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Connecting you to your union, because together we are stronger. DECEMBER 2012/JANUARY 2013

IFT-Endorsed Candidates Win Big...



IFT President Dan Montgomery (left) greets Rep.-elect Hoffman (center) and Sen. Clayborne during their visit to the Theatre.

Lawmakers Join IFT Effort to Bring Help and Hope to Illinois Youth MONTHS OF VOLUNTEER LABOR AND MANY THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS IN DONATIONS of money and building supplies are transforming The Village Theatre in Centreville, Ill. into a high-tech training and entertainment facility for youth and communities in southeastern Illinois. Under the sponsorship CONTINUED ON PAGE 3

ON NOVEMBER 6, IFT-ENDORSED CANDIDATES WERE ELECTED IN LARGE NUMBERS TO THE WHITE HOUSE, U.S. CONGRESS AND THE ILLINOIS GENERAL ASSEMBLY. President Obama was re-elected for a second four-year term. Twelve of the 15 IFT-supported candidates for Congress, 44 of the union-backed 48 candidates for the Illinois Senate, and 76 of the 85 candidates endorsed by our union for the Illinois House of Representatives were declared winners on

Election Day. These numbers represent a tremendous 90 percent win record for candidates who have committed to support workers and the middle class. While the IFT can’t claim all the credit for these victories, our union and its members were instrumental in helping many candidates cross the electoral finish line. In the weeks leading up to Election Day, the IFT contacted members about candidates through the mail, on the phones and at their doorsteps. In total, union leaders and members volunteered CONTINUED ON PAGE 4


Lame Ducks, Pensions and You

What you need to know


Buy Union

Shop for union-made products this holiday season


Member Spotlight

IFT showcases member accomplishments


Lame Ducks, Pensions and You Daniel J. Montgomery President

Wouldn’t it be nice just once if we could welcome in the New Year without another fight to save the very pensions we were promised and have paid for as hard working public servants? Unfortunately, 2013 will not be the year for such a refreshing change, so we must prepare to stand up for what is right. That is why the IFT is asking all members to come to the state capitol January 3-4. Top political leaders in our state are saying that pension reform will be addressed in the “lame duck” session of the General Assembly from January 3-9. During this time, 35 lawmakers who lost their recent election bids (“lame ducks”) can cast their votes without fear of reprisal before new legislators are sworn in later in the month. Lawmakers who feel they are not accountable to their constituents are dangerous, so this will be a critical time to stop harmful pension legislation. You must show up and speak out on January 3-4 in Springfield to protect pensions. Your lawmakers must know that you ARE watching them, whether they are lame ducks or were reelected. For those of us who are unable to come to Springfield during those days, there will be plenty of lobbying activities you can do from home to ensure your voice is still heard. Visit the IFT Web site at for details. Know that the IFT and all members of the We Are One Illinois coalition are working hard to defend your retirement security. Every partner union is bringing members Union Link is published six times a year in December, February, April, June, August and October by the Illinois Federation of Teachers, 500 Oakmont Lane, Westmont, IL 60559. Phone: 630/468-4080

POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Union Link, 500 Oakmont Lane, Westmont, IL 60559. MEMBERS: To change your address, notify your local union treasurer.

to the Capitol to demonstrate our power and resolve. But we must do more. We must show Illinoisans the value of public pensions to employees and the state. And we must prove to them that benefits are not the cause of this crisis – funding is the real problem. The pension reforms being advanced by Governor Quinn, Speaker Mike Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton seek to cut the value of our pensions by a whopping 35 percent over a 20-year period. Their proposals possess the evil ingenuity of ensuring that the older you are and less able you are to earn income or provide for yourself, the less your pension will be worth. What is most disturbing is that the Quinn-Madigan-Cullerton pension reform scheme will not solve the real problem. If their plan passes, in a few years the state could be right back to having a pension payment it cannot afford. The IFT and We Are One Illinois want to solve the problem in a fair, sustainable and constitutional way. We believe that a sound set of pension solutions must include the following key provisions in law: • an ironclad guarantee that the state will pay its required payments to the systems.

• a sensible repayment plan (not the current “ramp”) that pays the unfunded liability over time in a manner the state can afford. • new revenue: Hundreds of millions of dollars could be generated by simply closing corporate tax loopholes. • increased employee contributions: IFT members and others have expressed a willingness to share in the sacrifice if that guarantees secure pensions are available for public workers at retirement. We know this prescription for pension security is a tall order. Our state’s political leaders do not have a track record of sound, measured public policy. But with your help, the IFT and labor will lead the way once again and insist that lawmakers do what is right for our members and this state. Please join us in Springfield on January 3-4 to make your voice heard. Then continue to stay informed, talk to your colleagues and support your local union’s efforts as we work collectively to clip the wings of the lame ducks who threaten our retirement security.

• a robust mechanism allowing the pension systems to attach state dollars if In solidarity, the state does not make full payments. • a requirement that the systems sue the state if it does not make full, timely payments. GOING GREEN: Union Link is printed on recycled paper certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and printed with environmentallyfriendly soy-based inks. © 2012 ILLINOIS FEDERATION OF TEACHERS, AFT, AFL-CIO

Daniel J. Montgomery President Chief Operating Officer Karen GJ Lewis Executive Vice President Marcia K. Campbell Secretary-Treasurer

Beth Camplain Art Director Dave Comerford Media Director Amy Excell-Bailey Publications Director




E-mail comments and suggestions to us at, or send letters to Union Link, P.O. Box 390, Westmont, IL 60559. Please include your full name, address and daytime phone number. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.


“Like” Us Stay up-to-date on union activities by connecting with IFT on Facebook. Click the blue Facebook icon under “Connect With Us” on the right side of the IFT home page, or find us on Facebook by visiting:

IFT is on Twitter It’s easy to stay informed and involved with your union using social media. In addition to Facebook, IFT is now on Twitter! Whether you get updates on your computer or smartphone, receive the latest union news and find out what IFT and AFT leaders are tweeting about by following: IFT @iftaft IFT President Dan Montgomery @DanJMontgomery AFT @AFTunion AFT President Randi Weingarten @rweingarten

and guidance of the IFT - and with the support and assistance of area unions, community organizations and local businesses - the union’s Ultimate Makeover project is creating the help and hope it was designed to inspire. Now area lawmakers have taken notice and added their support to the cause. Among the elected officials who have endorsed the project are Congressman Jerry Costello, Sen. James Clayborne, Rep. Eddie Jackson, and newly-elected Rep. Jay Hoffman. The lawmakers attended a “work weekend” in early November to tour the facility and thank the volunteers from the IFT, the Laborers, Steelworkers, Carpenters, the Young Democrats of Illinois and many others who have dedicated their time and expertise to the improvement project. The media, including Fox News, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and others, have also taken note of the project and showcased the collaboration among all parties in news reports and articles throughout the region. IFT Ultimate Makeover work began in June when The Village Theatre was selected as the 2012 winner of the union’s community service and improvement project. As the winner, the facility is being renovated and updated to benefit youth and their families in East St. Louis, Cahokia and surrounding communities. The Theatre, a labor of love built by Hall of Fame jazz guitarist Eddie Fisher and now kept alive by his wife Christina, provides youth and their families with opportunities to receive technical, skillbased training in audio, video, theatrical, dance and musical production. Students are given real-life opportunities to use their skills to create public service announcements and video presentations, as well as to direct, perform in, videotape and produce live productions on the Theatre’s stage.

Mentors even provide students with one-on-one role playing to help students prepare for job interviews and other situations they may encounter as they enter the job world. The facility provides all training and live entertainment for area residents free of charge.



Volunteer union laborers and local business owners put up siding on the new addition to The Village Theatre.

The progress of the renovation has been remarkable. Major updates, repairs and improvements have been completed, including the initial construction of a 4,000 square foot addition, the laying of a new concrete floor, an update of the computer lab including new computers and wireless connectivity and a massive landscape cleanup on the more than one acre property. Electrical work and HVAC installation are expected to be underway soon. See the progress online at The project truly is a community endeavor. Visit the IFT Web site at for a complete list of IFT Ultimate Makeover partners. As the work moves towards completion in the weeks ahead, your help is needed. Please consider donating your time, supplies or financial assistance. Local unions, church groups, school groups, community charities, businesses, even groups of family and friends - everyone can play a part! Visit the IFT Web site at to learn more about the project and ways you can help.

GetInvolved For information about the IFT Ultimate Makeover or to volunteer to help, visit U N I O N L I N K | D E C E M B E R 2012/JANUARY 2013



more than 8,000 hours on behalf of candidates who support education, public services and those we serve. The IFT also played a major role in the AFL-CIO Labor 2012 program, helping elect Cheri Bustos (D), Tammy Duckworth (D), Bill Enyart (D), Bill Foster (D) and Brad Schneider (D) to the U.S. Congress. And, although Illinois was not a presidential battleground state, the union was proud to help President Barack Obama easily secure Illinois’ electoral votes. Both the IFT and American Federation of Teachers (AFT) stand ready to work with him to keep moving the country forward in a second term. Our election efforts clearly paid off, but we will not back down now. As your union, it is our job to hold these elected officials accountable for the promises they made during the campaign. But we cannot do it alone. IFT members need to be engaged and mobilized to ensure the

voices of educators, PSRPs and public employees are heard - loud, clear and often. Elected officials are charged with representing their constituents. They can do that best when they hear from you - members of their districts - about key issues. We must establish a dialogue with lawmakers to educate them about charter schools, privatization, pension funding, collective bargaining rights and more. As the economy continues to recover and the state’s budget remains tight, it will be critical that legislators hear YOUR story. YOU are the only one who can explain to them how having three dozen (or more) children in your classroom impacts the amount of individual attention you can give each student. YOU are the only one who can give a firsthand account of how the time it takes to issue a state permit has tripled


acticentern Visit IFT’s ActionCenter to participate in current action campaigns.


your lawmakers


your lawmakers


with your lawmakers 4

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because of staff cuts in your agency. YOU are the only one who can talk about the impact of increased tuition costs on students caused by state budget cuts to higher education. During the coming months, be ready to answer the union’s call for activism. In the meantime, contact your elected officials now via e-mail, phone and in person to let them know YOUR story. Remind them that they are accountable to all the people they represent, including the hard working, dedicated educators, PSRPs, public employees and retirees in their districts. Working collectively in the days ahead, we will make our voices heard.

Faculty and Staff Talk Pensions and Politics at 2012 IFT Higher Education Conference

G.E.O. Wins Fight to Retain



Attacks on pensions were also addressed throughout the two-day meeting. Dan Montgomery explained the union’s goals for the upcoming “lame duck” session of the General Assembly, as well as strategies to fight key battles expected next session. “We want to shift the focus of the pension conversation from cutting benefits to finding a fair fiscal solution that is sustainable,” he said. s

A Local 4100 member asks a question about pension legislation in Springfield during the opening General Session.

MEMBERS REPRESENTING HIGHER EDUCATION FACULTY AND STAFF FROM LOCALS AND COUNCILS STATEWIDE gathered at the annual IFT Higher Education Conference in Oak Brook on October 26-27. Strategizing about how the results of the election will impact hard-earned pensions in the months ahead topped the weekend’s agenda. Participants heard keynote remarks from IFT President Dan Montgomery on the first night of the two-day event. He acknowledged the volunteer efforts of higher education members who were helping to re-elect President Obama and those statewide candidates who will advocate for education, workers and public employee pensions. “Our members in universities and community colleges have historically been among our most dedicated and active in campaigns,” he said. “This campaign is no exception, and I express my deepest gratitude for what you are doing and will do in the future.” Clearly these members’ efforts paid off. (Learn more about the tremendous successes of Election 2012 in the cover article of this issue of Union Link.)

The IFT leader responded to questions from participants about a wide variety of subjects, from the union’s endorsement process to ways to increase member engagement. Conference business was completed at the IFT headquarters in Westmont on Day 2, with subcommittee meetings conducted to discuss the unique needs and challenges facing higher education members in various settings, including community colleges, universities and the Graduate Employees (GEO). In addition to the meetings, IFT Legislative Director Nick Yelverton provided an overview of possible harmful legislation on pensions, education funding, collective bargaining and more that may be introduced in the days ahead. “As always, the activism of our members will be the key to our effectiveness in Springfield and Washington,” he said.

After voting overwhelmingly to authorize a strike in mid-November, the Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign secured a new fiveyear contract that retains tuition waivers for the 2,400 graduate employees and teaching assistants who are members of the IFT. “Tuition waivers are a fundamental part of graduate education at every major university,” said Stephanie Seawell, GEO spokesperson. “Waivers are how universities, like the University of Illinois, are able to hire and compete for high-quality and diverse graduate students.” The GEO originally secured tuition waivers in 2009 after a successful two-day strike. Since then, the university has been trying to erode the benefit. Two years ago, the university arbitrarily reduced the tuition waiver benefit for teaching assistants in the College of Fine and Applied Arts to cover only the costs of in-state tuition. The GEO filed a grievance and won. The university appealed, and on Nov. 15, 2012, the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board upheld that decision and ordered that the impacted teaching assistants be reimbursed for the difference, with interest. The recent labor board ruling clearly had an impact on negotiations. But energized and active GEO members also pressured the university to reach a fair agreement by conducting teach-ins, work-ins, rallies and other solidarity actions. A tentative agreement was reached in late November. At press time, GEO members were scheduled to vote on the agreement in early December.

MoreResults Visit for a complete list of election results.

LearnMore Visit for the most up-to-date information about GEO.

U N I O N L I N K | D E C E M B E R 2012/JANUARY 2013


Power& Activism Top the Agenda at IFT PSRP/Public Employees Conference


Members of Local 4408 participate in a conference workshop on new member engagement.

About 200 IFT members who work in K-12 schools, community colleges, universities and offices attended the annual conference to hear from inspiring speakers like Ruby Newbold, president of the Detroit Association of Educational Office Employees. Newbold revved up the crowd during the

conference’s opening General Session by reminding PSRPs and public employees that they are a powerful force when they act collectively. “Our power comes from our unionism and solidarity,” she said. “By standing together, no matter what the challenges we face, we will prevail.” IFT President Dan Montgomery thanked the audience for their consistently high levels of activism in election campaigns, including Election 2012. “Our union knows that we can count on PSRPs and public employees to get the job done when they’re needed most,” he said. “And this time, we needed you more than ever and you answered the call once again.” In addition to the keynote speakers, union PSRPs and public employees attended informative workshops on both days of the event. Topics ranged from Common Core State Standards to


Union members from around the state gathered at the IFT PSRP/Public Employees Conference in Oak Brook from Oct. 19-20 to celebrate their successes and prepare for the challenges ahead.

Members of Local 1708 at General Session.

Forging Community Alliances to Member Engagement. Conference-goers also had the opportunity to get updates from representatives of the retirement systems – State Employees’ Retirement System (SERS), State Universities Retirement System (SURS), Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (IMRF) and the Municipal Employees’ Annuity and Benefit Fund (MEABF) of Chicago – in which PSRPs and public employees are eligible to participate.

ConferenceGallery To view more photos from the conference visit

Put Union-Made Gifts Under Your Tree This Year Purchasing union-made products this holiday season and all year long helps keep good jobs in our communities and encourages increased manufacturing here in the U.S. That’s why it’s so important for us to select goods and services made by our union brothers and sisters. Buying union goods can also help you stretch your holiday shopping budget! As a union member, you are entitled to a wide variety of money-saving discounts and special deals. 6

UNION LINK | DECE M B E R 2 0 1 2 / J A N U A RY 2 0 1 3

The IFT suggests you start your shopping list with a visit to the Union Label & Service Trades Department, AFL-CIO Web site, and use the “Search For Union Products” feature on the right.

GetDetails Visit for more details.


Member Spotlight Local 1211 Member Named Illinois Teacher of the Year Brian Curtin is a member of the Northwest Suburban Teachers Union, Local 1211.

THE ILLINOIS STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION RECENTLY NAMED BRIAN W. CURTIN THE 2013 ILLINOIS TEACHER OF THE YEAR. Brian teaches English in grades 9-12 at Schaumburg High School in District 211 and is a member of the Northwest Suburban Teachers Union, Local 1211. More than 200 nominations were initially received for the Those Who Excel/

Illinois Teacher of the Year competition. Nominees were reviewed and scored by a selection committee comprised of administrators, teachers and school board members. Principals, faculty, parents and students submit letters on behalf of candidates as part of the nomination process. As one of nine finalists, Curtin was interviewed, videotaped and scored again before being selected the winner by State Superintendent Chris Koch. “Great teaching is about making a connection with students, and Brian Curtin makes those important connections every day,” said Koch. “Brian is one of those inspirational teachers who makes creative and engaging lesson

plans look easy and leads through example and self-discipline.” Now in his tenth year of teaching, Curtin maintains a great rapport with his colleagues, parents and most importantly, students. Known for his enthusiasm for learning, he encourages students to be proactive in their education and life goals. A graduate of the University of Illinois at Champaign, Curtin holds a Masters of Art in English Education from the University of Illinois at Chicago. He is currently awaiting National Board Certification after completing the requirements earlier this year.

IFT Members Selected For PARCC Educator Leader Cadre

ILLINOIS IS ONE OF 26 STATES WORKING WITH THE PARTNERSHIP FOR THE ASSESSMENT OF READINESS FOR COLLEGE AND CAREERS (PARCC) to create a new assessment system for the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The standards are currently being implemented statewide and require students to take new assessments aligned with the standards beginning in the 2014-15 school year. Four IFT members - Judi Herzog (Local 4465), Robin Kasper (Local 604),

Sandra Sargeant (Local 3936), and Fred Schlessinger (Local 1274) - have been selected to serve on the 24-member PARCC Educator Leader Cadre. They will work in Illinois to strengthen their knowledge of the new standards and to support and conduct professional development for fellow educators.

paraprofessional. The union cadre will work to develop and disseminate helpful CCSS resources to educators statewide and bring professional development on the standards to teachers throughout Illinois.

The goal of the IFT cadre members will be to get information about the new standards to every Illinois teacher so all students receive instruction aligned with the standards. To that end, the IFT has also established an educator cadre of 15 teachers and a

Do you know an IFT member who deserves recognition? Let us know! E-mail Due to space limitations, IFT cannot guarantee that all information will be published.


D E C E M B E R 2012/JANUARY 2013


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Illinois Federation of Teachers P.O. Box 390 Westmont, IL 60559


Permit no. 40 OAK BROOK, IL

The fixation on high-stakes testing in our schools is failing our students. We can repair the system by restoring a focus on high-quality instruction that will give our students the world-class education they deserve. Join our campaign and help send the message that learning is more than a test score.

Sign the petition today at:


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UNION LEADERSHIP INSTITUTE 2013 Regional Courses January 26, 2013 Peoria, IL February 23, 2013 Fairview Heights, IL March 23, 2013 Quincy, IL Course descriptions and registration forms for Regional ULIs will be available soon on

December/January Union Link  

The December 2012 / January 2013 issue of The Illnois Federation of Teachers newsletter - Union Link.

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