A four member delegation from the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), all active supporters of the #RedforEd movement, traveled to Venezuela earlier this month to provide support for the socialist regime of Nicolas Maduro.
The delegation consisted of Richard Berg, a former Teamsters Union official who currently works for the CTU, and “rank and file” CTU strike captains Sarah Chambers, Fabiana Mariel, and V Voeta Vargas, according to press reports.
Berg confirmed he was a member of the CTU delegation that made the Venezuela trip in this tweet last week:
— Richard Berg (@RichardBerg8) July 24, 2019
Chambers tweeted on July 27 that she was honored to be on the same stage as the grandson of Nelson Mandela at a rally in Venezuela, apparently held that same day:
Today, I had the honor of standing behind Nelson Mandela’s grandson at a Venezuelan rally. He spoke strongly in support of Maduro. Mandela & his org were on USA’s terrorist list when they fought against apartheid. Lesson is don’t trust USA propaganda#CTUAgainstVezIntervention pic.twitter.com/asezqhQVVZ
— Sarah4Justice (@Sarah4Justice) July 28, 2019
On July 8, Chambers tweeted about the CTU delegation’s pending trip to Venezuela:
— Sarah4Justice (@Sarah4Justice) July 9, 2019
In June, Berg tweeted his support for #RedforEd:
— Richard Berg (@RichardBerg8) June 8, 2019
According to this recent tweet, Chambers is a “CTU E-Board member.”
— Sarah4Justice (@Sarah4Justice) July 27, 2019
FightBack!News, a Minneapolis, Minnesota based organization which says it is a “newspaper [that] exists to build the people’s struggle! We provide coverage and analysis of some of the key battles facing working and low-income people,” reported on July 23 in a story with a Caracas, Venezuela dateline that “A delegation of members from the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) arrived in Caracas, Venezuela last week. Their goals were to learn what they could from Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution, exchange views on effective education and to show solidarity with the students, teachers and social movements of Venezuela.”
The trip falls on the heels of a union resolution that was passed by the CTU Executive Board and House of Delegates. The resolution calls for an end to U.S. intervention in Venezuela. Delegation member and CTU Area Vice President Sarah Chambers explains, “Through major economic hardships, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro never closed a single public school or a single health clinic. This stands in stark contrast to our experience in Chicago, where Mayor Rahm Emanuel closed 50 public schools and several mental health clinics in a single year.”
The teachers’ delegation met with leaders from the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry, Ministry of Communes, Ministry of Education, Adult Education Teachers, and students, as well as on-the-ground activists.
One important meeting was when the delegation sat down with Vladimir Castillo, the Venezuelan Director of International Affairs. They learned that Chavez started to talk about socialism in 2005, at the World Social Forum in Brazil, and that a few years after 2007 and 2008, community councils emerged as a result.
Writing at WirePoints, Mark Glennon confirmed the CTU delegation’s visit to Venezuela, despite some initial skepticism:
Surely this must be a parody, I thought when I first saw a story on it. A reader here sent me a link to something called FightBack!News. But I read it twice and plenty of other sources confirm it: The Chicago Teachers union has a delegation in Venezuela to show their solidarity with Nicolás Maduro’s socialist regime. . .
Delegation members are personally sharing their wonderment at Venezuelan socialism on a blog called “Radical Educator Collective.” The communes they visited particularly impressed them.
They quoted a Venezuelan official saying communes make society less individualistic since groups of people are working together to decide their needs and how to work collectively towards solutions. “This is why Venezuela became a threat to the USA, wrote delegation member Sarah Chambers. “The USA does not want people to realize that another world is possible with justice and love.”’
The Orinoco Tribune, which describes itself as “an outlet created in 2018 and specially designed to provide relevant progressive information about Venezuela or related to Venezuela in the form of news articles and opinion pieces for English speakers around the world,” confirmed the pending visit of the CTU delegation in this June 16 article:
Orinoco Tribune contacted Richard Berg in Chicago and he indicated that the CTU has taken a very straighforward posture about Venezuelan current events and in that sense their rank and file were very interested in learn first hand about labor movement in Venezuela and the efects of the US unilattelar cohercive sanctions.
“We are interested in show solidarity with the Bolivarian Revolution and the Venezuelan people and at the same time we want to interact with Venezuelan labor union leaders with focus on teacher unions to learn from them how they have counter US sanctions and to inform them about our recent victories in the US, like the recent strike CTU organized in Chicago”, answer Berg to our request about the delegation.
Breitbart News asked delegation member Richard Berg for comment, but did not receive a response.
CTU was the first local teachers union to affiliate with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the second largest teachers union in the country, which has lent vigorous support to the #RedforEd movement.
As Breitbart News reported in February:
A well-funded and subversive leftist movement of teachers in the United States threatens to tilt the political balance nationwide in the direction of Democrats across the country as Republicans barely hang on in key states that they need to hold for President Donald Trump to win re-election and for Republicans to have a shot at retaking the House and holding onto their Senate majority.
This teachers union effort, called #RedforEd, has its roots in the very same socialism that President Trump vowed in his 2019 State of the Union address to stop, and it began in its current form in early 2018 in a far-flung corner of the country before spreading nationally. Its stated goals–higher teacher pay and better education conditions–are overshadowed by a more malevolent political agenda: a leftist Democrat uprising designed to flip purple or red states to blue, using the might of a significant part of the education system as its lever.
In March, the Chicago Teachers Union passed a resolution to oppose any U.S. intervention in Venezuela. A publication called Marxist-Leninism Today provided the details of that resolution shortly after it passed.
The resolution claimed, in part, that “the current Trump administration . . . has recently made menacing pronouncements against the sovereign state of Venezuela by discrediting the result of the May 20, 2018, Venezuelan presidential election of Nicolas Maduro, and have backed the self-declared “Presidency” of Juan Guaido, President of the National Assembly of Venezuela.”
It also claimed that:
President Trump’s current Special Envoy to Venezuela, Elliot Abrams was involved in the April 11, 2002, attempted coup in Venezuela that removed then Venezuelan Hugo Chavez from power for less than 48 hours before a popular uprising put him back in office; and the current National Security Advisor John Bolton has accused Venezuela of being part of a “troika of evil” that includes Cuba and Nicaragua; and another major actor in this U.S. foreign adventure, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo along with Elliot Abrams was a key player in the so called “dirty wars” in Latin America 1980s that involved Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Chile; and [that] the U.S. has recently attempted to provoke a border incident with the Maduro government by moving $20 million worth of “aid” to Venezuela after it has 2 frozen the foreign assets of that country, discouraged other countries from doing business with Venezuela, and imposed sanctions that increase the poverty and misery of the general population by costing the Venezuelan government billions ever year.
The resolution had these three specifics:
RESOLVED, that the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) publicly states its opposition to any military invasion of the sovereign state of Venezuela, and insists on dialogue, diplomacy, and negotiation as the means to resolve this crisis; and
RESOLVED, that the CTU advocate for the suspension of the current sanctions against Venezuela, and for the U.S. to cease all threats, military mobilization, and interference in the economic and internal politics and affairs of the Venezuelan people; and respect the right of self-determination of this sovereign nation in accordance with U.S. stated commitment to the rule of law; and be it finally
RESOLVED, the CTU stands in solidarity with the Venezuelan labor organizations Sindicato Nacional Fuerza Magisterial (SINAFUM) , Colectivo Clasista de Trabajadores y Trabajadoras de la Educación , “Carmen Conzoño” y al Frente Nacional de Lucha de la Clase Trabajadora (FNLCT), and other organizations that oppose the interference in Venezuela’s sovereign affairs and the consequent threat of military intervention.
In June, the four members of the CTU delegation, using the name “Hands Off Venezuela” posted this information about the trip on Facebook:
CTU delegation member Sarah Chambers organized the Hands off Venezuela GoFundMe account, which raised $2,000 for the delegation’s trip expenses, $1,000 short of the goal of $3,000. In addition to Chambers, delegation members Fabiana Marel, V Voeta Vargas, and Richard Berg were listed as beneficiaries of the funds raised.
The CTU has close ties to the Arizona teachers who launched the #RedforEd movement in Arizona in March of 2018. One Arizona #RedforEd leader, Rebecca Garelli, was a CTU member and union union activist in Chicago for about a decade before moving to Arizona.
In May 2018, CTU teachers, staff and leadership showed their support for the #RedforEd movement actions in Arizona and other states in this YouTube video:
Last October, the CTU further solidified its support for the #RedforEd movement with this press release:
Over a thousand CTU charter educators have been negotiating with their managements for months for new contracts—and those negotiations have increasingly hit a wall as operators dismiss issues related to compensation and classroom resources. Average salaries for teachers at some charters is barely $47,000—less than the average salary for Arizona teachers, who staged massive protests and walkouts against low education funding this year. With Chicago’s cost of living as much as 30% higher than in states like West Virginia and Oklahoma—and with vastly higher housing costs—that puts educators’ wages well below teachers in the nation’s most militant and underfunded #RedForEd states. Paraprofessionals in Chicago charters, who provide critical classroom supports and are overwhelmingly Black and female, earn on average even less.
The CTU is pushing back with a press conference and rally at 5PM on Wednesday, October 24, at the upcoming board meeting of Acero—the largest unionized operator in CPS.
The CTU is currently threatening a strike if its demands for a “fair contract” are not met by the city of Chicago.