I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Chicago Teachers, Be Thankful for Karen Lewis

I have made a point of staying out of local union politics. While I have shared my disagreements at times with labor leaders, I am ultimately on their team. I made a point of not telling members of the Newark Teachers Union how to vote on their contract, although I made it clear that I had problems with the deal; I didn't think it was right for me to demand another union member go on strike while I stayed safely in my job.

So, I've kept away from taking sides in union votes. And I haven't endorsed any candidates for labor union office.

Until now.

Chicago teachers, you should know how lucky you are to have Karen Lewis as the president of your local. And you should reward her efforts on your behalf - and on mine - with another term.

I'm not going to get into the details of the current race, because I know nothing about them. I will, instead, direct you to the great Fred Klonsky. I've never met Fred (or his brother, Mike, another great blogger), but his blog is a must-read. And if he says Lewis's opponents are not to be trusted, I will give that great weight.

But the local politics aside, understand what Lewis has done for every teacher in America: she showed us that we can win if we stand up for ourselves.

For a while, I thought New Jersey was the epicenter of teacher-bashing: Chris Christie went on a tear in 2010 that remains the pinnacle of excellence in educator insulting. But as this blog has gone increasingly national, and as I've followed the writings of the many great bloggers on the left, it's become clear to me that we are in the middle of a nationwide assault on the teaching profession.

We have been blamed over and over for problems that we didn't create and cannot be reasonably expected to fix. We have seen most of the fun sucked out of our jobs. We have been ignored while those who failed at doing what we do make policy. We have been losing our pensions, our benefits, and our raises, none of which were so awesome to begin with. We have been insulted and condescended to and bullied and mischaracterized.

Karen Lewis was the first of us in a good long while who gained national stature simply by standing up and saying: "Enough." She hasn't been intimidated by lesser minds and smaller hearts. She doesn't give a damn about the children of privilege who made backdoor deals to screw us out of our right to collectively bargain. She stood up to her foul-mouthed, incompetent, overbearing mayor and told him the children of the great City of Chicago were far more important than the obnoxious plutocrats who pull his strings.

Teachers of Chicago, know this: some of us are lucky enough to have a local leader like Karen Lewis, but far too many of us are not. There aren't nearly enough people in this world who are willing to stand up, look power straight in the eye, and not blink.

My fellow teachers, I won't tell you whom to vote against. But please, for the rest us:

Karen Lewis for President of the Chicago Teachers Union. Thanks.

This world needs more women willing to speak truth to power.

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