Views in brief

Democracy and the CTU leadership

TARA EHRKE'S "CTU leaders and the rank and file" makes some abstractly correct, but practically misleading points.

Conservatization of left caucuses in power is an undoubted trend, but it happens for particular reasons, not because "the primary division" is "always" between the leaders and the ranks. Specifically, left caucuses in power are subject to the same conservatizing pressures as any union leadership in periods between upsurges of struggle: attacks from bosses, political repression and cooptation, their need to maintain a union financial and bureaucratic apparatus.

But the Caucus of Rank-and-File Educator's (CORE) period in power has overlapped with and fueled a dramatic rise of struggle and rank-and-file participation. CORE has actually infused radicalism and militancy into the ranks, not only through its own politics and internal organizing, but through connecting members to aggressive community struggles against school closures.

That is the context in which CORE and CTU President Karen Lewis moved to the left, not to the right, since being elected to office (note the change from Lewis' rotten compromise over strike vote legislation, rejected by CORE as a whole, to her behavior since then).

The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) refused to yield to overwhelming media and political criticism for not calling off their strike before there was a chance for thorough member discussion. Lewis, in particular, came under fire for refusing to put a positive spin on the contract when she said it was merely "the deal we got." So Ehrke's suggestion that incipient bureaucratism caused an undemocratic and faltering outcome to the strike rings hollow.

The Chicago teachers' strike is part of a new context of rising class struggle, building on the experiences of Wisconsin, Occupy and Trayvon Martin. While Ehrke's terms of analysis remain vital, the true conservatism her letter exposes is a failure to understand the way that this period changes the dynamics between ranks, bureaucracies and caucuses.
Avery Wear, San Diego

Real democracy in action

SOMETIMES WE learn lessons from world historical moments--wars, revolutions, general strikes--and sometimes we learn lessons from a simple sentence. When Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis said, "I do what the membership tells me to do," the lesson was that sometimes leadership means following the rank and file.

She spoke those words when the CTU's House of Delegates decided it wanted more time to consider the proposals of the negotiating team. The refusal to rubber stamp the leadership's recommendations was beyond Mayor Rahm Emanuel's understanding. After all, didn't the trained seals in the City Council raise their fins in unison whenever it was time to vote with Emanuel?

A Chicago Tribune columnist wrote that this showed Lewis wasn't ready for prime time as a leader. But the truth is exactly the opposite: An independent and engaged membership is the best assurance of good leadership.
Guy Miller, Chicago

A sickening anti-choice deception

IN RESPONSE to "Defending clinics in Kentucky": Recently, my daughter had an appointment at "Women's Med," a clinic in Southgate, Ky. Her GPS and the signage she saw led her to "Women's Health," which is directly across the street.

She went in and told them she had an appointment. They told her to sign in and proceeded to have her fill out paperwork and have an ultrasound, never revealing she indeed had no appointment with them. It wasn't until she was in a "counseling" session that she realized they were not where she was supposed to be. Not only did they invade her privacy, they were cruel to her regarding her right to choose.

I reported this to Southgate police, the Health Department and Women's Med. Women's Med told me this is happening to many of their patients. I contacted Women's Health and gave those sinning liars a piece of my mind.

Do you have any suggestions of anything else I can do to prevent this from happening to other women? Any guidance you can give me would be most appreciated. Women's Health now has all of my daughter's private information.
M. Sisler, Lake Villa, Ill.

Politicians protecting police

IN RESPONSE to "Oakland shields a killer cop": One of the persons who has blood on his hands is City Councilman Larry Reid. He has allowed the police to run roughshod over young Black males in his district.

He and Ignacio De La Fuente have been trying to no avail to pass "gang initiatives." Each time the initiatives have failed, but they are allowing the police to treat anyone standing on a corner as if they are a gang member.

Reid is up for re-election and needs to be given the boot. Many of the killings by police are in De La Fuente's (Fruitvale) and Reid's (deep East Oakland) districts.

You would think De La Fuente would be more empathetic after his son was sentenced to 25 years for rape, but instead, he has gotten worse. The sad part is that De La Fuente is Hispanic and Reid is African American.
Anita Wills, San Leandro, Calif.