we come together and fight for our neighborhoods the way that we fought for our jobs, we can make a safer Chicago.”

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Chicago Security Officers, Building Owners and Security Contractors Invest in Good Jobs, Pump $8.9 Million into City’s Neglected Neighborhoods

***Advisory for Monday, April 22, 2013***

CONTACT: Leslie Mendoza Kamstra 773-896-7815 or mendozal@seiu1.org

Security officers unanimously approve contract agreement benefiting both their families and communities 

CHICAGO—Downtown security officers are partnering with Chicago’s Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) to invest in good jobs and take action to create a safer Chicago. While Chicago’s security officers protect corporations that generate more than $500 billion a year, most of them go home to the most dangerous and economically depressed communities in the city.

Unanimously, the security officers approved a new union contract that preserves their ability to support their families. About 2,000 working families will benefit from more than $4,000 in increased wages and access to family health care over the next three years. Together, the officers will bring $8.9 million into the local economy, pumping much needed resources into our city’s struggling neighborhoods.

“When responsible companies do their part and invest in good jobs with family health care and a livable wage, our whole city benefits,” says Tom Balanoff, President of SEIU Local 1. “This three year agreement will boost our local economy in the communities that need it most. Now we will call on employers in the suburbs to follow BOMA’s lead and invest in good jobs that support hard working families.”

The new three year downtown security officers’ union contract, which goes into effect April 21, guarantees:

  • Annual wage increases for security officers, the majority of whom are African American and live in the city’s most impoverished, under-resourced neighborhoods where 80 percent of Chicago’s more than 500 murders occurred in 2012.
  • Protection of quality, family health insurance.  The security officers’ plan provides comprehensive coverage for the officers and their families at a significantly lower cost than the average family health plan in Illinois.

“We worked hard, we persevered, we fought, and we won. Now we can feel a little better about our jobs, and, ultimately, our lives,” says Tonya Yarbrough, a security officer at the Chicago Stock Exchange. “This contract is not going to fix our neighborhoods overnight; but if we come together and fight for our neighborhoods the way that we fought for our jobs, we can make a safer Chicago.”

More than 5,000 security officers in the suburbs will work to settle their contract by the end of 2013.

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SEIU Local 1 unites 50,000 property service workers in the Midwest, including security officers, janitors, window washers and residential doormen.  Together we work to build strength for all working people, on the job and in our communities.

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O’Hare janitors opt for rival union that’s friendly with Rahm [Chicago Sun-Times]

BY DAN MIHALOPOULOS Staff Reporter dmihalopoulos@suntimes.com April 5, 2013 2:00PM

A bitter loss for a labor union that’s feuding with Mayor Rahm Emanuel has turned into gain for some of Emanuel’s best friends in organized labor.

Janitors’ union leaders complained that 300 members lost their jobs a few days before Christmas because Emanuel signed a $99.4 million deal with a new contractor to clean O’Hare Airport. Now, the replacement airport janitors have joined the Teamsters — one of the few unions that supported Emanuel’s 2011 mayoral campaign.

SEIU leaders — who were neutral in the 2011 mayor’s race and have since criticized Emanuel frequently — filed a complaint Thursday with the National Labor Relations Board. They say the city’s new airport janitorial contractor, United Maintenance Cos. Inc., “unlawfully coerced” its airport employees to become Teamsters.

Nora Kelley, chief of staff at SEIU Local 1, said United Maintenance and city officials refused to arrange access to the workers for SEIU to try to organize them. “Instead, they granted preferential access” to the Teamsters, Kelley said.

A Teamsters spokesman did not return calls seeking comment, but United Maintenance lawyer Thomas Mandler said the company’s O’Hare workers voted earlier this week to join Teamsters Local 727. Mandler said city officials played no role in negotiations.

Asked about charges that City Hall favored the Teamsters, Emanuel spokeswoman Sarah Hamilton replied in an email that the matter is “a dispute between two labor organizations.” She added that the city “supports the rights of the employees of United Maintenance to bargain collectively.”

During the 2011 mayoral campaign, as many of the largest public employees’ unions opposed Emanuel, he received a key endorsement from Teamsters leader John Coli.

United Maintenance CEO Richard Simon also is well-acquainted with the Teamsters. A review board appointed to root out corruption and mob influence in the Teamsters alleged in 2002 that Simon colluded with union bosses, including William Hogan Jr., to undermine the union’s contract in Las Vegas.

After the five-year O’Hare contract took effect in December, five aldermen asked Inspector General Joseph Ferguson to investigate. They cited a Chicago Sun-Times story that revealed how Simon sold a 50 percent stake in United Maintenance but did not report the ownership change to Emanuel administration officials for a year. That could have been grounds for voiding the contract, but Emanuel aides chose not to punish United Maintenance.

The mayor also shrugged off Simon’s business ties to an alleged organized-crime figure and United Maintenance’s employment of an executive who was indicted with the late Outfit boss Anthony “Big Tuna” Accardo.

 

http://www.suntimes.com/news/cityhall/19275483-418/new-ohare-janitors-opt-for-rival-union.html

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More than 100 Arrested Protesting Mass School Closings In Chicago [The Real News]

by Jaisal Noor, March 28, 2013

Transcript:

CROWD: Save our schools!

JAISAL NOOR, PRODUCER, TRNN: In Chicago, some 150 people were arrested on Wednesday, March 27, protesting plans to close 61 public schools, the largest such wave of school closures ever.

The city announced the plan last week, saying it was necessary to help bridge a billion-dollar budget deficit and to free resources to be invested in the city’s remaining schools.

At a news conference before the protest, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel publicly defended the plan. He said despite the plan’s unpopularity, it would improve the city’s schools, saying, quote, “When our educational system has unequal results, you cannot lock in the status quo.”

A few hours later, labor, parent, religious, and community groups flooded downtown Chicago to voice their opposition.

KAREN LEWIS, PRESIDENT, CHICAGO TEACHERS UNION: The message is this isn’t over. No matter what they think or what they believe, this is not over. There are a variety of ways to deal with this, but one of the most important ways is to motivate people to take responsibility for their own destinies. And that’s what this is about.

NOOR: And why direct action? Why civil disobedience?

LEWIS: Well, because that’s the actual area where the people have control. We don’t have control over the courts. We don’t have control over the legal system. We certainly don’t have control over the legislature. But this is a place where we do have some control.

NOOR: Thousands attended, and at least 150 sat down in the street, locked arms, and were detained and ticketed when they refused to move.

The Real News interviewed some of those who took part in the civil disobedience just before their arrest. Here are some of their voices.

JERRY WARD, PROTESTER: My name is Jerry Ward. I’m out here because we need to save these schools. We need to save our children. Our neighborhoods are screwed up and we don’t need any schools taken away from our children. That’s why I’m here. I’m making my voice heard, and we’re making our children’s voices heard. That’s why I’m here right now and that’s what I’m doing.

KEITH BLUM, CHICAGO PUBLIC SCHOOL TEACHER: It’s important for us to fight here, because this is where this whole thing started, this whole reform movement. And if we don’t nip it in the bud here, it’s just going to go across the United States. And it’ll be a horrible, horrible experience for children and teachers and the society in general if this continues to make it across the United States. We have to break this.

EMILIA FORTUNADO, UNITE HERE!: My name’s Emilia Fortunado. I’m with UNITE HERE! We’re the union that represents the cafeteria workers to work in the schools. I’m out here because I don’t want to see the schools get shut down. I think this is a racist attack on our schools and, honestly, on black jobs in Chicago. The public sector is where black workers work, and our cafeteria workers are not going to let that happen. So that’s why we’re out here today.

UNIDENTIFIED: I’m [incompr.] I’m here for once for the kids, the teachers, the lunchroom managers, and us janitors. We all need our jobs. And they’re making it hard for kids to learn, ’cause how can they learn if they’re at a school where the only thing they can think about is getting back home?

NOOR: Reporting for The Real News, this is Jaisal Noor in Chicago.

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Civil Disobedience Revs Up Against School Closings [WBEZ]

by Linda Lutton, March 28, 2013

More than 100 people were detained and ticketed yesterday afternoon at a protest against proposed school closings. It was the first major protest since the district announced last week it wants to shut down 54 schools. WBEZ was there.

About a thousand people packed Daley Plaza in 40 degree temperatures to denounce the massive closings, most planned for the South and West sides of the city. As they held signs deriding the mayor, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis told them: these schools are not closed yet.

“There are many ways you can show that this is not over,” Lewis said from the stage. “It’s not over, brothers and sisters, until you say it’s over. Our schools are under attack. What do we do?”

“Fight back!” the crowd yelled in unison.

“So lemme tell you what you’re gonna do. On the first day of school, you show up at your real school! You show up at your real school! Don’t let these people take your schools!”

The union has promised that if Chicago shuts down schools, protesters will shut down the city.

A few minutes later, in front of City Hall, janitors, lunch ladies, teachers, parents, clergy and union officials interlocked arms and sat down in neat rows in the northbound lanes of LaSalle Street.

“Save our schools,” they chanted.

After a time, police approached each protester individually.

‘Ma’am, you’re in violation of the law and you’re endangering yourself. This is your last opportunity to leave without being arrested. Will you leave? ” a white-shirted officer asked one protester after the next. “You’re under arrest,” he told them.

Police now say people were simply ticketed, not arrested.

Karen Lewis and the Rev. Jesse Jackson stood together on the sidewalk as protesters were led away.

Jackson said the protests follow in the tradition of Ghandi and Martin Luther King—with people using their bodies so their cause can be heard.

“We earnestly want our children to have an education and security and safety. And their parents have a job and transportation, and housing—that’s a comprehensive plan for the urban crisis,” Jackson said. “South Side and West Side must look like the North Side, and that must look like the suburbs.”

Earlier in the day, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the reason for closing schools was to give kids a better education. He cited graduation figures that have been climbing, but noted that for black boys in the city, the graduation rate is just 44.5 percent.

“The status quo is not working, and it’s falling woefully short for the children of the city of Chicago, regardless of where they live and regardless of their circumstances. Every one of the children—if they go to a better school—can achieve their potential.”

Orquidia Ramos pushed a stroller through the march, with her older daughter walking alongside her. Ramos has four children at Peabody, slated to be closed. She lives on the same block as the school. She says her tax bill doubled—and now, with Peabody closing, she feels the message is clear: the city is trying to get rid of lower income Latino families like hers. She doesn’t believe the receiving school will be better for her kids.

“As parents we try to watch out for our kids,” she said in Spanish, ‘keep them away from gangs. Then the school system sends them right into the gangs.”

Eighteen-year-old high school senior Lavell Short won’t be personally affected by the closings, but he was at the march after he heard his elementary school was on the list.

“A part of me got very angry, but it was a righteous anger–it wasn’t just rage,” said Lavell. “Mayo is a school that teaches me principles, Mayo is a school that taught me about leadership and who I am, not only my history but also who I can also be. So, to close down a school like Mayo…. And there’s so many schools on the list like Mayo.”

You wouldn’t guess it by talking to Lavell, but Mayo is rated Level 3 by the district, the lowest performing. He now attends Bronzeville Military Academy High School.

Like a lot of people at the protest, Lavell isn’t fond of the mayor right now. Right after telling me he’s headed to Milliken University in Decatur, he said there was something else I should know….

“I’m considering running for mayor in the 2015 election, so… I’m considering it! Be on the lookout, you guys.”

If he and other protesters get their way, Lavell might be handing out campaign flyers that brag, “I helped keep Mayo Elementary open.”

Click here for a picture slideshow from WBEZ.

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Chicago Teachers Union protests downtown against school closings as 127 detained [Examiner]

by John Presta, March 28, 2013

Mayor Rahm Emanuel said yesterday at a press conference that the time for negotiations on school closings is over. However, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), CTU President Karen Lewis, UNITE HERE Local 1, SEIU Local 1, and the Grassroots Education Movement didn’t get the message.

A rally and march was held in downtown Chicago, starting at the Daley Center, circled around Chicago City Hall and to the Chicago Board of Education. The CTU “rallied and marched in opposition to a Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and mayor’s office plan for mass school closings.”

The purpose was to call on the city of Chicago and the Chicago Board of Education to stop all school closings and slow the expansion of the charter schools to focus investment in public schools, working-class families and our city’s struggling neighborhoods.

CTU President Karen Lewis repeated her assertion that the Chicago Public Schools’ decision to close schools with predominantly African-American enrollments is racist.

“Let’s not pretend that when you close schools on the South and West sides, the children affected aren’t black,” Lewis said. “Let’s not pretend that’s not racist.”

CTU President Karen Lewis speaks to demonstrators protesting school closings in Chicago, Illinois. Photo credit: (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

In what the CTU calls an act of “civil disobedience,” more than 127 members of the organizing unions were arrested during a sit-in in the southbound lane of LaSalle Street outside of City Hall, according to a CTU press release. However, the Chicago Tribune reported that the Chicago Police Department said that they were not arrested, but instead issued “tickets.” Among those arrested (or ticketed) were Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Jesse Sharkey and Recording Secretary, Michael Brunson.

“It is an obscene travesty for them to refer to what they’ve been doing as a civil rights movement,” said Brunson of the Board. “So now, we are going to show them what a real civil rights movement looks like, and what a real civil rights movement feels like.”

A crowd of close to 5,000—well above Chicago Police Department estimates of 700—gathered in Daley Plaza before swelling to 7,000 and marching through the streets of downtown Chicago. Throughout the march, CTU President Karen Lewis was flanked by longtime civil rights activists, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Congressman Bobby Rush (D-Chicago).

Karen Lewis urged the students, teachers and families in the Daley plaza crowd to stay strong in the face of school closings and pledged union support from the streets to the court of law. Lewis also sent a message to the thousands of students that CPS is attempting to displace.

Karen Lewis urged parents to not accept the school closings with another act of disobedience. “On the first day of school, you show up at your real school. Don’t let these people take your school!”

John is the author of an award-winning book, the 2010 Winner of the USA National Best Book award for African American studies, published by The Elevator Group, Mr. and Mrs. Grassroots. Also available an eBook on Amazon. John is also a member of the Society of Midland Authors and is a book reviewer of political books for the New York Journal of Books. John has volunteered for many political campaigns.

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Police Detain 127 Protesters After Sit-In At Rally Opposing School Closings [CBS Chicago]

by CBS Chicago, March 27, 2013

Protesters filled Daley Plaza, marched through the Loop and rallied again in front of Chicago Public Schools headquarters to protest the board’s plan to close 53 schools on Wednesday. More than 100 of those protesters were detained and ticketed after staging a sit-in outside City Hall.

Union leaders, education activists, Rev, Jesse Jackson, and even students criticized Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the board and the process for selecting which schools should close at the end of the school year.

The protest began with a rally in Daley Plaza before marching to City Hall and on to CPS Headquarters at 125 S. Clark Street for another rally.

Chicago Police said they detained and cited 127 protestors who were staging a sit-down outside City Hall on LaSalle Street.

Greg Simmons was part of the sit-down on LaSalle.

“We need to protect our children and save our school,” Simmons said.

At the rally in Daley Plaza, CTU President Karen Lewis told the protesters, “Our schools are under attack. What do we do? Fight back. So let me tell you what you’re going to do. On the first day of school, you show up at your real school. You show up at your real school. Don’t let these people take your schools.”

Sarah Larkin of Andersonville was walking by the Daley Plaza rally with her daughter, who’ll be going into kindergarten. She says she understands why the schools need to close.

“Being somewhat business-minded, I understand the need to do this,” Larkin said. “Our neighborhood school is closing and feeding into three separate schools. We don’t know which school she’s going to yet so it’s a little frustrating on our end. But we’ll figure it out.”

On Monday, there was a smaller rally in the Loop, when a group of 50 to 70 students from various high schools marched from CPS headquarters to the mayor’s office at City Hall, to express their concerns about overcrowding and safety.

CPS CEO Barbara Byrd Bennett released a statement saying, “…as a former teacher and principal who has lived through school closings, I know this is not easy for our communities. +But as CEO of this District, I need to make decisions that put our children first…”

CPS has said closing and consolidating schools can be emotional and difficult for everyone involved, but said the closings are necessary because too many schools are half-empty.

The district said the closings will free up resources to improve the schools where students are relocated, and help trim a projected $1 billion budget shortfall.

Click here for full video coverage!

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CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett May Have Met Her Match in Chicago [In These Times]

by Kenzo Shibata, March 27, 2013

A grim scene at Chicago’s Attucks Elementary School, which closed in 2008. Last week, CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett announced that 61 public schools will be closing before the start of the next school year. (Photo courtesy of Nathan Goldbaum)

This afternoon at 4pm, a coalition of Chicago teachers, parents, students and community members will meet at Daley Plaza to voice their displeasure with the announcement last week by Chicago Public Schools (CPS) CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett that 61 Chicago Public Schools will be closed before the opening of the 2013-2014 school year.

Byrd-Bennett is the latest in a long line of well-compensated mayoral proxies pushing forward the slow and steady destruction of Chicago schools, a process that has been going on for decades. In 1995, the Illinois general assembly passed an omnibus of reactionary school reforms, called the “Amendatory Act,” that restructured the governance of CPS. Under the new system, the Mayor of Chicago was given the power to appoint the entire Board of Education without any community oversight, the union’s ability to bargain over classroom issues was tossed out, and the superintendent was replaced with a “Chief Executive Officer,” mimicking the corporate structure of the business interests that pushed for these reforms.

Since the passage of the Amendatory Act, Chicago has seen six CEOs come and go, each leaving the system a little less stable than they found it. The first CEO under the Amendatory Act was Paul Vallas, who set schools on a path to becoming standardized testing factories. Vallas was followed by Arne Duncan, who was likeable enough to play basketball with some very important people (namely, Barack Obama, who later appointed him Secretary of Education). After Duncan, a succession of new CEOs shuffled through, closing public schools and opening charters at a pace on par with much of the rest of the country.

For most of the past two decades, the primary prerequisites for a CEO were an ability to address the media and a talent for glad-handing power brokers (and, in some cases, a willingness to fall on the sword after new policies failed). CEO were, essentially, spokespeople for the district who hobnobbed with the city’s elite. They were also involved in contract negotiations with the various unions in the schools, none of which had been acrimonious since the 1987 teachers strike.

However, the impatient Mayor Rahm Emanuel is operating in a very different political landscape than his predecessor, Mayor Richard Daley. Daley presided over 22 years of labor peace due to decades of “business unionism” in the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU)—a model where backroom deals and close relationships with management replace work actions. Daley’s ambitious plan to close public schools and replace them with charters was a long con, the equivalent of slowly turning up the heat until the frog is cooked. But this strategy inadvertently gave communities time to understand what was going on, and to organize a response. Many activists who came out of that movement took leadership roles in the CTU after ousting the business union leadership in 2010. (Full disclosure: I am a founding member of its current leadership caucus and the CTU’s new media coordinator). Last year, after Emanuel did everything within his power to avert the first teachers strike in 25 years and failed miserably, it became clear that a new type of boss would be necessary to speed up the process of busting the teachers union and turning over schools to the highest bidders. A new union and community coalition and growing public awareness around the failings of education reform meant that Mayor Emanuel had to find someone with experience executing unpopular mandates.

Fortunately for Emanuel, the answer was right in front of him: One month after the strike, CPS announced that CEO Jean-Claude Brizard was leaving the district by “mutual agreement” and that then-Chief Education Officer Barbara Byrd-Bennett would be taking his place.  Byrd-Bennett can be thought of as something of a “cleaner,” like Harvey Keitel’s problem-solving character Winston Wolf in Pulp Fiction: She comes in, takes care of business and leaves quickly. In the school system of the neoliberal era, the job of the cleaner is to close as many schools as possible and replace them with charter schools before the public catches on to the plan. After the announcement, the “chaos on Clark Street” (where CPS headquarters are located) intensified, and the media painted Byrd-Bennett as a phoenix rising above the ashes to save the public schools.

When Byrd-Bennett was appointed as Chief Education Officer of CPS in the spring of 2012, quickly and with little fanfare, her savior reputation preceded her. In Cleveland, where she was hired as schools CEO in 1998, Byrd-Bennett was called the “$300,000 wonder,” a reference to her salary. The narrative in Cleveland was that she expensive, but worth every penny. While media wrote glowing reports about her, Byrd-Bennett cut hundreds of teacher jobs and closed over 20 schools before leaving the district in 2006.

Flash forward to 2009, when Detroit Public Schools Emergency Manager Robert Bobb hired Byrd-Bennett as his “chief academic and accountability officer.” Over the next two years, Bobb and Byrd-Bennett closed 59 schools and cut 30 percent of the workforce. In the tradition of Chicago Mayor Richard Daley’s “Renaissance 2010” plan and Philadelphia’s “Imagine 2014,” in March 2011, DPS announced its “Renaissance Plan 2012,” which included adding 41 charters, making 29 percent of district run by private interests.

Byrd-Bennett  has proven herself so skilled at the art of “cleaning” districts that she has part time job with the Broad Academy training school superintendents in the ways of corporate education reform. The Broad Academy is a billionaire-funded venture that closely resembles Teach for America, but it trains aspiring school district superintendents instead of teachers.  “Broadies” often come from business or law backgrounds and have a keen interest in neoliberal education reform. After training, Broadies are placed in high-profile positions in urban school districts throughout the country. The Academy’s graduates include Jean-Claude Brizard , Detroit’s Robert Bobb, and CPS newcomer Chief of Innovation and Incubation Officer Jack Elsey, who worked with Bobb and Byrd-Bennett in Detroit.

The Broad Academy is an initiative of the Broad Foundation, which literally wrote the book on closing public schools, School Closure Guide: Closing Schools as a Means for Addressing Budgetary Challenges. One of the more telling sections provides tips for effective public relations, offering detailed instructions on how to make the public feel like they are part of the process without actually listening to them. For example, the guide offers instructions for messaging to the media, offering a table of “ineffective statements” and offering “possible alternatives” for each. Instead of saying that “the district is operating in the red and this cannot continue,” the book suggests a more effective alternative: “The fact that the district is operating in the red prevents us from providing the best possible educational opportunities to the children in this community in a sustained way.” Lines like these were delivered by CPS bureaucrats at school closing hearings that took place earlier this year in various Chicago neighborhoods, which were attended by thousands of concerned community members.

But if Emanuel brought Byrd-Bennett in to work the same kind of charter magic in Chicago that she did in Detroit, he may be dismayed to encounter one important difference: Chicago is now in a good position to fight back. The school closings hearings were packed with engaged, motivated citizens, and the teachers union is more organized than it’s been in three decades. During its popular and successful strike, the union’s approval rating climbed while the mayor’s fell—public opinion polls showed that taxpayers blamed Emanuel for the ugliness that took place during negotiations. The CTU’s current leadership has built relationships with community leaders and organizations, forming a coalition to fight the slash-and-burn privatization pushed by the Board of Education and its corporate sponsors, and has even hosted civil disobedience trainings open to the public. This afternoon’s protest will serve as further evidence that Emanuel is indeed up against a new opponent, one strong enough that not even the best “cleaner” may be able to defeat it.

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City And CPS Gear Up For Protests Over School Closures [Chicagoist]

by Sarah-Ji, March 27, 2013 

Thousands of Chicago Public School parents, students, teachers and supporters are expected to take to the streets Wednesday afternoon to protest the city’s decision to close 54 schools. At 4 p.m., protesters will assemble in Daley Plaza for a march that will pass through the loop and later end in front of CPS headquarters at 125 S. Clark St.

According to a press release from Unite Here, who is cosponsoring the rally along with the Chicago Teachers Union, SEIU, the Grassroots Education Movement and other groups, at least 150 parents, workers and students will engage in civil disobedience in front of City Hall at some point during the march.

In the release, CTU President Karen Lewis said:

“Since December, CPS and its appointed utilization commission has made a show of being open to public input on their plans to close 13 percent of the schools in our district. Today will bring all the emotion and anger from those network meetings together in one place and show the entities in power what real power is.”

On Monday CPS students held a rally downtown over the school closings, as shown in the photos above. DNAinfo reports a group called Chicago Students Organizing to Save Our Schools marched from CPS headquarters to City Hall to deliver a letter to Mayor Emanuel demanding a moratorium on the closings. Isis Hernandez, a student at Stowe Elementary, which avoided closure, said, “It’s not just about my school. It’s about saving all our schools…We have the same right to a decent education as a rich kid.”

In response to what could be the largest education rally in Chicago since the CTU strike in September, The Nation reports security staff at the board of education set up barricades in front of the building this morning. Chicago Public School officials also sent a memo to principals last week regarding potential acts of civil disobedience at schools on the closure list.

The memo advises principals to report names of teachers and students involved in actions, along with documenting the type of civil disobedience, which includes walk outs, sit ins and “Occupy” tactics, as well as noting which media outlets might be present. CPS officials say the memo was to provide guidance to principals should civil disobedience take place. Spokeswoman Becky Carroll said, “It’s our obligation to put the safety and learning of our children before anything else.”

The anonymous source who released the information to the CTU seemed to suggest the memo was meant to intimidate protesters. In a press release from the CTU, the individual said, “They’ve asked us to do a lot of things that I’m not happy with, but some of this is going too far.” Karen Lewis echoed that sentiment, stating, “Why are they asking principals to work as agents of this administration when they are the ones who have created a climate of chaos? Civil disobedience is a direct response to unjust policies and practices.”

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