Tuesday, August 28, 2012

New Union Contract - You Better Act Now

From The Reinvention The Truth Blog Site - Thanks Pearl
Out of the blue, the full-time teachers and professionals of the City Colleges of Chicago began receiving in the mail on Saturday, August 25 notification about a tentative contract they did not know was being negotiated and which they were being asked to ratify in less than a week. Their current contract does not expire until July 12, 2013. Why the rush?
Represented by AFT Local 1600, these educators were suddenly brought into the vortex of the struggle between Mayor Rahm Emanuel and their sister union, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), which represents 30,000 teachers and educational support staff at the Chicago Public Schools (CPS).
The Machiavellian strategy of the Mayor was on display for anyone who can see. He commanded CCC Chancellor Cheryl Hyman to extract from Local 1600’s leadership a signed promise to deliver a yes vote by September 3, the day before classes are scheduled to start at CPS:
“Local 1600 will recommend a “Yes” vote to all voting Local 1600 members to ratify this agreement. Local 1600 will conduct the contract ratification vote before Monday, September, 3, 2012.” [CCC-1600 tentative 2013-2018 collective bargaining agreement]
And to make sure that he could extract maximum advantage from these developments, Emanuel wanted to schedule a press conference for Friday, August 24 to inform Chicago about the tentative agreement. To show how he had managed to obtain a swift contract with a group of “reasonable” Chicago teachers who could then be diametrically opposed to the recalcitrant and unreasonable CTU. When Emanuel’s minions communicated to Local 1600’s president, Perry Buckley, that he wanted to hold the press conference on the 24th, Buckley responded in embarrassment that he needed the Mayor to wait longer because he needed more time to notify his union members. He did not want his members to first find out about the agreement from the press.
A tentative contract full of harmful concessions
As revolting as this is, it is not the whole story. The “reasonable” CCC teachers and professionals are being asked to ratify a contract that is extremely damaging to them and their families. And that is the second important reason for shoving this contract down their throats at rocket speed. They don’t want to give people enough time to analyze, discuss and propose alternatives to this miserable contract, and most importantly to prevent them from organizing to reject it. The chickens always come home to roost, and they are doing it with a vengeance. The logic of Reinvention has overtly come to exact its price from the flesh of these teachers and professionals who are the frontline of the education efforts at the CCC.
First, the contract surrenders the decades-old pay scale established in the form of a “steps” table. Every contract until now had a table that clearly specified the pay rate according to the degree of academic preparation (Masters, Ph.D.) acknowledging every year of experience (in steps). In the second year of the contract the steps will disappear. And with them any recognition of years of teaching experience. It is also path for completely doing away with seniority. This is precisely what CPS is demanding from the CTU, except that CTU’s leadership is standing firm in opposing it.
Instead the CCC got away with replacing the steps with a cost of living allowance (COLA), language that had never existed in previous 1600 contracts. The product of hard-won years of teaching experience replaced with the malleable notion of COLA. And what is the teacher’s COLA worth to the Chancellor who makes over $275,000 per year? 2.50 percent per year. Because the step system will be removed in the same contract, this 2.5 percent will actually amount to about a 0.5 percent pay increase in relation to prior contracts. It’s a very poor deal for union members taking away not only seniority but their only real guarantee of a base pay raise over time.
Teachers asked to consent to performance pay
But this is not yet the whole story. The harmful practice of merit pay is also inserted into this collective slap in the face. The administration has inserted into the contract a potential 1% bonus which they have called “student success pay.” So instead of offering a 3.5% COLA, they are holding back 1% as a carrot that if granted will not become part of the base pay of the employees, it is merely a “commission”. But not every 1600 employee would partake in the “bonus.” Only teachers and the professionals charged with face-to-face contact with the students (e.g., the advisors) would be eligible for this 1%. The other professionals will be held to the 2.5% COLA. Initially, the 1% bonus will be granted on a District-wide basis, if the whole college system surpasses still unspecified criteria. This is abominable. Acceptance of this scheme amounts to acknowledgement by the union that the students are not successful enough because the teachers are not working hard/smart enough and therefore need the market-based corrective of an economic incentive to work harder/smarter. Contrast this surrender to merit pay with CTU’s firm opposition to it. Yet, the worst of merit/performance pay is still in the works.
The tentative agreement establishes as a legitimate procedure, that would be sanctioned by a yes vote, the post-contract-ratification development of individual merit pay schemes that would be legitimized through mechanisms such as a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that would be put together between the union leaders who are recommending this deplorable contract and the administration that is imposing it:
“Draft an MOU to form joint CCC-union committee to address…additional ways to measure individual merit, such as assessments that go across the departments.”
The formation of joint committees between the union and the administration is not a rare event. They do not need to be ratified in a contract. The specification of a MOU protocol for the formation of a joint committee to discuss any issue does not require a contract vote either. Why then insert and highlight such language in the very skimpy body of the tentative agreement? We are afraid that it is to establish facts on the ground, to have inscribed on the ribs of an approved contract that the CCC teachers have agreed in principle to let themselves be caught in the poisoned broth of individual performance pay. The CCC already extracted this concession earlier this year from their adult educators, who appear to us to have been sacrificed by their AFSCME local.
The CCC wants to introduce individual merit pay and they want it bad. Acceptance of the principle of performance pay is very damaging to educators and to students. It is like pregnancy; you are either pregnant or you are not. There are no degrees of pregnancy. Either you stand firm in rejecting any kind of performance pay or you succumb to it.
Surrendering pension benefits without a fight
Another set of very damaging concessions relate to the retirement benefits. The pensions of public employees in the state of Illinois have been under severe attack for years by a coalition of politicians (Gov. Quinn, House Speaker Madigan) and the billionaires of Illinois represented by the Commercial Club Of Chicago. The public employee unions have been fighting to oppose these unconstitutional changes ever since. However, the contract that Local 1600’s leadership recommends gives up these benefits without a fight:
“CCC pays premiums only for current retirees.”
“Sick days cannot be used for retirement enhancement if pension cost are shifted to CCC.”
It is absurd that just when the Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT) announced that it has filed a lawsuit against the legislation signed by Gov. Quinn last May allowing the government to renege on the constitutionally guaranteed contract provisions of our pensions, specifically the health care premiums, the tentative contract surrenders them in a particularly treacherous way. Only the premiums of the current retirees are preserved, reinforcing the unfortunate longstanding practice of Local 1600 of privileging their veterans and retired members at the expense of the rest of the union membership.
The second item is as insulting. Any sick days remaining in an employee’s sick days bank will be lost (or more properly stolen, even the cash out allowance has been thrown overboard) when he/she files for retirement. Again, those lucky enough to retire or have retired before July 12, 2013 will not have to pay the price, for there is very little doubt that the pension costs will be shifted to the CCC and all other individual state agencies as promised by Gov. Quinn and his partners in crime. Disgustingly enough, 1600’s leadership didn’t even secure a match to the agreement reached for District Office potentates who were allowed to grandfather in their sick days accumulated until this year. Sadly, the battle was over before it started.
Finally, there are additional concessions meant to further squeeze the income of the union’s membership under the perennial excuse that money is scarce. The hypocrisy of this statement is unbelievable. There are over 50 top-level administrators at District Office making well over $100,000 per year according to Carol Marin’s News 5 recent exposé. There are over $250 million allocated for Emanuel’s pet project, College to Careers, to build a new Malcolm X College building. There are millions of dollars spent in frivolous offices at District Office. But there is not enough money for the teachers and professionals healthcare insurance, increasing their premium contributions from 13 to 16 percent over the life of what will turn out to be a very long, 5-year contract. (Chipping away at the 2.5% COLA!)
Add to this the fact that the tentative agreement commits Local 1600 “to participate” in the Mayor’s Wellness Program (WP). This is extortion. The WP is a Trojan horse. Under the guise of looking after the health of city employees, the WP forces an employee to surrender to the “monitors” enough personal medical information to certify that the employee is having satisfactory progress (i.e., losing weight, cease smoking). Many have such hectic lives that finding time and energy to participate in such programs will be impossible. The end result is that those unable to participate in these programs will have their premiums jacked up $50 per month. But this is precisely the goal of the Mayor, to have workers pay an additional $600 per year in healthcare premiums. This is why the CTU is also rejecting this alleged “Wellness” Program. Tell you what Mayor, want to help workers improve their health? Stop overwhelming them with work, stress and pay and benefit reductions. Then they’ll have plenty of time to join a gym.
Future of education in Chicago at stake
And there are many other things wrong with this tentative contract that we don’t have time to go into. Such a lousy contract offered in exchange for betraying their union brothers and sisters at CTU is unconscionable. This is inexplicable. We could understand (but not condone) if the leadership of Local 1600 would have come to its membership with a juicy bribe to have them ignore CTU’s current fight, but not with this pathetic collection of concessions that damage the working conditions, standard of living and self-respect of the teachers and professionals of the CCC.
This is very unfortunate and ironic. When Local 1600 went on strike back in 2004, a significant factor propelling the strike was that the old, corrupt leadership of the CTU refused to fight back, rolled over and sacrificed their members in their contract negotiations the year before. The onus was placed then on 1600 to hold the line, which they did then despite numerous shortcomings. Roll the film forward to 2012. Now CTU has a leadership and a membership ready to fight. The same types of disgusting concessions are being demanded from both unions. The best chance they stand to win this fight is by joining together, shoulder to shoulder. There is no good reason why Local 1600 should be voting on a new contract ahead of the outcome of the CTU contract fight. Particularly because its current contract doesn’t expire for another 10 months. A victory by CTU, will only make it harder for Emanuel to impose onerous concessions on1600.
The lives of CCC teachers and professionals and those of their CTU brothers and sisters, as well as the future of education in Chicago are on the line. We urge you to vote NO on this disgraceful contract and get your comfortable sneakers out of the closet to join the CTU on the picket line!


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Keep the Tips Coming!

If you have any tips on the mismanagement of Cheryl Hyman, district office employees, or the new "campus" presidents:  please call NBC News at 312-836-5821.

City College Budgets Balloon, But Why?

NBC Chicago News:

More than 100,000 students return to classes this week at one of the seven community colleges known collectively as the City Colleges of Chicago.  But as the new school year looms, one group of professors says there are systemic problems, including bulging classrooms, problems obtaining supplies and a District Office which is more focused on marketing than education.
The $659 million budget for City Colleges this year shows a 300-percent increase in money allotted for travel, a newly created Central Office department with a budget totaling just nearly $7 million, almost all of that for salaries, according to the FY2013 budget, and a teaching staff made up largely with adjunct or part-time professors.
“The real problem is that the District Office exists at all,” said Professor Sheldon Liebman, Chair of the Humanities Department at Wilbur Wright College since 1996.
This is the 101st year for the City Colleges.
They spread throughout the city like the spokes on a bike:  Richard Daley, Harold Washington, Kennedy-King, Malcolm X, Olive-Harvey, Harry Truman and Wilbur Wright.
At the center is the District Office, headed by Chancellor Cheryl Hyman.
Hyman, handpicked by former Mayor Richard Daley in 2010 to lead City Colleges, launched a new program to improve student’s experiences and increase graduation rates.  The program is called “Reinvention.”
“It is a collaborative, student-focused effort,” she said. “To try to reverse declining trends that we have not only seen at City Colleges of Chicago, but that many community colleges are faced with.”
And in two years Hyman says graduation rates have edged up from seven- to 10-percent.
“Now that’s not a statistic that we’re happy with, but it does show that the things that are happening are working,” said Hyman, who is a graduate of the City Colleges system.
Five professors, including Liebman, agreed to speak to Unit 5 about on-going concerns at City Colleges. All have tenure with the exception of Sociology professor Claire Boeck.
When asked how big a risk Boeck takes in speaking publicly, due to the fact that she could lose her job at any time, Professor Sonia Csaszar replied, “Tremendous. And all her students love her.”
Bulging classrooms, with 35 to 40 students, is one concern.
“Sometimes we don’t have enough chairs in the classroom for our students,” Boeck said.
Requisitioning supplies, like new markers, is another problem they cite.
“We have to submit a request to central,” she said. “And then hopefully a month from now we’ll get our markers.”
Asked how things have changed during Hyman’s two-plus-year tenure, Julius Nadas, a co-chair of the Mathematics Department who has taught at Wright, located on Chicago’s northwest side, since 1976 replied: “It appears to be more marketing-oriented.”
Hyman says over the last two years her administration has saved millions in unnecessary spending and reallocated those dollars to new technology.
“When I became Chancellor,” Hyman said. “There were many non-student faced functions that were duplicated seven times across this District.”
Earlier this year Unit 5 began asking the chancellor’s office a number of questions about budgets, staffing and travel at the district office.
For instance:  Last year travel expenses increased seventy-five percent.  Hyman says that was for, among other things, professors and students.
“Now our student governments have a presence in Springfield, they have one in D.C. representing City College students.” she said.
But this year the travel budget jumps again -- nearly 300 percent -- to more than $2.7 million. 
When asked if Unit 5 could look at individual travel receipts in the District Office Hyman replied, “Oh, sure.”
Hyman said that on August 2.  To date, we have not been allowed access to the records.
Also part of the City Colleges’ “Reinvention”:  A new department called the Office of Strategy and Institutional Intelligence. It has, according to the budget, a Vice Chancellor, an Associate Vice Chancellor, and Executive for Operational Excellence, and a Director of Strategy and External Affairs. It’s nearly $7 million budget goes primarily for salaries and benefits.  When asked if the positions are necessary?”
“They are absolutely necessary,” Hyman said. "They are a big part of why we’ve seen a three percent increase in graduation rate.”
Many of the jobs at the District Office pay six-figures. In fact, Unit 5 counted more than 50 positions which pay $100,000 or more.
But for many professors, whose mandate under the Emanuel Administration is to turn out graduates who make middle class salaries … it’s a different story:
“I’ll make around $17,000 this year,” said Claire Boeck.
Boeck will teach nearly a full load of courses this year – but will earn barely more than poverty-level wages – and no benefits.
To make ends meet, she waits tables at a Hyde Park restaurant.  The overwhelming majority of City Colleges’ professors are adjuncts, like Boeck.
Citing contract negotiations, Chancellor Hyman would not discuss salary specifics but said: “I’ll tell you we value and we know that we will look at fair compensation for everybody.”
As a part of Reinvention, the Central Office mandated that all schools change their colors. In some cases it was a very minor change. Malcolm X for instance went from one shade of red to another shade of red. (See the adjacent chart to compare)   The total cost---plus a new slogan: $50,000. Or about the same as three adjunct professors at the current rate.
The Chancellor said the color changes provided an uptick in website traffic and more interest at the information centers.

Source: http://www.nbcchicago.com/investigations/City-College-Budget-Balloon-But-Why-167100765.html#ixzz24OQJz9vQ