Monday, February 08, 2021


 From Diane's blog:

Karen Lewis, Historic Leader of Chicago Teachers Union, Has Died

It is with immense sadness that I share with you the news that the brilliant, charismatic Karen Lewis has died. As leader of the Chicago Teachers Union, she led the union to strike for “the schools our children deserve.” She understood that the union had to organize families and communities, not just their own members. She fearlessly confronted the powerful. She was considering a run against Rahm Emanuel for mayor when she learned she had an aggressive brain tumor.

Karen and her devoted husband John were dear personal friends. I saw them when I was in Chicago a year ago. She was in a nursing home. It was terribly sad.

All of us who care about children and their schools will miss her dynamic leadership.

Every time teachers strike for better education for children, they should remember this tireless, inspiring woman, our friend, Karen Lewis.

Camille and I got to listen to Karen back in 2013 in Chicago. Karen was such a monumental presence in the teacher union movement. She will be missed. She really changed our part of the world for the better. Condolences to her family and the CTU family. 

This is the email from the CTU:

'Karen did not just lead our movement. Karen was our movement.'

Our union is in deep mourning today at the passing of our sister, our leader and our friend, President Emerita Karen GJ Lewis. We are sending heartfelt condolences to her husband, John Lewis, and her surviving family and friends. She will be dearly missed.

Karen taught us how to fight, and she taught us how to love. She was a direct descendant of the legendary Jackie Vaughn, the first Black, female president of our local. Both were fierce advocates for educators and children, but where Jackie was stately elegance, Karen was a brawler with sharp wit and an Ivy League education. She spoke three languages, loved her opera and her show tunes, and dazzled you with her smile, yet could stare down the most powerful enemies of public education and defend our institution with a force rarely seen in organized labor.

She bowed to no one, and gave strength to tens of thousands of Chicago Teachers Union educators who followed her lead, and who live by her principles to this day.

Karen had three questions that guided her leadership: ‘Does it unite us, does it build our power and does it make us stronger?’ Before her, there was no sea of red — a sea that now stretches across our nation. She was the voice of the teacher, the paraprofessional, the clinician, the counselor, the librarian and every rank-and-file educator who worked tirelessly to provide care and nurture for students; the single parent who fought tremendous odds to raise a family; and the laborer whose rights commanded honor and respect. She was a rose that grew out of South Side Chicago concrete — filled with love for her Kenwood Broncos alumni — to not only reach great heights, but to elevate everyone she led to those same heights.

But Karen did not just lead our movement. Karen was our movement. In 2013, she said that in order to change public education in Chicago, we had to change Chicago, and change the political landscape of our city. Chicago has changed because of her. We have more fighters for justice and equity because of Karen, and because she was a champion — the people's champion.  

Our hearts are heavy today, but it brings us joy to know that Karen has joined Jackie Vaughn, Marion Stamps, Addie Wyatt and Willie Barrow as the vanguard of Black women who have forged a heroic path of labor, justice and civil rights in our city. Karen now sits among them, still guiding our every move, and still guiding our vision for the schools our students and their families deserve.


Anonymous said...


Shelley said...

from Defending Public Education: An Interview with Karen Lewis of the Chicago Teachers Union Josh Eidelson and Sarah Jaffe ▪ Summer 2013

KL: Well, some 87 percent of K–12 teachers are women. There was a time when teachers were revered in the community, and now they’re often demonized. Teachers have been an easy target, primarily because we’re not used to fighting. We’re not used to a lot of confrontation. We’re used to saying, “Whatever you want me to do I’ll do it because we all care about what’s best for kids.”

[. . . ]

So, when people told us, “Go get masters degrees, because that will make you better,” teachers rushed out and got masters degrees. Then it was: “Get endorsements in ESL [English as a second language], or special ed, or whatever,” and we rushed out and did that. Then it was, “Become National Board-certified.”

But it is never enough when the goal is really to destroy public education. That narrative that “teachers don’t care about children” makes no sense. So I get up every morning to deal with children I don’t like or I don’t care about? It’s just not the kind of thing you do.

We have to turn this discussion around and make sure people understand that we are now living in bizarro-world. We’re supposed to think that the elite, who are very wealthy and very well educated and don’t send their children to public schools, care more about black and brown children they don’t know?

Read the interview here--->

Not will to die yet said...

Rest In Peace.

Shelley said...

A cautionary tale from CTU to the reformers of UFT:

But the biggest controversy is in Chicago, where Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) President Karen Lewis shocked members of the Caucus of Rank-and-File Educators (CORE), a reform group that was the backbone of her candidacy last year, by personally giving the union's endorsement for sweeping legislation that, among other things, severely restricts teachers' right to strike, undermines seniority protections for Illinois teachers outside Chicago, and increases the school day without a guaranteed increase in pay.

[. . .]

THE DEBATE in the CTU highlights a problem for teachers union reformers everywhere: Once they get into office, how can they mount an effective resistance against billionaire-driven education reform, budget austerity and international union leaderships that refuse to lead a fight?

Certainly, rank-and-file teachers are fed up with the attacks, and are willing to give union militants a chance at office. In Chicago, reformer Deborah Lynch won office in 2001 on the promise of better defense of jobs and working conditions. But in 2003, she brought back a concessionary contract that was voted down. The second agreement she negotiated, which also contained concessions, was ratified in a membership vote. But Lynch was then tossed out of office in 2004, allowing the old guard to return to power in the CTU.

Whatever positive changes Lynch had brought to the union in other respects, her failure to deliver on economic issues was her undoing.

In the midst of today's all-out assault on teachers unions, of course, it's even more difficult for reformers to hold the line, let alone make gains.

SB 7 – The New Education Law Hitting Us Hard!
By Earl Silbar
CORE member, 2008-2011; retired GED teacher, City Colleges of Chicago; former chief steward, AFSCME 3506

Contrary to what Kaplan wrote in the MR article (June 2013), the ISO’s Socialist Worker report in 2012, and what many other sympathetic observers say and write, CTU Pres. Karen Lewis did not act alone. In fact, she and all the CTU officers and staff actively fought a proposal that CORE campaign in the CTU, across Chicago and with others statewide to defend seniority in layoffs and rehires. After all, seniority is the most widely accepted way to protect workers from management discrimination and intimidation. The motion proposed defending seniority be part of a larger city and statewide campaign for “quality schools for all”.

I made that proposal at the Jan. 2012 CORE meeting after reading material on the CTU website that made clear the leadership’s intent to trade seniority for preserving the right to strike. Karen Lewis, VP Jesse Sharkey, chief of staff Jackson Potter and others spoke against the motion and to allow Pres. Lewis to conduct secret negotiations instead. After a quorum call blocked an official vote, a straw vote showed 22 against and 11 for my motion to that CORE campaign to defend seniority in economic layoffs/rehires and NOT support secret deals.

Anonymous said...

Really excellent comments, Shelly. It’s hard to over estimate the amount of anger from teachers right now. Especially the ones who will be soon working in our worst warehouse type of our schools - the middle schools. Several ATRs that I know of, with high school licenses, have been placed out of license in middle schools for this year. All of them are contemplating putting in their retirement papers. They don’t think they can make it to the end of the year to a purported buy out. That’s just one aspect. There is also tremendous anger at the purposely oblivious Mulgrew and Weingarten, acting and touting their ability to control us. That Times article yesterday was infuriating on many levels. Dana Goldsmith, the author, should have done her homework. She goldplated Weingarten credentials; Weingarten really had none other than being in a relationship with the previous president of the UFT. I think that would have promptly, and correctly, canceled her today. She even had to get a waiver and take classes just to get the bare basic requirements. Then she sold out the teachers of New York City to Bloomberg with the 2005 contract. She jumped ship to the AFT presidency and never looked back, unless it was to untie a tongue tied, handpicked Mulgrew or to vie for Secretary of Education. So yes, Shelley, teachers here are ready for some militancy. Unfortunately, as I was told long ago (and it still holds true), “the common house fly has bigger balls than the average NYC teacher.”

Anonymous said...

The legacy of Karen Lewis is that of a loyal defender of public education and the defender of the educators of the Chicago public schools.

In stark contrast, what are the legaies of Mr. Mulgrew and Ms. Weingarten?

They are the epitomes of betrayal, disloyalty and cowardice. They will be remembered by educators for the callousness, their deceit and disloyalty to the educators who they were paid to defend.

Mulgrew and Weingarten are the lowest of the low.

Anonymous said...

Question-off topic but wondering if anyone else has gotten paid yet for teaching 2 different grades.
Got this in mid December-still no pay.
Teacher"Jones" was assigned to teach grade- and grade- from X to Y and shall receive prorated shortage pay for the duration of the assignment. I no longer have to teach 2 different grades but would like to be paid for all the extra planning and stress.

This is what I received in a message letting me know I won my grievance.

How long do I have to wait to be paid? How will I be paid? Should it be included in my regular paycheck? I looked at my Feb 15th pay stub and still nothing.

I appreciate any information and guidance.

Anonymous said...

What is at stake in the fight over school re-openings?

Anonymous said...

I'm teaching an extra class, I got 660 additional on 2/15 check. That doesn't seem to add up to the $7k pro rata though.

Anonymous said...

Pro rata pay is always iffy. I remember when the staff at my school had to go in for a week at the end of summer because we were a renewal school with a new staff and we were told we were going to get paid pro rata. We didn't see the money until late December. Whenever you do pro rata be sure to get everything in writing first.

Anonymous said...

I'm 919. I'm confused. If pro rata is 7,000 and I got 660 on the 2/15 check...660 x 10 is 6,600. I'm not complaining but math is off.

Just an Endangered CL said...

Grievances regarding pay will be reopening soon (why the hell haven't grievances been open all along??! - ask Unity, they know).

So if you didn't get paid what you should have talk to your CL.

Anonymous said...

So spring break 2020 will be negotiated soon? You have a date?

Anonymous said...

9:19 - Feb 1st was a non instructional day so technically you didn't teach the extra class for the entire pay period. Next pay period should be higher.