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Connecting you to your union, because together we are stronger. SUMMER 2014




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After nearly two years of difficult bargaining with University administration, UIC United Faculty (UICUF), Local 6456, successfully ratified their first contracts in late April for both tenure- and non-tenure track faculty. Members overwhelmingly approved the agreements.


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UIC United Faculty Ratifies First-Ever Contracts


Solidarity was key to the successful outcome. Throughout the lengthy negotiations, Local 6456 members stood together and kept the “We formed this union to give pressure on UIC administration. Members UIC Faculty a collective voice.” held a highly publicized two-day work stoppage in mid-February, voted to strike ~ Joe Persky, Local 6456 president in late April if necessary, appealed for binding arbitration, and conducted a massive digital media campaign to demand a fair contract from University of Illinois President Easter and the Board of Trustees. “This is a major victory,” said IFT President Dan Montgomery. “I’m so proud of our


Our Path Forward

President Montgomery visits East St. Louis, sees power in local union


IFT on Over-Testing

Three important bills aim to address the negative consequences


dedicated UICUF members who displayed incredible strength and determination again and again during this long fight. Their successful efforts will ensure that UIC remains a world-class institution that attracts and retains top tier faculty for its students.” UICUF consists of nearly 1,000 contingent faculty members. They made history in 2011 by becoming the first faculty in Illinois history from a large research university to organize a union. Many aspects of faculty work life and professional conditions will be dramatically improved under the new agreements, which extend through next year. “We formed this union to give UIC faculty a collective voice and the protections we need to advocate for our school, our students, and our members,” said Joe Persky, Local 6456 president. “This agreement helps us do just that.”

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Licensure Requirements Learn what you need to know before they change on July 1, 2014


A Single Piece of Bread and the Power of a Union Daniel J. Montgomery President

I wish you could have been with me last month when I toured East St. Louis, Illinois. Local 1220 President and IFT Vice President Sharon Crockett invited me down to see first-hand the tremendous challenges facing her town and district and to see the strong, dynamic teachers and support staff, and the beautiful kids of East St. Louis. We started with a drive around the city. I saw the closed schools, the projects, the charter school that was open but is

were focused on how to provide the best instruction to their students. The level of devotion and commitment was inspiring. Then we went to Mason Clark Middle School, another fine facility with welcoming staff and respectful students. But I noticed the spacious library was missing a key element – a librarian. I talked with a frustrated counselor and social worker who work at least 60 hours a week and cannot keep up with the case load.

Yes, there is free and reduced lunch for nearly every student, but sometimes they run out of meals and give the students only a piece of bread. A single piece of bread. closing again, vacant lots, and tough streets. Our first school was East St. Louis High School, a terrifically renovated building with a vocational education wing that any school would be proud of and well-appointed, sun-filled classrooms peopled with intense and devoted staff. I talked with a teacher who commands the halls as well as he guides his ROTC class. I talked to an English teacher and leader who helps her colleagues improve their own instruction and works closely with her union. We had conversations with AP history and geometry teachers who

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inspired, not tired, because we concluded with a union meeting in the terrific Local 1220 hall. At least 50 teachers and support staff turned out at the end of their own long, tough days to come to a union meeting in a rumbling thunderstorm. Wow. I asked to hear their stories and did they talk! They bore strong witness to me, IFT Secretary-Treasurer Marcia Campbell, IFT directors Lee Wilson (field operations) and Lorenzo McDonald (organizing and community engagement), and their ace local field service director Linda Baldwin. Wow. Their passion and commitment to the district and kids was moving testament to their professionalism and union solidarity.

At Avant Elementary, the teach- ers told a harrowing story of students going hungry. Yes, there is free and reduced lunch for nearly every student, but sometimes they run out of meals Their challenges—while perhaps starker and give the students only a and tougher than those of most anypiece of bread. A single piece where—speak to the poverty and economic of bread. inequality that plagues our entire state, no matter where you live. And the folks Finally, the teachers at Lincoln Middle in East St. Louis grapple daily with the School face a challenging learning same terrible educational policies that are environment where there is insufficient attacking us all—over-testing, shaming support for discipline. Science teachers and blaming in the name of “accountabilcannot teach labs due to safety concerns. ity,” and attacking rather than supporting One teacher had only twelve tired, torn, teachers. Sound familiar? ten-year-old books for the 26 students in his lab class every day. He’s been trying to get new books for years.

You can understand some of the stark challenges facing this community. But at the end of my visit, I felt hopeful and

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Daniel J. Montgomery President Chief Operating Officer

But President Crockett and Mr. Kim Heywood, president of the East St. Louis General Service Employees Union, Local 382, are leading their unions in a memberdriven effort to fight back. They have Aviva Bowen Director of Communications

Karen GJ Lewis Executive Vice President

Beth Camplain Media Director Amy Excell-Bailey Media Director

Marcia K. Campbell Secretary-Treasurer

Kenzo Shibata Media Director

Convention Los Angeles | July 11-14, 2014

established “Operation Pushback Committee,” a group comprised of 19 local members representing 11 city schools. The committee is planning strategies to reclaim these issues, creating a campaign to regain power and voice, and asserting our vision as professionals about what our children and schools need. The IFT will be there to help them all the way. I am confident that when we work as strong, motivated, powerful unions that keep our members engaged, educated and acting, we win. No local, no IFT staff member, no AFT or AFL-CIO leaders can wave a wand and fix what ails us—that power lies within our members and our collective will. This is the vision I see at work in East St. Louis, and I hope it’s the reality you are building in the local union where you work. This is how we win.

In solidarity,

Every other year, union members from locals around the country attend the convention of the IFT’s national organization, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). This year, Los Angeles, California will host the event from July 11-14 at the Los Angeles Convention Center. This marks the 83rd Convention of the union. Planning is well underway, with guest speakers, informative workshops and social functions being scheduled for convention delegates and guests. The convention provides the opportunity for members from across the country to debate issues, set policy, hear from keynote speakers, and elect officers to lead our national union. More than 2,000 delegates and guests are expected to attend. Pre-convention events, including the AFT Professional Development Network conference and the AFT Retireesconference, will be held on July 9-10.

E-mailDan I’d love to hear from you! Send your thoughts to me at emaildan@ift-aft.org.

The convention agenda and registration information is available on the AFT website at aft.org.

LearnMore Contact your local unioin president to learn how your local participates in the event.

U N I O N L I NK | SUMMER 2014



OVER-TESTING be considered in the Senate before the end of session.

Across the country, the public is realizing something teachers have always known - that the increasing calls for accountability and standardized testing over the last decade are hurting students and education. A report released in 2013 by the American Federation of Teachers confirmed that unnecessary over-testing is reducing critical instruction time and is detrimental to kids. As a by-product of so many tests and accountability measures, vast amounts of personal, professional, and performance data is being collected from teachers and students. The collection and tracking of the data has created privacy concerns, as well. Delegates to the 2013 IFT Convention passed Resolutions (No. 4, 12, and 23) that recognized these issues, and the union is dealing with them head on. During this session of the General Assembly, the IFT has been working with other education stakeholders to introduce and advocate for three important bills to ensure data privacy and determine just how testing is impacting our kids.

K-2 Testing Studies have already shown that intensive testing on our youngest learners causes undue stress and anxiety. To ensure that K-2 students aren’t subject to high-stakes testing before they are developmentally and emotionally ready, we have 4


Data Privacy

introduced SB 3460. The bill would prohibit the administering of any test on K-2 students that is not diagnostic in nature or necessary to identify academic needs. The IFT testified in favor of the bill at a hearing in late April. At press time, the legislature had not yet taken up the bill.

Impact of Testing

The IFT is also advocating for HB 5330, a bill designed to get a complete picture of the impact of testing in Illinois. This bill requires the formation of a task force to study the cost, number of assessments at the state and district levels, and amount of critical instructional time lost due to testing. The task force would include teachers, parents, school board members, and other stakeholders. By May 2015, the group would develop a comprehensive report and make recommendations to the General Assembly to help lawmakers make informed decisions about education and testing. HB 5330 passed the House with bipartisan support in March. It is expected

To ensure that data collected by the Illinois State Board of Education is securely stored in the digital “cloud,” we are working to pass SB 3092. The bill would protect students’ and educators’ personally identifiable information while in the care of third party vendors. The bill also requires accountability of educational entities or contractors with access to that data. It would restrict third party vendors from using the data for commercial purposes without consent, as well as strengthen data protection under state statutes for students and teachers. SB 3092 was amended in March to reflect concerns from some stakeholders. It passed the Senate in April by a vote of 49-4. At press time, the bill had been referred to the House Rules Committee for consideration. The IFT will continue to lobby for passage of these important bills on behalf of our members and Illinois students.

LearnMore Look for Legislative Updates on ift-aft.org.


HIGHER ED NOT DEBT The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) has joined with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) and other education advocates to take a hard stand against the escalating college debt crushing many young people as they pursue higher education. The “Higher Ed, Not Debt” campaign launched a multi-year effort in March with a panel of speakers who addressed the need for change and ways to move forward. “We can’t be a nation that tells our young people that college is really important while at the same time saddling them with crushing debt and slashing investments in the programs and supports that could enable them to achieve their dreams,” AFT President Randi Weingarten said. According to “Higher Ed, Not Debt” statistics, in just the last five years, Illinois’ higher education budget has been cut by more than 21 percent, while tuition has increased by more than 16 percent. Student debt nationwide is nearly $1.2 trillion, and the average debt load is $29,400. Students, rather than states, are paying for the rising cost of higher education.

The new campaign will provide support to borrowers facing this enormous debt burden, address causes of declining affordability (including financial aid policies), challenge the role of Wall Street and the privatization of education, and encourage civic engagement to urge lawmakers to make changes. Sen. Warren has introduced legislation that would require institutions using federal loan money to meet certain requirements regarding loan default rates and cost per student. She also plans to introduce a bill that would allow borrowers to refinance at lower interest rates, saving as much as $1,000 a year on student loan interest. To cover the lost interest income, Warren would close loopholes for wealthy taxpayers. “It’s billionaires or students,” Warren said. “Where do we as a country believe we should make our investments? I want to put my money on students.” Numerous organizations and other labor unions have signed on to the effort, including the AFL-CIO, AFSCME, the National Education Association, the

American Association of University Women, the Center for American Progress, Jobs with Justice, the Education Trust, and more. “Higher Ed Not Debt” will mobilize students, parents, borrowers, and other advocates through teach-ins, Twitter town halls, letter writing, and other actions. The campaign is just one component of AFT’s comprehensive effort to “Reclaim the Promise” of public education from PreK-16 and beyond. “Together we can make higher education a public good and ensure that when we say we want to help students into the middle class, we provide that ladder with rung upon rung upon rung of opportunity,” Weingarten said.

StayInformed For more information about this campaign, visit higherednotdebt.org

U N I O N L I NK | SUMMER 2014


Read “I am IFT” in every issue of Union Link to learn how your fellow members are Powering Forward. for grades 3-5 that are now part of “Nurse Rehm’s Reading Corner.” Students picked up books the very first day, and their interest continues to grow. “Often the older students are reading to the younger ones. It’s wonderful to see them being role models and knowing it’s helping both students develop their skills and a love of reading.”

Donna Rehm, a member of Southwest Suburban Teachers Union, Local 943 in “Nurse Rehm’s Reading Corner.”


School Nurse Promotes Healthy Bodies and Minds with Help from First Book Donna Rehm has spent 18 years as a school nurse in Orland Park, caring for nearly 500 young students each year with ailments ranging from skinned knees to severe chronic conditions. A proud and active member of the Southwest Suburban Teachers Union, Local 943, her dedication and professional expertise have been recognized by the National Board for the Certification of School Nurses and the Illinois Association of School Nurses, which named her School Nurse of the Year in 2008. Rehm even traveled to Haiti in 2010 to speak with educators there about student health concerns in the post-earthquake environment. Last October at the IFT Convention, she wanted to take her care for kids 6


to a different level. She entered the “make a wish” contest sponsored by the American Federation of Teachers and First Book, a nonprofit organization that helps promote literacy and a love of reading by providing free books to low-income students and their teachers. Her entry won, and she received a library of free books. Rehm was selected because her entry was unique. After all, why would a school nurse wish for a library of books? To promote not only healthy bodies, but healthy minds, she says. “Many times students have to stay in my office due to health conditions or injuries, or students with diabetes may spend time with me while they wait for their blood sugars to normalize,” Rehm explained. “Having a variety of books right in my office gives these students an opportunity to rest their bodies and develop their minds at the same time by enjoying a good book.” She consulted with her school’s librarian before selecting appropriate books

Rehm praises the benefits of the First Book program and our union’s involvement. AFT and IFT have helped Illinois members get thousands of new books for their disadvantaged students. Our members have also volunteered countless hours to help sort nearly 200,000 books for delivery across the country. She feels lucky to have won. “Now I want to pay it forward,” Rehm said. “There are several low-income schools in my district that may have limited access to books for their students, so I’m going to promote the program in my union. First Book is a win-win, and I want others to learn about it and take advantage of it for their students.” IFT member Donna Rehm is doing more than improving student health – she’s developing young minds. By helping her colleagues do the same, she’s showing what it means “to be IFT.”

LearnMore To learn about the First Book visit, firstbook.org.

i am IFT}

When members of the Cahokia Federation of Teachers (CFT), Local 1272, asked themselves how their union could reach out to the community, their answer was “questionable” — host a Trivia Night! A group of CFT members is among the five IFT local teams participating in the Leadership Education and Development (LEAD) program, a new AFT initiative designed to help local unions approach challenges strategically and develop innovative ways to achieve their goals. One goal the CFT team set is to increase involvement in their community. Although the local regularly donates to their community’s food pantry, they wanted to do more to

put a positive face on their union and its members. “We wanted to help and do something that impacted the children of Cahokia in a positive way,” said Leslie Harder, IFT Vice President and President of Local 1272. “Hosting a Trivia Night fundraising event was a fun way for us to show that we care about our students and this community.” Local 1272 donated proceeds from the event to the Cahokia community pool. Last year, the city had only enough money to keep the pool open for two months, leaving kids and families in the struggling community with little to do and few places to escape the hottest days of the summer. Local members, their families, and friends attended the event. In addition to testing their knowledge on subjects from the Common Core State Standards to labor history (Q: Who was


Local Hosts a “Questionable” Event to Support Their Community

the only U.S. President to ever be the president of a labor union?), attendees bid on St. Louis Cardinals tickets, rounds of golf, and more during a silent auction. The money raised by CFT will help the pool stay open longer this summer. “We are showing the community that we aren’t just in Cahokia to earn a paycheck,” Harder said. “I am proud of all the members who supported this event, and I hope it’s just the first of many we are involved in for our community so we can make a positive impact on our students’ lives, both inside and outside the classroom.” Wondering about the answer? Ronald Reagan, who was president of the Screen Actors Guild from 1947-52.


(l to r): Robyn Darnell, Debbie Kirby, Leslie Harder, Staci Kramper, Becky Crader, Curt DeZeeuw, Pat DeZeeuw, Jane Cohlmeyer, Mary Mueller

LearnMore To learn about the AFT LEAD program, visit, aft.org/promise.

U N I O N L I NK | SUMMER 2014


New K-12

Licensure Requirements Set to Take Effect Last year Governor Quinn signed a new law which will change the renewal requirements for K-12 teachers and school personnel who hold a Professional Educator License (PEL). The PEL replaced Initial, Standard, and Master teaching certificates last year. The new requirements will take effect on July 1, 2014. One key upcoming change is that Continuing Professional Development Units (CPDUs) will no longer be counted; instead, only actual hours of engagement in an approved professional activity will apply towards renewal. Teachers holding Master’s degrees will not have a reduced number of hours of professional development. National Board Master Teachers with a Master Teacher designation noted 8


on the PEL will need to complete 60 hours of professional development every five years. Additional changes will also take effect on July 1, including the criteria for creditable professional development, the requirements for approved providers who offer professional development, and more. The transition from the current to the new renewal system, as well as the details about how the new system will work, must be developed through the administrative rule making process. A draft of those rules will be available for public comment, but no release date has been set at this time.

The IFT strongly recommends that teachers enter all their completed CPDUs into the current system by June 30, 2014. Members are also advised to maintain hard copies of CPDU evidence in case any difficulties arise during the transition to the new system or as backup in the event of an audit. The union has created a helpful Licensure Renewal Fact Sheet to summarize the changes. Contact your local union or council president to receive a copy of the fact sheet or to ask questions.

MoreInformation To review the current requirements set to expire on June 30, visit the “Teacher A-Z” section at isbe.state.il.us

UNO Teachers and Staff Close the Deal With First Contract charter management work together for what’s most important—the students’ success,” said IFT President Dan Montgomery. “Teachers know firsthand what works in the classroom and how children learn best. Strong staffs lead to strong schools, and their ability to advocate for high-quality education with a collective voice will greatly benefit the students and our communities.”

Teachers and staff in the United Neighborhood Organization (UNO), one of Chicago’s largest charter school networks, made history last year when nearly 90 percent voted to join Chicago ACTS (Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff), Local 4343, an affiliate of the IFT and American Federation of Teachers. The vote meant that nearly a quarter of Chicago’s charter teachers and staff are now unionized, the highest union density where charter school employees do not automatically have a union. Less than a year later, UNO teachers and staff have closed the deal by overwhelmingly ratifying a first contract which includes fair salaries that will promote teacher recruitment and retention, increased time for preparation and collaboration, and a meaningful voice with which to advocate for their students and participate in decisions that impact their schools and their profession. The contract covers more than 500 teachers and staff at 16 schools operated by UNO. “The UNO effort is a great example of what can happen when teachers and

The successful negotiations process and contract agreement secured by UNO teachers and staff are indicators of a nationwide trend towards charter school accountability, and a strong sign that the anti-union tide that once washed over charter schools may be waning. “By joining together as a union UNO teachers and school staff were able to secure a first contract with more tools to better do their jobs, greater input so they can better advocate for their students and their profession, and solid economic gains that recognize the work they do.” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “It’s premised on what UNO—its teachers and staff and its management need to do together to transform their schools and ensure their students succeed, and it respects the experience and expertise of UNO educators. The negotiation process, combined with the strong ratification votes by the UNO Board and our educators are helping change the climate between teachers and charter operators.”

“I want to build a better work environment for our teachers to grow professionally. I want to elevate the level of education for our students. I want to be a part of creating a positive change for UNO.” ~ Angela Galla, UNO Octavio Paz

“Organizing a union will help to ensure a mutually beneficial relationship between employer and employee where the students win.” ~ Alvin Colon, UNO Garcia

“Now with a union of UNO teachers, in relationship with the administration, we will be able to build a strong and transparent advocate for our students’ education.” ~ Stephanie Jones, UNO Galewood

“I support forming a union because it allows those who are the most knowledgeable about education to have a voice in the decision making process. This will help to ensure that UNO students receive the high-quality education they deserve.” ~ Kehinde Moodie, UNO Octavio Paz

“I believe in organizing a union for the betterment

LearnMore For additional details and information, visit chicagoacts.org

of my peers.” ~ Jorge Cisneros, UNO Garcia

U N I O N L I NK | SUMMER 2014


What the Primary Election Results Really Mean by Toby Trimmer IFT Director of Political Activities

“We never expected this kind of ground support,” Dillard’s campaign manager told me. “It’s been amazing.” That kind of recognition counts.

“Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.” Oh, and maybe in Illinois politics. Because on Primary Election day in March, the IFT and our allies made our voices, our work, and our votes count. We came close, and that means something. You know the outcome: billionaire Wall Street gambler Bruce Rauner eked out a win to become the Republican nominee for Governor. Every poll and pundit said Rauner would walk away with a major, double-digit victory. They were wrong. Yes, the finance industry baron beat the fiscally reasonable Kirk Dillard, but only by a mere 2.5% of the GOP vote. Proudly, the IFT was part of that near-Dillard victory. Our preferred candidate lost, but make no mistake: our work counted. In just a few short weeks, our union reached out to thousands of members and colleagues to encourage them to consider Kirk Dillard. IFT activists made tens of thousands of additional calls to GOP voters statewide about what was at stake in the election. 10 UNION LINK | SUMM E R 2 0 1 4

The morning after Election Day, statehouse political reporter Rich Miller of “Capitol Fax” opined, “There was clearly a late surge in the Republican primary that nobody caught. And the reason nobody caught it is because it came from outside the expected Republican primary voter base. Changing the electorate almost never works. But there seems to be little doubt that organized labor’s massive last minute push worked Downstate better than anybody expected.” Rich wasn’t alone in his surprise. On election night, when asked by a reporter about the incoming results, U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) admitted, “it turns out the unions are stronger than we all expected.” Yes we are, more than ever. Even Bruce Rauner has taken notice. Before the election, the billionaire (who earns $1 million per week from investments in government ventures like our Teachers Retirement System, by the way) pledged to take down “union bosses” and the “corrupt influence of organized workers.” Now he has changed his tune, insisting that he doesn’t dislike unions after all. We’re not buying it.

We may not be able to spend the $43 per vote that Bruce Rauner did. We shouldn’t have to, and in fact, we don’t need to. Because we can outwork him and his profit-driven, anti-middle class, right-to-work-for-less supporters. The March Primary demonstrated, undeniably, that our collective power is an incredible force to be reckoned with. As IFT President Dan Montgomery wrote, “The results demonstrated that Illinois is a much different state than some would like paint us. We are not Wisconsin, we are not Michigan, we are not Indiana, and we are not Ohio. We are Illinois – a state with challenges, but one that values fairness and rejects extremism.” And we are the IFT. As the General Election approaches, we’ll be holding meetings statewide with lawmakers and candidates. Participate in these events. Ask politicians tough questions. Get involved. We’ll need your help once again to elect candidates who will work with us – and to defeat those who would weaken our professions and demonize public employees and unions. Thanks to your commitment and dedication, we came very close on March 18. And while elections aren’t horseshoes, close does count, and it should assure each of us that our union is strong.

MoreInformation Visit ift-aft.org in the weeks ahead to learn about candidate interview sessions, local events, and ways you can help build our union’s strength.

Learn. Relax. Repeat. Sign up now for Great Lakes ULI!

Congratulations to Our Drumroll please….! We are proud to announce that two outstanding IFT members have been named finalists in the 2014 AFT Everyday Heroes contest! Julie Ahern, a member of the Lake County Federation of Teachers, Local 504 won top honors in the Teachers category. Richie Pawlak, a member of Cook County Community College Teachers Union, Local 1600, took the title in the PSRP category. Dozens of AFT members nationwide were first selected in March as semifinalists in five categories; voting was open through mid-April. Finalists were chosen by highest overall vote total. They will be recognized at the AFT Convention in Los Angeles in July.   In addition to our finalists, three deserving IFT members were semifinalist nominees in their respective category: • Traci Hill, Prairie Hill Federation of Teachers, Local 4423 (Early Childhood Education) • Sherri Lukes, Illinois Dental Hygienists Association, Local 5124 (Healthcare) • Maureen “Reenie” Sperka, AFT Local 604 (PSRP)   Congratulations to Julie and Richie, and our dedicated IFT semifinalists. Like all IFT members, you make a To learn more about the IFT finalists, difference for kids and communities visit ift-aft.org/heroes. every day. You are truly heroes!


The IFT/AFT Great Lakes Union Leadership Institute (ULI) will be held June 16-20. This five-day program, conducted in a resort setting in Delavan, Wisconsin, will include a variety of professional development and union skills workshops and is specially designed to address the needs and challenges of members in the Midwest region. Visit the IFT website for details, including course descriptions and registration information.

SignUp Download course descriptions and registration information at ift-aft.org/ULI.

U N I O N L I NK | SUMMER 2014 11





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UNION LEADERSHIP INSTITUTE GREAT LAKES ULI June 16-20, 2014 For complete course descriptions and to register, visit ift-aft.org/ULI


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Union Link - Summer 2014  

The Summer 2014 edition of the Illinois Federation of Teachers quarterly newsletter, Union Link.

Union Link - Summer 2014  

The Summer 2014 edition of the Illinois Federation of Teachers quarterly newsletter, Union Link.

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