Mike DeRoss, a social sciences teacher at Lane Tech High School, explained to Dan & Amy this morning why he is not participating in the Chicago Teachers' Union one-day walkout on April 1 and why he subsequently resigned from the union.
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Dan Proft: Good morning, Dan and Amy, so CPS Walkout tomorrow. The Red Shirts are supposed to be out in force, shutting down the city in protest of what Karen Lewis – Chicago Teachers’ Union boss – in protest of intolerable conditions. Amy Jacobson: But this isn’t going to change anything. All that it’s going to do is inconvenience. Hard working Chicagoans who want to go home on a Friday afternoon, and also the parents – a lot of the parents that I’ve spoken with, Dan, are against this one day walkout, for simply the fact it’s not going to change anything, and some teachers aren’t going to be walking, and some teachers aren’t going to be protesting. Dan Proft: Yeah, some teachers are not, I just want to work the logic on this, because the teachers that are protesting, as described by Karen Lewis, value teachers, and are doing it for the kids, therefore the teachers that do no participate do not value teachers and hate children. That’s the only logical conclusion! Amy Jacobson: And Rahm Emanuel yesterday, once again, he had tears in his eyes, Dan, and he was trying to convince teachers to do the right thing and not walk. Dan Proft: Oh, for Christ’s sake. Rahm Emanuel: Do not take it out on our students, for our students – the school is their safest place, the place where they’re going to learn. Amy Jacobson: And they’ve set up 250 safety sites for kids to go in, they’ll get free lunch, and free breakfast, and if they need transportation to those sites, they’ll provide it for them, but there’s going to be a lot of kids just out on the streets tomorrow; walking around, enjoying their day off. Dan Proft: Well let’s get CPS Teachers’ perspective on this; somebody that is daring to stand against the prevailing wind. He is Michael DeRoss, he’s a Social Science – used to be called Social Studies in my day – Social Science teacher at Lane Tech High School; Michael, thanks so much for joining us. Appreciate it. Mike DeRoss: Good morning. Dan Proft: So why don’t you respect teachers, and why do you hate children? Mike DeRoss: I don’t know if that’s the case at either level. Dan Proft: Well, so you’re not participating in the walkout protest tomorrow. Why not? Mike DeRoss: Well, there’s about 2 or 3 different levels that I find this wrong on. The first one is maybe the most important one, we’ll just do that; we have a process to go through when we believe we’re agreeing with an unfair labor practice. We should go through that process and let it wait, because if we don’t, then the strike’s probably illegal, additionally we sit in our classroom and tell our kids “Follow the law, obey the law, follow the rules of the classroom, and do what the law says”, and then we’re going to go out, and for the most part, say that the law didn’t act quick enough for us, and we’re just going to take it into our own hands and break it. I find that a very immoral way to interact or teach. I can’t support that, and finally, as Amy I think rightfully said, this thing’s not going to accomplish anything. This is a show strike for Karen, that’s all. Amy Jacobson: Now in 2012, 19 teachers crossed the picket line, then Jesse Sharky and Karen Lou said that you threaten to cross a picket line, you will lose a Union Membership; are you concerned about that, or maybe that you already lost it? Mike DeRoss: Well, I actually felt that when I decided that I wasn’t going to go, the only honorable thing to do would be to contact the Union and resign, which I did through e-mail, and told them that I wanted to resign from their bleeping socialist union. Dan Proft: How was that received? Mike DeRoss: And they sent me back an e-mail telling me how I’d have to pay fair share dues, which I already knew, and if that’s the law, that’s the law. I don’t like it, but it’s the law. And how they weren’t a socialist union. Dan Proft: They’re not a socialist union? Amy Jacobson: Oh really? Did they say anything else in that e-mail? Dan Proft: Socialist because they’re further left on that, or not socialist in a different way? Mike DeRoss: I don’t know, but there’s more to it. Why are we throwing in with other groups that are just going to dilute the message of the Chicago teachers? I’ll guarantee, if we got a bunch of kids that just called out of their mother’s basement in the march, scuffling with police everywhere, they we’re going to get the press, not the teachers. Amy Jacobson: Yeah, I know some Black Life Matters protesters are going to be there, some SEIU protesters I heard are going in, and they’ve even encouraged us parents to go and to bring our children, but I’m going to decide to opt out of that. Mike DeRoss: Well, when did we turn into France? Dan Proft: I think it was about 1996; 1995, in Chicago. No, it’s a fair point, what’s the response – you talked to other teachers, not just at Lane Tech, but I’m sure he’s got relationships outside of your school in the education space in Chicago, and what’s the reaction to your decision, as well as what this, as you described, show strike that Karen Lewis is doing? Mike DeRoss: Well, honestly, I don’t have a lot of relationships with teachers outside of Lane, but the ones inside Lane, for the most part – and this may be a selective, not a scientific pole, because often people that don’t agree with you won’t come and face you with it – but everybody that has come to talk to me, I don’t kick them out, necessarily, they said that “We kind of agree with what you said, we do agree with what you said, but I have to walk, because I got ten more years with this outfit”. Amy Jacobson: What about the students, though? Do they know what you’re doing and how you’re taking the stand? Mike DeRoss: Well, it would be pretty tough for them not to know what I’m doing, throughout most the media. And yes, most of them know, or a good part of them know; they have their own feelings, they’re pretty smart, mature kids here at Lane, so they’ll figure it out the way they want to. Dan Proft: And, as you said, it’s kind of a teachable moment, with respect with what you teach in class about respect for the law and substantive process and then abiding that, and you providing the example of abiding that. We’re talking to Michael DeRoss, he’s a social science teacher at the Lane Tech High School in Chicago. What about some of the underlying issues, I mean, because this show strike, as you’ve described it, and potentially a real strike next month, or in May, it’s over increasing the contribution that teachers pay into the pensions system on a go forward basis; where do you come down on reforming structurally pension system, CPS more generally? Mike DeRoss: Well, you don’t have enough time for all that, but let me throw a couple things out. Back in the day, Union was suckered, I think, by the Board and the mayors to say “We won’t give you a raise, we’ll just put some pension pick-up in here”, and we took it. We said “Okay, we won’t get a raise, but we’re going to pick up some more of a pension”. And we took, and then they’d go out and went and say “No no, pension holiday”, so they’re wrong, they’re dead wrong on that. You make a contract, you abide by the contract. That’s what we should do. Now if you want to negotiate a different one coming forward, then negotiate it, but to unilaterally say we’re going to start charging you when we’re still working under the terms of an old contract is dead wrong. Dan Proft: But you would be open to the idea of prospectively bargaining for the structure of the pensions that CPS teachers receive, and other material benefits. I mean, that’s part of a collective bargaining process who everybody knows what the deal is when it’s presented for ratification, and then what it would be going forward, if it’s ratified. You’d be open to that. Mike DeRoss: They can bargain for whatever they want, but you’re right, it’s part of negotiation. We can ask to be paid 1 million dollars a year, they can tell us they want to pay us 10 cents, and we’re going to meet somewhere in between. Dan Proft: Closer to a million, I think. Amy Jacobson: Are you worried that your pension won’t be there when you retire? Mike DeRoss: Anybody that’s not retired already needs to worry about that, between that and social security, and by the way, maybe if we would just go and say “Put us into the social security system”, then the Board would have to kick that money to social security and the federal government wouldn’t let them take a pension holiday. Dan Proft: Well, yeah, but you don’t want to change out your pension under CPS for social security, do you? And say drastically reduce benefit. Mike DeRoss: Well no, that’s not the question at hand. The question at hand would be the expense, as I thought where we’re going. Dan Proft: Yeah, okay. I see what you’re saying. Mike DeRoss: And if the Board is crying over paying the pension as it is now, well fine. Give us 401K or our own directed pension, 443B, and go put us all under social security, and pay your 7% and then tell Uncle Sam, “Hey, we don’t have it, we’re not paying it this month. See what they do. Dan Proft: Michael DeRoss, I am exercising my executive authority to install you as the President of Chicago Teachers’ Union. Amy Jacobson: Hey, Michael, what are you going to do… Mike DeRoss: I’ll be thin and good looking before that happens. Amy Jacobson: Hey, Michael DeRoss, what are you going to do tomorrow when your co-workers are out there at the picket lines? Mike DeRoss: Well, I’m going to go to work, to see what work there is to do, if there are any kids there at all to be dealt with, we’ll deal with them, if not, teachers never run out of work to do, trust me on that one. I got lessons I could plan, papers to grade, but even if it comes to the idea of just sitting there and reviewing new things to be taught, I can do that as well. There’ll be something to do. I’m not just going to sit there and drink coffee and listen to WYND. Dan Proft: Well, you can do that while you grade papers. There’s nothing wrong with that. Alright, Michael DeRoss, Social Science teacher at Lane Tech High School; Michael, thanks so much for joining us. Appreciate it. Mike DeRoss: Thank you, good day.