VOTE NOW!! (polls are open, and election day is April 2)

March 24, 2019
Look: We will have a new Mayor and City Council in Chicago in a couple of weeks, and there will be neither a Daley nor a Rahm in City Hall. Breathe deeply. Smile. We will have an African American woman who has pledged herself to carry forward a progressive agenda in leadership in our city. Be a little thrilled. Allow yourself some joy. And then our real work, the heavier lift, begins. For us that means showing up and uniting with one another—none of this bullshit: You voted for Lori and the cops, you scum!, or How could you vote for Toni and the machine, you asshole. Get over it. Look up. It will mean organizing and mobilizing around the issues that matter and that are animating the city—#nocopacademy, Black Lives Matter, Undocumented and Unafraid, R3, closing Cook County Jail, fighting for decent and robust public schools, stopping the cops, and more. There are some real possibilities for change, and it’s our work, not some (imaginary) perfect person who will make everything right—only social movements and fire from below can do that. Be there.
Here’s a note from Jesse Sharkey:
Sisters and brothers:
Smart voters follow the money. And we’re now seeing a flood of campaign cash flow into the campaign coffers of Lori Lightfoot from school privatizers and the wealthy elites who supported Rahm and austerity hawk Bill Daley .
These are the very people who want to continue the status quo: policies that hurt our students’ families, undercut our schools, freeze our pay, gut our benefits and privatize public education.
Lightfoot claims to be ‘progressive’, but that doesn’t pass the smell test if she’s taking huge contributions from the very people who’ve bankrolled the attacks on our public schools, our livelihoods and our dignity for the last eight years. Lightfoot should follow her own advise and give back every penny she’s received from every one of these public education predators. Tell her to do just that on her Twitter feed—and share the word about her double-talk.
And Lightfoot’s contributions from Rahm allies and corporate insiders are growing. On Wednesday, Lightfoot took over $100,000 from big bucks Rahm financier Paul Finnegan, who also gave half a million bucks to school privatizer Stand On Children, and $300,00 to austerity hawk Bill Daley, who wanted to kill LSCs and preserve the unelected board of education. Finnigan gave Rahm at least $750,000 in campaign contributions overall. Earlier this month, Lightfoot got $100,000 from Madison Dearborn boss John Canning, who with Finnegan gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to Rahm’s campaign coffers last year alone. Rahm loyalist and Chicago airport contractor Rich Melman has donated to Lightfoot, as has Rahm’s corporation counsel Steve Patton—who cheered on Rahm’s lawyer Jim Franczek in court when we fought to prevent Emanuel’s disastrous 2013 mass school closings. Even Rahm’s personal attorney, Michael Forde, the lawyer in Rahm’s infamous residency case and his legal eagle in the mayor’s effort to keep his emails secret, has forked over dough to Lightfoot and headed up a marquee fundraiser for her.
No progressive politician collects cash from these kinds of political players.
We’re currently bargaining with CPS and seven of its charter operators for contracts that provide the resources to fund the schools our students deserve. Toni Preckwinkle has embraced our agenda—from progressive revenue sources that fund our schools to her opposition to charter expansion and school privatization. Lightfoot’s education platform, on the other hand, is completely silent on charters, and she opposes reinstating the corporate head tax that Rahm killed as a favor to his big business pals, just like he killed half a dozen mental health clinics, over 50 public schools and the city’s environmental department.
Instead of reinvesting in the schools Rahm closed over passionate objections from parents, students and residents, Lightfoot has proposed turning some into police training facilities. That scheme defies what those neighborhoods desperately need: civic anchors that connect residents with living wage work, job training, affordable housing, youth support programs and health services—including mental health services. It’s a slap in the face to our students and their families, who are being pushed out of our city in growing numbers.
Who our mayor is makes a huge difference at the bargaining table, where CPS wants to lowball pay and ignore critical staff shortages for our hardworking PSRPs, ignore key demands for educational programs and services in our schools, increase principal control, and roll back key CTU wins for better learning conditions.
We’re demanding instead that CPS increase our pay and benefits, boost staffing to adequate levels, cut class sizes in crowded schools, improve working conditions, and enforce social demands that support our students, their families and the neighborhoods in which they live. All of those demands are jeopardized by a Lightfoot win.
We helped inspire the national #RedForEd movement—and we know that when we fight, we win. That means taking a stand and fighting for the best candidate for mayor. And that person is not Lori Lightfoot.
In Solidarity,
Jesse Sharkey, President

BJ Richards

March 23, 2019
Celebrating Women’s History: A tribute to BJ:
Hi Gin –
I would love to dedicate a song to me dear friend and mentor, Bj Richards. The song is “Who Were the Witches?” (“who were the witches, where did they come from, maybe your great-great-great grandma was one, witches were wise wise women they say, and there’s a little witch in every woman today…”)
I read about Bj in Ms. magazine, in the spring of 1986. Her small (tiny!) child care program called Bj’s Kids, on the Upper West Side in Manhattan, was written up as a glowing example of integrating anti-bias education into early childhood programs. I was about to graduate from UVM with a degree in Early Childhood, and had a long-standing interest in what was then called “multicultural education.” I located a phone number, called the program, and asked to visit on an upcoming trip to the city.
The moment I walked through the door, I felt at home. Children and adults of all sizes and skin colors were playing busily, accompanied by the happy hum of engaged children. The space was made warm and welcoming with a wide variety of fabrics and posters on the walls, cozy furnishings, and books representing all kinds of people. My visit was planned to be an hour, but there was a big snowstorm that day and one of their teachers couldn’t make it in – I ended up spending the whole day, as Bj and her co-teachers felt equally at home with me.
Long story short – I worked at Bj’s Kids for two years, while my partner was in grad school in the city. Bj taught me about anti-bias education, introduced me to the amazing folks at Pacific Oaks College in Pasadena, California (Louise Derman-Sparks and the teachers in their lab school later wrote the first book on the topic: Anti-Bias Education for Young Children, published by NAEYC – National Association for the Education of Young Children). Bj and her co-teachers taught me about using gender-neutral words including firefighter, police office, mail carrier, and snowfriend, all of which now easily roll off my tongue without even thinking about it. They taught me about listening to people of color – in real life, in books, music, theater, movies, and art.
Women’s Day was probably the most-celebrated day of the year for Bj. She had/still has an *enormous* (maybe 6-8 feet x 4-5 feet) photo collage on the wall, with photos of mothers and aunties and grandmas related to Bj’s Kids, photos of women from around the world, women engaged in all kinds of work, women of all sizes and abilities/disabilities and ages, collected from magazines. She added more photos every year to include the families of new kids and teachers.
Every Women’s Day Bj hosts a huge brunch, with dozens of women. Each woman is encouraged to bring a poem or writing or song to share. Bread and roses are on the table, and bread and roses are also given to each mother/auntie/grandma of the children in her care. There is always a reading of Bread and Roses
The classroom is filled with books about all kinds of women, as well as music from women around the world. In 1986-1988, one of the kids’ and my favorite songs (played hundreds of times on an old record player that sat in a place of honor in the classroom) was Who Were the Witches. Bj wanted the kids to learn that women have a long tradition as healers, and this was one of the tools that she used. We listened to a version sung by Kristin Lems: (the song was written by Bonnie Lockhart).
Bj was one of the first adoptive single moms in New York City, at the forefront of a movement that saw women in their thirties and forties becoming mothers without waiting for partners. Her daughter was born on Brazil, and we welcomed them both home at LaGuardia airport with dozens of children and parents and teachers and tears of joy. Ten years later, when infertility brought me and my husband to the journey of parenthood through adoption, we stayed with Bj (who by then had moved to Chicago) for literally *weeks* while waiting for our son to be born (and again when his brother was born). Her daughter was present at our Entrustment Ceremonies, celebrating open adoption (and yes, we were early participants in this movement).
It was Bj who showed me how to work toward being an anti-racist, and how to teach children and families to work toward that as well. She worked with a group of kids to write to Band-Aid complaining that “skin tone” Band-Aids did *not* match their skin. We took the kids on city busses all over, visiting museums and parks. We took the children to eat at the only Ethiopian restaurant in the city.
It was Bj who gave me the courage to be the white mother of a Black child (which of course includes reaching out to and learning from women of color). She gave me the courage to go deeper and farther with my beliefs about raising children to be activists for justice, fairness, and respect for all.
Both as a teacher and as a parent, Bj has been a remarkable friend and role model. I love her!

Jesse Sharkey on Mayoral Race

March 21, 2019

Sharkey: “Grave concerns about Lori Lightfoot’s plans for our schools”

Click to get active!

Mayoral candidate Lori Lightfoot has no record of leadership in public education, yet has presented a number troubling issues for Chicago teachers, clinicians, paraprofessionals and education support staff.

With less than two weeks until Chicago elects a new mayor, corporate lawyer Lori Lightfoot is backtracking from statements made during a March 13 mayoral forum on public education at the University of Chicago, where she said, “And let us not forget, we got 38 schools that are vacant from the school closings…some of which can be repurposed to help us with our training needs in the police department.” The comments sparked nationwide backlash from public education advocates, activists and members of school communities destroyed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s record number of school closings in 2013. Lightfoot’s remarks also raised serious concerns about her ability and willingness to move the school district forward for the schools our students deserve.

Lightfoot’s callous proposal is the subject of a digital ad released by the Chicago Teachers Union this week, which opens by asking who is “the real Lori Lightfoot?” followed by her remarks at the March 13 forum. Next are striking images from the spring of 2013, in which parents, students, educators and thousands of Chicagoans marched through the streets of the city, rallied downtown and were brought to tears by Emanuel’s attack on their schools. Click here to view the full video and learn the truth about Lightfoot’s agenda.

“The plan to repurpose closed schools for police training is, quite frankly, an atrocious idea, and shows little understanding of the climate of that time and the impact the entire process had on the communities affected,” CTU President Jesse Sharkey said. “It’s especially insensitive to parents who continue to battle the ill effects of Rahm’s policies every day, and continue to fight against the isolation and displacement the [school] closings caused.”

“A better idea would be to invest in our schools and provide affordable housing, health care and living wage jobs to help school communities thrive,” Sharkey added.

CTU collective bargaining

In addition to her plan to repurpose closed schools, Lightfoot has taken no stance on issues of concern to CTU members. Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, endorsed by the CTU House of Delegates, supports expanding bargaining rights for negotiation on class size and special education staffing; increasing the number of counselors, social workers, school nurses and other clinicians; and ending job outsourcing such the failed Aramark janitorial deal. Lightfoot has been silent on expanding bargaining rights that are central to the work of our members, at the same time she’s been endorsed by a growing number of political players and Emanuel supporters, from Gery Chico and Paul Vallas, to finance executive John Canning.

School funding

On the issue of school funding, President Preckwinkle supports fairly and equitably funding schools through new progressive revenue streams and TIF reform, while Lightfoot said in a Jan. 17 student forum, in response to a question about funding our new contract, “We can’t negotiate and give away dollars we don’t have.” No one is asking for that. We are, however, demanding that the wealthy—some of whom are her own donors and Emanuel allies—pay their fair share and ensure that the dollars “we don’t have” are found for our schools.

Policing education

Finally, the CTU is a union of educators dedicated to fighting for economic and social justice. Toni Preckwinkle is committed to ridding the city of the gang database and has a long history as a champion of racial justice and reform of the criminal justice system—including expunging juvenile records and curbing cash bail. The Lightfoot record is troubling. In her work as both a private corporate attorney and a public appointee for the Richard M. Daley and Emanuel administrations, she has played a role in the turmoil that exists between the police and many communities of color today.

Lightfoot has said nothing on the issue of policing in our schools—many of which do not have nurses, social workers or counselors. Instead of clearly being an advocate for the people, she has spent decades playing both sides of the fence. The Union and our supporters need answers to where she stands on these critical issues, because while Lori Lightfoot is not Rahm Emanuel today, there is no certainty that if she is elected mayor of Chicago, she won’t become Rahm Emanuel after April 2.

“We’re not sure where she was in 2013, but if she knew the devastation and heartbreak brought by the mayor’s decision to close our schools and displace thousands of students, she wouldn’t be speaking to recklessly—nor would she be the beneficiary of fundraisers held by the mayor’s personal lawyer,” Sharkey said. “So we have grave concerns about Lori Lightfoot’s plans for our schools, our members and the families they serve.”

President’s Sharkey’s comments are in reference to a report this week of Emanuel’s personal lawyer, Michael Forde, being among the hosts of a March 19 fundraiser Lightfoot’s mayoral campaign.

Loud & Clear

March 21, 2019

White Supremacy vs. Save the World!

March 20, 2019

Bill Fletcher, Jr!!!

March 19, 2019

My Dinner w Tucker Carlson

March 16, 2019

By now you’ve likely heard a few of the choice quotes from the Fox News prime-time host Tucker Carlson recorded a few years ago on shock radio: Iraq is a “crappy place filled with a bunch of, you know, semiliterate primitive monkeys;” “I love women, but they’re extremely primitive, they’re basic, they’re not that hard to understand;” and that Warren Jeffs, former head of the breakaway Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints who had a 12-year-old wife and is now serving a life sentence for assault and accomplice to rape, was only persecuted for being “unpopular” and living a “different lifestyle,” and that “The rapist, in this case, has made a lifelong commitment to love and take care of the person, so it is a little different.”

Carlson says he won’t apologize for being “caught saying something naughty…more than a decade ago.” Naughty? Of course he speaks naughty most of the time, for example just weeks ago he asserted that immigrants make the US “poorer and dirtier and more divided.”

Bret Stephens, the New York Times columnist who works hard to keep his fangs from showing in order to present an image of a Republican with a human face, echoed and supported David French of the National Review who wrote in response to Carlson, “Our nation cannot maintain its culture of free speech if we continue to reward those who seek to destroy careers rather than rebut ideas.”

Ah, yes. Let’s have a civil debate about whether a nation of people (from the Cradle of Civilization) are “semiliterate primitive monkeys,” or whether women are “primitive,” or whether a rapist who makes “a lifelong commitment to love and take care of the person,” is in fact rapist, or just a little different.

Kathleen Parker, Washington Post columnist and resident resectable reactionary, noted that Carlson’s advertisers were abandoning ship, and urged Tucker not to “Bow to the Mob.”

An Arizona social activist named Imraan Siddiqi responded to Brett Stephens: “Ilhan [Omar] quoted a Diddy lyric and you wrote 10 articles about it. Tucker called Iraqis monkeys—and those are “ideas,” to be “rebutted.”

Here is an account of my dinner with Tucker Carlson: