Guest Column: A loss of faith in the IEA and REA

January 15, 2014

Editor’s note: The first communication that follows was an e-mail sent Dec. 18, 2013, by the Illinois Education Association (IEA). The e-mail contained a letter by IEA President Cinda Klickna, IEA Vice President Kathi Griffin and IEA Secretary-Treasurer Al Llorens. The second communication that follows is a letter from local education activist groups Watchdogs for Ethics in Education (WEE) and Rockford Educators Advocating Civil Treatment (REACT). These communications were shared with this newspaper by Jane Hayes, a member of both WEE and REACT.

Illinois Education Association e-mail

Colleagues:

Your organization is under attack by groups intent on taking away your collective bargaining rights.

IEA members in several districts have been receiving e-mails in their school mailboxes, and at home, from groups urging our members to withdraw their support from IEA and from IEA’s political action committee, IPACE.

There has also been a statewide radio ad campaign in which an actress poses as a teacher and claims she wants her union dues back because she doesn’t support the issues the “union bosses” give money to.

To be blunt about it, these organizations — the Illinois Policy Institute and the National Right to Work Foundation — want to kill off IEA.

If these folks had their way, those who work in our schools would have no voice over teaching and learning conditions. Employees could be fired at the whim of supervisors without a hearing. There would be no pensions.

That’s not hyperbole. That’s a fact.

This most recent effort to kill off your organization uses lies and other misinformation to try to convince IEA members to defund their political action committee, IPACE, and to drop their membership and become fair share fee-payers, if fair share exists in their locals.

It is falsely claimed that “dues money” is used for IEA political purposes. While dues monies are used to support our lobbying for pro-education, labor and employment legislation benefiting our members, not a penny of dues money can or is used to support candidates for political office. Claims otherwise are blatantly untrue.

These groups are funded by far-right conservative activists like the Koch brothers, the people behind the attacks on education employees in Wisconsin.

Here are some facts …

Union bosses” are actually officers elected by IEA members at the annual Representative Assembly specifically to support issues that benefit educators across the state.

What happens in the state legislature has a direct impact on you in your classroom, in your school and in your life. IEA has two very valuable assets in its efforts to make sure that your personal and professional rights are protected — members who vote and money in our political bank account.

Because these groups have been unable to stifle the voices of working people in the Illinois legislature, they now hope to trick our members into withdrawing their support of IEA, the organization that is protecting the rights of school employees and advocating for students.

There is no better proof of the success of IEA (and IPACE) than the fact that these organizations are mounting a campaign to eliminate us.

Regarding IEA’s political action fund, the annual IPACE per-member contribution of $30 (about $1.25 per paycheck), helps IEA keep organizations like the Illinois Policy Institute and the National Right to Work Foundation from destroying your pensions and gutting your other rights.

It’s hard to believe, as is claimed in the radio ad, that anyone is able to fund an extra vacation every year by saving $30 in IPACE money.

What you can do

We urge you to talk with your members about this attack on their organization.

Remind them that these organizations:

Want to strip them of their rights;

Want to eliminate their pensions; and

Want to privatize public education.

Colleagues, we have pensions and the rights we currently enjoy because we’ve stuck together. We must continue to remain united and fight our attackers.

Please share this e-mail with your colleagues using the “Forward this e-mail” link below.

If you or any members have any other questions about this issue, please contact directly your elected IEA statewide officers — Cinda Klickna, Kathi Griffin and Al Llorens.

WEE and REACT letter to the IEA

Jan. 2, 2014

Cinda Klickna

President of the IEA

Springfield, Ill.

Dear Ms. Klickna,

We are in receipt of your recent e-mail on Dec. 18, 2013, regarding anti-union activists attacking the IEA. In your e-mail, you refer to people/groups who want to take away collective bargaining rights of Illinois teachers. As members of the Watchdogs for Ethics in Education (WEE) and the Rockford Educators Advocating Civil Treatment (REACT), we have spent the last three years advocating for teachers who have been attacked by the system and not supported by our local union nor any legal counsel provided through IEA. Many of us in these two groups are retired and have been lifelong union supporters. We have had positive accomplishments in the teaching profession and involvement in the Rockford Education Association.

Your support of Senate Bill 7 has created immeasurable damage to teachers and has undermined long-standing tenured teachers who have been active in the local union. We have met with both local and state representatives and senators to discuss our concerns about what we see happening to good educators. One commented, “Your IEA had approved Senate Bill 7.” Your approval of this bill with committee members, who were not well-informed in education matters, has led to a disaster for teachers.

Senate Bill 7 has become the standard answer from the local union for not offering legal advice and support to beleaguered teachers. The current evaluation process using the Charlotte Danielson method simplifies the process of remediating and firing tenured teachers. District 205 has not properly trained evaluators in this process, making the evaluations subjective and ineffective. Danielson herself has expressed concerns regarding the improper evaluation process. The REA (Rockford Education Association) refuses to take a supportive role in grieving any evaluation, cause for remediation, and encourages teachers to sign letters of resignation or take early retirement.

Another reason we have lost faith in the IEA/REA is that they talk about privatization, yet support groups and individuals that are linked to special-interest groups, such as Alignment Rockford. Also, we have noticed an inordinate amount of tenured teachers who have been dismissed who have the experience and the knowledge base and have been replaced with new hires with no teaching experience who can be easily released at the end of the school year.

What do teachers receive for their dues? Why should we continue to support you? What rights and protection do current teachers really have? Why do new teachers have to pay the same dues with virtually no protection? Our groups plan to continue to spread the truth regarding the lack of IEA/REA support of its teachers.

Sincerely,

WEE/REACT

cc: Dawn Granath, Sherry Jones, Paul Goddard, Kathi Griffin, Al Llorens, Dennis Van Roekel, Richard Trumka

From the Jan. 15-21, 2014, issue

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