Out of a Contentious Teachers Union Election Comes a Sign of Unity | Bleader

Monday, June 14, 2010

Out of a Contentious Teachers Union Election Comes a Sign of Unity

Posted By on 06.14.10 at 05:54 PM

For public school teachers, perhaps the most encouraging news to come out of the Chicago Teachers Union election Friday was the gracious concession offered by incumbent president Marilyn Stewart, who lost by 18 percentage points to challenger Karen Lewis.

"They can count on me for any assistance I can offer as they take on what will be one of the toughest challenges in the 73-year history of the Chicago Teachers Union," Stewart said in a statement after the ballots had been counted.

Past union presidents had not been nearly so gracious after defeat.

In 2001, after Thomas Reece lost to Debbie Lynch, his supporters basically waged war against Lynch for three years. They were successful enough that Stewart, who was backed by the old Reece faction, defeated Lynch in 2004.

But Lynch refused to concede defeat, contending there had been fraud in the count. She went so far as to change the locks at CTU headquarters to keep Stewart from entering.

Lynch finally conceded after a standoff that lasted more than a month, when an investigation by the American Federation of Teachers—CTU's parent organization—dismissed her allegations.

The teachers will need unity from union leaders if they're going to stave off schools CEO Ron Huberman's threats to fire hundreds of teachers and increase class size.

They'll also need to be unified if they're going to make good on Lewis's campaign pledge to hold Huberman accountable for how he and the board of education spend millions in contracts and central office salaries.

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