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Protecting one member’s rights protects all members’ rights.

CICS rally for a fair contract, Jan. 17, 2019. Photo: CTU Communications

We protect our schools and our rank-and-file members from some of the most outrageous schemes cooked up by Chicago Public Schools and City Hall through our unity and our aggressive enforcement of contract rights. An arbitration for a member sets precedent across the city, and mobilizes membership across Chicago to force CPS to honor our contract.

The Chicago Teachers Union has recently won arbitration victories in six separate cases related to unsatisfactory REACH ratings, layoff rights, the timely filing of grievances and religious holidays. Arbitration cases are complex, time-consuming and costly to fight. CPS knows this and often forces legitimate grievances into the lengthy arbitration process simply to delay justice, deplete union resources and wear down opposition to its mistreatment of members.

We do not put up with that. These six arbitration wins represent our refusal to surrender our contract rights or let CPS get away with the abuse of any member.

Unfair Unsats

Maxine Boyland, a 23-year veteran teacher, was Brennemann Elementary’s most senior teacher in 2013-2014 when her principal issued her an Unsatisfactory rating and selected her for layoff out of seniority order because of the rating. The principal failed to provide evidence, observation scoring and reflections via RLS for all of her observations and instead claimed to have given her hard copy printouts with feedback on them.

The Board of Ed would only have been able to avoid arbitration in this case by agreeing to not only rescind Boyland’s rating, but also to reinstate her to Brennemann and issue her back pay for the three school years since her layoff. Naturally, the Board refused. The arbitrator agreed.

Our Boyland victory set the stage for a second victory for Kelvyn Park teacher Robert Sylvan, with the arbitrator agreeing that any slight non-compliance with REACH procedures merits rescinding the rating. This will lead to Sylvan’s reinstatement.

Three strikes for the Board

Marek Ciborowski, a 25-year veteran teacher, was teaching physical education, health and drivers’ education at Bronzeville Academy when he received a Developing rating for 2015-16 that converted to an Unsatisfactory rating under the two-developing rule. He was laid off out of seniority order in 2016 because of the rating. The Union grieved to challenge the rating.

At arbitration, the Union argued that the rating was procedurally deficient and the arbitrator sustained all of our allegations, finding that each was independently sufficient to overturn the rating. Adopting the reasoning of other arbitrators in previous REACH cases, the arbitrator also ordered the Board to rescind Ciborowski’s rating and make him whole for losses he incurred because of the contract violations.

A whim and a prayer

We beat the Board on two issues for Lane Tech teacher Sundy SaTsu. He challenged his Developing rating for 2014-15, but the Board claimed the grievance was filed a day late. The Board also laid him off in 2015 when Lane Tech expanded his language program to a full-time teacher, claiming that part-time teachers have no seniority rights. These issues are related because if the new full-time position involves a denial of recall rights, then SaTsu needed a rating better than Developing to be entitled to recall.

The arbitrator followed our wins in several dozen previous 2016 cases and denied the untimeliness claim. He also followed our prior wins and rejected the Board’s claim that part-time teachers have no seniority rights because our contract says part-time teachers retain seniority rights and cannot be laid off simply to be replaced by a new hire. Finally, the arbitrator ruled that SaTsu’s Developing rating was invalid because the observations were spaced too closely. The ruling affects only what SaTsu’s rating of record will be upon reinstatement.

A time to grieve

Culinary arts teacher Gloria Simpson was one of two culinary arts teachers at Chicago Vocational. When one of those positions was eliminated in 2016, Simpson was selected for layoff out of seniority due to her 2014-15 rating, which the Union had challenged. She worked as a substitute during the 2016-17 school year and retired in June 2017.

The arbitrator followed our previous timeliness win and ruled our grievance timely as a 3-8 grievance, which is subject only to filing in a reasonable time, negating the 45-school-day limit. He added that if that limit did apply, a School Improvement Day should not count as a school day, because dates when students are not in school do not count as school days.

Once our grievance was deemed timely, the Union and Simpson automatically won because her observations were undisputedly spaced too close together. A CTU field representative is working with Simpson and the Board toward an agreed upon remedy.

Losing my religion

Elementary teacher Lauren Gould observes Yom Kippur, which runs from sundown to sundown. Gould historically had taken the school day off when the Jewish holiday begins. The Board approved the school day before Yom Kippur in 2016, but mysteriously did not do so in 2017. At the hearing, the Board said it changed its practice in mid-2015, and, instead of granting all requests without question, had now created a list of approved holidays and dates (denying unapproved dates). A teacher could appeal, but appeals generally would not be successful.

As it turned out, the board approved Gould’s request to take a religious holiday for the school day before Yom Kippur in 2016 because that date happened to be pre-approved as the Hindu holiday of Dussehra. Gould was granted the day as a Hindu holiday, not as the Jewish holiday she intended. Dussehra and Yom Kippur fell on separate days in 2017, and the Board denied her request.

The arbitrator held that the Board could not change its treatment of Gould without telling her that it was changing its rules, essentially barring the Board from secretly changing its treatment of requests for religious holidays by creating a secret list of pre-approved dates.

View the full summaries of these cases at https://www.ctulocal1.org/arbitration, and use this information and the support of your field rep and your union to tackle similar issues in your school.