One of the largest charter school operators in Chicago, the politically influential United Neighborhood Organization, has agreed to allow teachers at its schools to join a union, labor leaders said Friday morning.
The move represents a sharp change in stance for UNO CEO Juan Rangel, a co-chairman of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s 2011 campaign who strongly criticized the Chicago Teachers Union for going on strike last year.
Rangel’s newly forged deal with the Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff, known as ACTS Chicago, comes barely a month after the Chicago Sun-Times revealed how UNO had spent millions of state school-construction grant dollars to pay contractors with close ties to the group.
Charter proponents generally shun unions, and UNO’s agreement with ACTS Chicago could transform the debate about organized labor in charters, which are privately run but rely heavily on taxpayer support. ACT Chicago currently has members in only 14 charter schools but would grow dramatically if the teachers at UNO’s 13 schools choose to join them.
In a letter to UNO teachers posted on the charter teachers’ union website, the labor group’s president, Brian Harris, wrote: “We now have received a commitment from the management of UNO Charter Schools to respect your rights to choose to have a union.”
Harris could not be reached for comment Friday morning, and an UNO spokesman declined to comment.
Harris and other union leaders had been among the leading voices criticizing UNO in response to the Feb. 4 report in the Sun-Times that detailed contract cronyism with a $98 million state grant.
UNO’s second-in-command, Miguel d’Escoto, quit his $200,000 post as senior vice president and chief of staff eight days after the Sun-Times reported on the contracts landed by two of his brothers.
And Rangel announced last month that the group temporarily suspended doing business with d’Escoto Inc., a firm owned by a Federico “Fred” d’Escoto, a brother of Miguel d’Escoto. UNO had paid d’Escoto Inc. more than $1.5 million from the state grant.
State officials are investigating whether UNO violated conflict-of-interest restrictions in the grant contract.
In an article posted Feb. 27 on the ACTS Chicago website, union boss Harris cited the Sun-Times reports, saying, “Imagine an UNO where management did not squander taxpayer dollars on political favoritism and clout.”
Harris also noted the high salary that UNO pays Rangel. He makes $250,000 a year--the same as Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett.
Harris alleged that UNO teachers “have reported being fired for breathing a hint of critism at UNO’s CEO Juan Rangel.”
Link to original article at Chicago Sun-Times
Page 29 of 75
The state's hypocritical energy push has reached a tipping point
On March 7, with the fanfare of an election campaign event, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and environmental organizations hailed 91 communities in the Prairie State that now purchase 100 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources. Quinn said. “This new study confirms that people around the world can look to Illinois as an example of what can be done with renewable energy.” “Renewable energy benefits everyone, from energy customers to Illinois farmers to anyone who breathes our air,”
This sounds great...
Jeff Biggers | AlJazerra America 14 Mar 2014 Hits:104 Illinois
It’s official: Illinois on Wednesday joined 15 other states and the District of Columbia in legalizing same-sex marriage.
Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, accompanied by state Rep. Greg Harris, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and several other dignitaries, signed into law a measure allowing gay couples to begin marrying on June 1. “It’s a triumph of democracy, a triumph of government by the people,” said the governor, shortly before signing. “We want to have a new birth of freedom across America, and love is not relegated to second-class citizen status.”
The historic nature of...
Emma Margolin | MSNBC.com 21 Nov 2013 Hits:313 Illinois
On Monday, November 18 at noon almost 100 voters rallied in Springfield to ask Senator Richard Durbin to keep cuts to Social Security off the table. Senator Durbin has proposed possible changes such as lifting the Social Security eligibility age and implementing “Chained CPI” for individuals that earn more than $24,000. After an informational picket along Edwards Street the group followed lead organizer JoAnn Conrad retired AFSCME, IEA-NEA, chair of the Progressive Democrats of Greater Springfield, led the rally across Edwards to the senator’s office. The message was “Scrap the...
JoAnn Conrad 18 Nov 2013 Hits:354 Illinois
Those who rely on food stamps will have to make do with a little less beginning today as a boost in funding from the federal stimulus package is set to expire.
The change will affect more than 2 million low-income residents in Illinois who are enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, according to the Illinois Department of Human Services. Nationally, about 47 million people are expected to feel the pinch.
The move marks the end of an extra $45.2 billion the federal government funneled into the food stamp program beginning in...
Monique Garcia | The Chicago Tribune 03 Nov 2013 Hits:313 Illinois
As another coal train derailed in southern Illinois last weekend, the Illinois State Historical Society teamed up with the Illinois Coal Association on Saturday for their own collision with history during the installation of a historical marker for the state's "First Coal Mine." The real train wreck: Among numerous errors, the Illinois State Historical Society marker fails to mention that other coal mines abounded in southern Illinois, thanks to enslaved African American labor -- including the so-called "first coal mine" -- while the Illinois Coal Association took the occasion...
Jeff Biggers | The Huffington Post 28 Oct 2013 Hits:356 Illinois
The pinnacle of last week's Take Back Chicago rally at UIC came near the end, when the 11 aldermen onstage were asked point-blank whether they support pending proposals to slow privatization and tax increment financing deals. Yes or no?
As more than 2,000 of the city's most dedicated activists looked on, the aldermen all said yes—even though a couple of them are among the most consistent council supporters of Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
They then sat there smirking, as if to say, you can't trap me, because I'm too slick.
Things got so absurd...
Ben Joravsky | Chicago Reader 23 Oct 2013 Hits:301 Illinois
Two sections that essentially told kids that coal was safe and good for the environment disappeared today from the website of a state agency in Illinois.
The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity has removed coal-related educational sections from its website, less than two weeks after the launch of a grassroots campaign demanding that the pages be taken down.
The website sections were supposed to educate children about energy, but had been widely denounced because they focused on misleading pro-coal messages.
It wasn't just environmentalists who objected to the way Illinois was...
Jeff Biggers | Yes Magazine 14 Oct 2013 Hits:391 Illinois
As absentee oil and gas companies register with the state of Illinois this month, downstate citizens groups are taking the lead among statewide environmental groups and laying out scientific and legal standards for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and Joint Committee on Administrative Rules to consider prior to drafting the controversial horizontal hydraulic fracking rules.
In a letter sent this week to the key legislative committee and state IDNR agency officials, the groups representing rural communities targeted for fracking operations cite "several new scientific studies and academic research papers that...
Jeff Biggers | Huffington Post 08 Oct 2013 Hits:535 Illinois
Dear Rep. Schock,
I am a constituent, writing in my role as coordinator of the Greater Peoria Chapter of Progressive Democrats of America (PDA).
I and other PDA members were at your town hall meeting in Heyworth, where some of your constituents encouraged you to vote to shut down the government unless the Affordable Care Act is defunded. In reply, you made the sensible point that ACA can't be defunded through the budget process, and that shutting down the government would bring extremely negative political consequences for Republicans. You also stated that...
Larry Jones | Journal Star 29 Sep 2013 Hits:496 Illinois
For many residents in southern Illinois dealing with the fallout of a sanctioned coal and fracking rush, the time has come to revamp the historic Illinois South organization and its role in providing impacted residents with a voice in state and federal regulatory matters.
Call it deja vu all over again.
And perhaps no one understands this better than Rev. Dave Ostendorf, the co-founder of the Illinois South citizens group in 1974, and a long-time community organizer for civil rights in Chicago and across the heartland and nation.
"Building critical mass around the...
Jeff Biggers | Huffington Post 06 Sep 2013 Hits:460 Illinois
Two years after a national campaign exposed a coal industry-bankrolled curriculum foisted on unwitting teachers and children, the state of Illinois is still dragging its feet to revamp its own widely denounced, misleading and climate change-denying "Coal Education Program" for schools.
Here's the punchline, kids: On the heels of a recent study that the coal industry annually drains nearly $20 million from the Illinois state budget, the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity's Office of Coal Development now says it's too broke to promptly respond to a long-awaited evaluation of the...
Jeff Biggers | Huffington Post 29 Aug 2013 Hits:494 Illinois
On the cusp of a hydraulic fracking rush, southern Illinois should recall its boom-bust history
CARMI, Ill. —
When an oil rush swamped her town of Carmi in the early 1940s, my great-grandmother leased her small farm acreage for drilling, but the wells came up dry. So she installed a new bathroom and cashed in like the rest of her neighbors, boarding the roustabouts. At 150 million barrels per year, Illinois pumped out more petrol in those days than Iraq and Iran combined.
(photo: A pump jack works on Wednesday, April 4, 2012, in...
Jeff Biggers | Aljazeera America 16 Aug 2013 Hits:417 Illinois
When farmers, families and besieged Hillsboro residents gather this evening for a public hearing on a controversial permit proposal by a coal company to build a second 77-foot-high high hazard toxic coal slurry impoundment within city limits, the stakes will go beyond the threatened health of this iconic central Illinois farm town.
(photo: Jeff Biggers article: Coal Slurry Scandal: Gov. Quinn, the High Hazard Dam in Hillsboro Is a National Disgrace. Construction on High Hazard Coal Slurry Impoundment at Deer Run Mine, Hillsboro, IL, 8/12/2011, prior to receiving proper permit, photo courtesy...
Jeff Biggers | Huffington Post 14 Aug 2013 Hits:548 Illinois
Inside the 40th annual meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in Chicago, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and other right-wing big-wigs addressed ALEC members and on-the-dole politicians.
Outside, the people, who have been cut out of the legislative process by ALEC and big money donors, protested in the streets. (Photos here.
In its 40-year history, ALEC has done more to destroy the American Dream than any other group. According to a report by the Center for Media and Democracy, 466 ALEC bills were introduced in 2013, and 84 of them...
Pamela Powers Hannley | Tucson Progressive 10 Aug 2013 Hits:575 Illinois
Has Rep. Brad Schneider finally gone too far with his recent vote against implementing the very small amount of health care reform that was so very hard won?
In case you haven't heard, this week, Schneider voted with the Republicans to pass H.B. 2668, the very Orwellian-ly named Fairness for American Families Act. The Fairness for American Families Act takes up on the Obama Administration's delay implementation of the employer mandate, and extends it to individuals. While I was not in love with the Obama Administration's reasoning to extend the large...
Ellen Beth Gill | Daily Kos 22 Jul 2013 Hits:581 Illinois
Brad visiting the historic Edmund Pettus Bridge with Rep. John Lewis earlier this month. (From his Facebook page)
While I have been very pleased with the fact that our congressman, Brad…
It is too bad Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth (IL-08) was not on the House floor last Wednesday when they voted on the McGovern Amendment to the Farm Bill which would have…
Parents and students occupied a Chicago school Wednesday, refusing to budge from a Lafayette Elementary classroom on the final day of education before the school is permanently shut down by…
The backroom negotiations behind the midwestern state’s new fracking regulations may be a taste of what’s to come in other places.
What happens in Illinois, doesn't stay in Illinois.…
On the eve of the historic fracking bill vote in Illinois, a citizen uprising led by nationally acclaimed scientist Dr. Sandra Steingraber, health workers, community groups and threatened downstate residents…
What happens in Illinois, doesn't stay in Illinois -- especially when you're dealing with the national ramifications of a combined fracking and coal mining rush unparalleled in recent memory.
Within hours of renowned climate scientists announcing a staggering milestone in carbon dioxide emissions, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn rolled out the booster wagons for Big Coal and celebrated his state's…
Whether she runs for governor or not, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan would need nine lives to bring the state's notoriously broken regulatory system into compliance with the nation's most…
"We are over-tested, under-resourced and fed up!"
Hundreds of Chicago students are taking up the mantle in the fight against the role of standardized tests in public school closures as they…
by Jeff Biggers @JeffRBiggers March 14, 2014 AlJazeera News The state's hypocritical energy push has reached a tipping pointBookmark/Search this post with:
Occupy Tastes Rare Success in Rise of Seattle SocialistBookmark/Search this post with:
\ By John ByrneClout StreetChicago Tribune, 4:03 p.m. CST, March 4, 2014Chicago aldermen today gave the preliminary go-ahead to a plan to earmark $55 million in special tax district funds to help pay for a new hotel next to McCormick Place.The...
Carol Ammons is the pro-pension, pro-labor candidate for State Rep. Dist 103 , Champaign-UrbanaFrom John Laesch: Bookmark/Search this post with:
By Debra SchrishuhnThe word “progressive” gets thrown around a lot during Democratic primary season, and some candidates pretend to be progressive to court Democratic primary voters. Others spew a litany of ideological talking points—so-called...
Amara Enyia says the Emanuel administration’s culture of intimidation is a major reason she is so determined to unseat him. (Photo courtesy Amara Enyia)By Kari Lydersen, In These Times, February 20, 2014Bookmark/Search this post with:
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Legislators Who Have Cut Ties To ALEC