Monday, September 29, 2014

Shooting the messenger

On Friday, I received the following missive from SEIU Local 73 Pres. Christine Boardman via the union's general counsel Tyson Roan.

First, I'm glad to find that the president of SEIU Local 73 is such an avid reader of SmallTalk. I remember meeting Mayor Emanuel at a social event a while back (got friends in low places) and as he shook my hand, he said to the hosts, "Yeah, I know Klonsky. I read his blog." I retorted, "...and you're still talking to me?" The mayor answered, "It's a free country. You're entitled to your opinion."

Pres. Boardman, a quasi-public figure like the mayor, is not so generous.

Not wanting to impugn anyone's integrity and certainly not wanting to face the full might and fury of SEIU's legal department (and after consulting with my attorneys at Pro, Bono & Plead), I took Pres. Boardman's charges seriously and reread my Sept. 16th post, "The rats are having a field day at CPS" (boy, are they ever). And you know what? I think Pres. Boardman raises two good points.

First, she says my statement that she signed off on an agreement between CPS and private custodial subcontractors" is "entirely false, and has no basis whatsoever in fact."

She's probably right if you take my comment literally. I have no evidence that Pres. Boardman actually "signed off," meaning signed an actual written agreement with Aramark and SodexoMagic. In fact, I'm pretty sure she didn't. So I can retract that statement.

Second, she points to my statement, "Ugh! She's dirtier than a a CPS bathroom," as evidence that I impute "a want of integrity" on her part (who talks like that?). It's true that I may have imputed such a want of integrity. But to say a politician or union leader is "dirty", means that they are actually on the take or selling out their constituents for a price or political reward. Since I have no physical proof of any such quid pro quo, I retract the "Ugh! She's dirtier than  a CPS bathroom" statement.

As my wife often reminds me: "Honey, you're better than that."

Also, have you been in a CPS bathroom lately? There's nothing dirtier.

Okay, so I'm trying to be better. I'm a work in progress.

But after watching hundreds of those hard-working and often, life-saving school custodians lose their jobs, after Rahm privatized CPS' custodial services (not to mention the hundreds of library custodians and lunchroom ladies before them), leaving schools filthy and dangerous, and all this without much of a peep from Boardman and the Local 73 leadership, I may have been overcome by anger. I'm working on that as well.

Chicago teacher Michelle Strater Gunderson makes a great point:
All of the coverage so far, though, has been focused on building conditions and mismanagement. I see yet another side of this issue – workers’ rights. The privatization of the work has made it almost impossible for workers to do their jobs. The hours and personnel in each building were cut drastically, and to make matters worse, Aramark just laid off 468 janitors last week.
So somebody tell me -- where was the outcry from the custodial unions defending their own members? I searched in vain, including on the Local 73 website, for any sign of protest or public resistance. If I'm wrong about that, show me. I welcome any and all public statements or actions taken by President Boardman or other Local 73 leaders,  critical of Rahm for his privatization or for recent firings. I will gladly post them without comment.

Rahm sells his pension deal. But who was buying?
Now Pres. Boardman might argue that her union doesn't represent the fired privatized custodians and indeed she would be correct. Over the years, CPS has reduced the number of its janitors through attrition. The board now employs about 800 and private companies about 1,800, according to union officials. The former belong to SEIU Local 73, while the private-company janitors belong to SEIU Local 1. But still...

Ben Joravsky writes:
You might not think that belonging to different SEIU locals would matter much, but lately it does. Among union activists, Local 73 is known as the mayor's—well, let's just say union activists aren't too thrilled with Local 73.
REMEMBER this all came after Boardman broke ranks with the broad coalition of union leaders who were fighting back against Rahm's attack on public employees retiree pensions. The mayor wanted to raise property taxes by $250 million — and increase employee contributions by 29%. One after another, union leaders and activists spoke out, from AFSCME to the FOP to the CTU.  But Boardman went along.

This from the Sun-Times:
 Christine Boardman, president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 73, said she supports the “basic constructs” of the pension deal that impacts 10,000 of her members. “We’re in support of the increase in employee contributions. We’re in support of the Emanuel plan to try to fund it through property tax increases. The bill is going to pass. I know that. You know that,” she said. “We’re not gonna work against the bill. We’ve told that to Speaker [Mike] Madigan. We’re gonna be neutral, only because of the effect it has on retirees.”
Neutral indeed.

I guess the icing on the cake for me was when Boardman then kicked in with $25,000 of her members' hard earned money as a gift to Rahm's already swollen campaign fund. A real punch in the gut, not only to the mayor's needy progressive opponents, Bob Fioretti and fellow union president Karen Lewis, but to the janitors and pensioners being screwed by the mayor's privatization deals.

Brother Fred
More Joravsky
I guess I should have seen this donation coming. Earlier this year, Local 73 broke ranks from most of the other public employees' unions to endorse Mayor Emanuel's proposed pension plan. And last month Mayor Emanuel put Matt Brandon—secretary/treasurer of Local 73—on his minimum-wage task force.
To sum up -- I retract the two statements, as requested by Pres. Boardman and her lawyers: 1) that she "signed off on an agreement between CPS and private custodial subcontractors" and 2) that she is "dirtier than a CPS bathroom."

As for her claim that she has been a consistent advocate for the rights of the custodians, I'll leave that for her members and the readers to decide.


  1. We have the same issues with SEIU 99 here in Los Angeles. Sindicado amarillo.

    Either his letter was written by a lawyer, or Ms. Boardman attended law school, since human being don't use prose constructs like "actionable as...", only lawyers do. I know, I'm a L1 myself.

  2. Thanks, Mike. SEIU Local 26, not supportive of Minneapolis teachers, never seemed to make sense. This helps put some pieces together.


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