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Chicago Teachers Union Boots Chess Coach For Not Joining One-Day Strike

(CBS) – He crossed the line – the CPS teachers' one-day strike -- out of his love for the classroom.

Joseph Ocol stuck with his kids and brought home a chess championship.

Tonight, he's expelled from the union and wonders if he'll even have a job.

CBS 2's Brad Edwards reports.

The union's decision came via certified mail, in a letter signed by Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis.

"I'm expelled from the union," Ocol explains.

He was kicked out for skipping the union's "day of action," which was a one-day strike the CTU organized in protest against the Chicago Public Schools administration and contract negotiations.

Ocol skipped to coach his chess team. Soon after, his Englewood girls won the national championship. It's been noted on the Congressional record and by the mayor and city council

"It's all a matter of the principles we take in our lives," Ocol says. "There's a chance I could lose my job."

The lawyer for the CTU disagrees that Ocol is at risk of losing his job. "Expulsion from the Union does not result in the loss of any employment benefits or rights, only membership in the Union.  It cannot affect his standing as a teacher.  He cannot be fired because of it," Robert Bloch tells CBS 2.

While not commenting on internal processes, the CTU said in a statement: "Mr. Ocol has been informed of his member privileges and is talking to us through media, which is unfortunate. All members are well aware of what happens to strike breakers and are informed by their own peers of the process for both suspension and reinstatement. CTU is a democratically led member-organization."

CPS officials had a different opinion. They praised Ocol: "This is exactly the kind of professionalism that the Chicago Teachers Union should be holding up as a shining example of what it means to be committed to students. Instead, the opposite happened – and he was unjustly punished for his dedication to the people who matter most – his students. We hope he remains a teacher for years to come."

Ocol not only wants to stay, but stay in Englewood.

"I can be the sacrificial lamb, but it's the kids I'm concerned about," he says.

The Earle STEM Elementary School chess team will be recognized at Wednesday's Chicago City Council meeting.


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