Labor Union

Chicago Teachers Union

This is a logo for Chicago Teachers Union. (link)
Website:

www.ctulocal1.org/

Location:

CHICAGO, IL

Tax ID:

36-0906695

Budget (2020):

Revenue: $30,980,791
Expenses: $30,225,543
Assets: $15,769,092

Founded:

1937

President:

Stacy Davis Gates

Teachers Unions

The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) is the teachers’ union for 25,000 teachers, paraprofessionals, and other public school employees in the Chicago, Illinois public school system, the third-largest school system in the United States. The CTU represents its members through collective bargaining for compensation, benefits, employee work conditions, and school governance. 1

Founded in 1937, CTU is well known for its aggressive political engagement such as strikes, marches, and protests in favor of left-of-center educational priorities and approaches to racial equality. 2 In the 2010s and early 2020s, the CTU has aligned with the ideological radical left; in 2019,the union faced criticism after representatives including a union executive board member traveled to Venezuela in support of the de facto socialist dictatorship of Nicolas Maduro. 3

CTU is a local union of the American Federation of Teachers, the country’s second-largest national teachers’ union.

Mission

The Chicago Teachers Union was established to represent the interest of teachers at Chicago, Illinois schools. The CTU represents Chicago area teachers in regular collective bargaining contract agreements. While the CTU mission is, ostensibly, to improve public education, most of the identified purposes of the CTU are related to improving compensation and protecting the job security of union members, as well as growing the union. Item 6 on the CTU mission expresses a purpose of enlarging the CTU by incorporating charter school educators, as well as “other Chicago-area educators that may join with this Union.” In 2018, the CTU was successful in adding the 1,000 members of the Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff to a division within the CTU, though other charter school teacher labor unions remained independent of the CTU. 4 The CTU Constitution also identifies solidarity with other labor unions (“a relationship of mutual assistance and cooperation with organized labor”) as a core purpose of the CTU. 5

In the 2019 negotiation with Chicago, the CTU’s key negotiating goals were the duration of the contract, increased support staff (including elimination of privatized nurses), reduced class sizes, increased compensation and benefits, and job security protections, including limiting some teacher evaluations and Principal authority over grading practices. 6

The Chicago Teachers Union’s annual dues for 2019-2020 are $1,146.28 for each teacher. 7

History

The Chicago Teacher Federation (CTF), a predecessor to the Chicago Teachers Union, was formed in 1897, largely to improve the status and compensation of teachers. Under famous union leader Margaret Haley (known as the “Lady Labor Slugger”), the CTF recognized that it needed to persuade political officials to achieve these goals. The Chicago Teacher Federation threw itself into political advocacy, organizing behind candidates who were favorable to their goals. This effort resulted in both support and opposition. In 1915, the newly elected Mayor of Chicago, William Thompson, appointed a school board that was largely hostile to the interests of the Chicago Teacher Federation. Under Board President Jacob Loeb, the Chicago Board of Education passed a rule (“The Loeb Rule”) prohibiting teachers from joining any labor union or similar organization. The Federation challenged this rule in court, with mixed results. 8

In 1916, the Chicago Teacher Federation founded the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and became the Local 1. However, due to the Loeb Rule, the Chicago Board of Education fired dozens of participating teachers. The Chicago Teachers Federation was forced to leave the American Federation of Teachers. 9 It would not rejoin the AFT until 1937, when the Chicago Teacher Federation and various other Chicago teacher organizations consolidated to create the Chicago Teachers Union, which once again joined the American Federation of Teachers as Local 1. 10

In 1917, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that the Loeb Rule was constitutional, and the CFT and Chicago Board of Education reached a settlement in which the fired teachers were rehired and CFT disaffiliated itself from other labor unions. This outcome led the CFT to prioritize collective bargaining rights as a primary goal. 11 However, teachers unions would not accomplish this goal in the United States until a New York City teachers union reached a collective bargaining agreement after extensive teacher strikes in 1962. 12 The CTU won recognition as the collective bargaining agent for its members in 1966, and reached its first collective bargaining contract in 1967. 13

After the Chicago Teachers Union achieved the power to collectively bargain, CTU teachers went on strike nine times in twenty years, with four strikes in the first seven years. 14 After a strike in 1987, there was a period of relative peace, with no teacher strikes until 2012.

However, in 2012, after 9 months of contentious negotiations between CTU, the Chicago School Board, and then-Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D), who had been actively closing or privatizing failing schools, the CTU went on strike again. 15 The 2012 strike also proved difficult for President Barack Obama during that year’s presidential campaign; it pitted labor unions, whose support he needed, against Emanuel, Obama’s former White House Chief of Staff and a top fundraiser. While interest groups on all sides sought Obama’s involvement in the negotiation, President Obama’s spokesman said that Obama “has not expressed any opinion or made any assessment about this particular incident.” 16

In 2018, CTU supported the first major strike by charter school teachers in US history. 17

In 2019, CTU launched an 11-day teacher strike, the eleventh since 1969. The results were mixed for CTU. While Chicago officials did not give them everything they demanded, the city did agree to a 16% raise over five years, smaller class sizes and more support staff, including social workers, nurses, librarians, and others. While a victory for the teachers’ union, the concessions came at a significant cost – estimated at about $500 million – to Chicago’s already-shaky financial condition. In 2020, the city was running an $838 million budget deficit, and Chicago’s school system bonds have been rated below investment-grade in recent years. 18

In addition to member-oriented benefits, the CTU also expanded its list of demands during the 2019 teacher strike to include a broader political goal: access to affordable housing. Illinois law limits what unions can include as part of a contract negotiation. However, a growing movement of labor organizations has begun aggressively campaigning for radical-left economic policy under the branding “bargaining for the common good,” including intersectional policy efforts in labor negotiations. 19 Ultimately, when the 11-day strike ended, the city of Chicago declined to incorporate housing policy into the contract with CTU. 20

In 2020, the Chicago Teachers Union filed a lawsuit against Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, as well as the U.S. Department of Education and the Chicago Board of Education, claiming that new special education regulations imposed an “impossible burden” on the teachers during the coronavirus pandemic. Secretary DeVos had declined to waive a requirement that schools revise special education plans — known as Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) or 504 plans – and the Chicago Public Schools special education office required teachers and other staff to meet with each special education student to develop a remote learning plan. CTU argued that this was an undue burden. In response, the Chicago Public Schools said that teachers were only required to make “basic accommodations” rather than entirely new plans. The U.S. Department of Education said that CTU’s lawsuit was “nothing more than political posturing for a headline.” 21

In May 2020, the Chicago Teachers Union was sued by a Chicago teacher who was being forced to pay CTU dues despite crossing the picket line during the 2019 strike and withdrawing from CTU membership. The teacher alleged that she was being forced to subsidize CTU’s speech, and this was a violation of her own first amendment rights. In response, CTU blamed a “Koch-funded law project,” called the lawsuit “anti-worker,” and argued that, by only allowing members to revoke their dues authorizations in August, they were operating “within the letter of the law.” 22

Affiliated Organizations

In addition to its status as Local 1 of the American Federation of Teachers, CTU is also a member of other left-wing labor groups, including the Chicago Federation of Labor (CFL), the Illinois State Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (ISFL-CIO), the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), and the Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT). 23

The Chicago Teachers Union also operates a philanthropic organization, the Chicago Teachers Union Foundation (CTUF). The Foundation supports education-related advocacy efforts aligned with the interests of the CTU. The CTUF also funds some professional development programs for teachers and scholarships for underserved communities. 24

The Foundation was founded in 1969 when it received the Fewkes Tower – a 29-story high rise building in Chicago – from the Chicago Teachers Union, which had built the tower in 1963 to provide affordable housing to retired teachers. While the purpose of the Foundation was to support retired and disabled teachers, very few teachers ever lived at Fewkes Tower, and “only seven of the 224 apartments in Fewkes Tower were occupied by retired CPS teachers” when the building was sold by CTUF in 2014. 25 Upon the sale of the tower, the CTUF refocused its mission towards teacher advocacy and grantmaking to underserved communities. 26

In 2018, despite the infusion of $48 million from the sale of the building just a few years prior, the CTUF cut back, reducing its grants from $1.9 million to 50 grantees in 2017 to $1 million to 37 grantees in 2018.  The CTUF has lost $2 million per year since the sale of the Fewkes Tower. 27

In 2019, CTUF grantees included a mix of progressive activist organizations and community charity organizations like the Action Now Institute, Equip for Equality, Grassroots Collaborative, Rainbows for All Children, and the UIC Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy. 28

The Chicago Teachers Union also operates the CTU PAC, a campaign committee that supports candidates who fight against school reform. 29 30 In 2015, donations to the CTU PAC amounted to over $1.5 million, and the CTU PAC spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in support of Cook County Commissioner Jesus Garcia (D), who ran against incumbent Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D). Garcia lost. 31

Political Engagement

Political Activities

Between March 2018 and July 2019, just prior to the 2019 teachers strike, the Chicago Teachers Union spent almost $1.5 million on political activities. In addition, CTU PAC donated $1.2 million to candidates and political organizations. 32

CTU has been an active opponent of education reforms or changes that could reduce the union’s power within the education system. Despite Chicago Public School enrollment dropping by over 6,000 students in 2019, and by 80,000 students since 2000, the Chicago Teachers Union has refused to allow schools, even failing schools, to close. 33 In 2012, contract negotiations stalled over Mayor Emanuel’s proposal to use student test scores in teacher evaluations, as well as his effort to give principals more hiring authority. 34

CTU Endorsements

In 2017-2019, the CTU PAC donated $133,000 to the campaign of Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson (D), who was also on staff with the Chicago Teachers Union as a registered lobbyist. Johnson was paid a $103,000 salary by CTU, in addition to his $85,000 salary as a Cook County Commissioner.  CTU also retained Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin (D) as a consultant, paying him $106,000, in addition to his own $85,000 county salary. 35

CTU and CTU PAC paid $316,000 to United Working Families, a labor-union-aligned political organization funded by CTU and SEIU Healthcare Illinois/Indiana, to conduct organizing and advocacy in line with the policies and candidates supported by the Chicago Teachers Union. 36

Between October 2018 and October 2019, the CTU donated $1.7 million to political campaigns and related political action committees. Included in that spending was $300,000 to Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle (D) for her Mayoral campaign. Preckwinkle lost to Lori Lightfoot (D). 37

In 2020, CTU members declined to endorse left-wing U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), leading the CTU to declare itself “neutral” in the 2020 Democratic primaries. In the absence of a union endorsement, two senior CTU leaders, Jesse Sharkey and Stacy Davis Gates, endorsed the Vermont Senator. This marked a split among teacher’s union organization leaders, as AFT President Randi Weingarten endorsed Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), while AFT leader Loretta Johnson and New York City teachers union leader Michael Mulgrew endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden. 38

Brandon Johonson’s Chicago Mayoral Campaign (2023)

As of March 2023, Cook County Commissioner and CTU organizer Brandon Johnson is running against former Chicago State University Chief Administration Officer Paul Vallas in a general runoff election for Mayor of Chicago. 39 40 Although the CTU claims that Johnson has been on leave since November 2022, he has still received criticism over his ties to the union whilst running for Mayor, with U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (D-IL) commenting, “Will Brandon, if he’s elected mayor, be able to say that he is impartial…That, in negotiations with the union, that he’ll make the best decision for children and taxpayers as issues in education, in the Chicago public school system as other bargaining units come to the table to negotiate?” 41 42 Johnson has reportedly received financial support from several other teachers unions as well as SEIU Local 73 and SEIU Healthcare. 43 According to documents filed by the CTU to the U.S Department of Labor, since 2018, Johnson has received over $390,000 as a “legislative coordinator” for the union around the same time he received a salary as Cook County Board Commissioner. 44

According to reporting by Politico and local state affiliate Illinois Policy, the CTU’s representatives voted in favor of taking $8 a month from each CTU member’s dues and pushing it towards funding Johnson’s campaign, a tripling of previous donations from the union, and pledging up to $2 million to Johnson’s campaign between March and June 2023. Between January 1, 2022 through March 6, 2023, the CTU has donated roughly $3.2 million to Johnson’s campaign. 45 The vote by the Union’s representatives was met with criticism by some CTU members, claiming that such support was possibly in violation of union rules regarding political donations. The CTU handbook states that, “dues are not used for political purposes,” 46 but instead the CTU’s PAC, “relies on extra contributions from our members to support progressive candidates and to impact elected officials at the city, county and state levels.” 47 Some CTU members also criticized the vote’s lack of transparency due to all members not getting a change to vote, with Union leadership defending the quick vote as being necessary, “to secure the funding before the runoff on April 4.” 48

In addition, campaign finance records show that in February 2023, over $415,000 was transferred from the CTU’s operating funds towards its Political Action Committee (PAC) without a vote of approval from the union’s House of Delegates. 49 50 CTU delegate Mary Esposito Usterbowski commented, “Members weren’t notified; many of us were notified by going onto the website and finding out this money was donated, and it wasn’t done in a transparent way.” 51 According to Illinois state law, a labor organization can only transfer up to $274,000 towards a PAC at a time nor can it loan money. Illinois State Board of Elections spokesman Matt Dietrich, who sent a letter to the CTU, commented, “It would have to be a loan from a financial institution…In this case, it is a loan from a labor organization, which is treated as a contribution, which means it is subject to the contribution limits.” 52 Dietrich claims that he was later notified by a CTU attorney that the loan filing by the union would be amended to not violate state law, instead reclassifying it, “as a donation of aggregate union dues.” 53

Leadership

President

Stacy Davis Gates is the president of CTU, who was appointed to her position in 2022. Prior to this, she served as Vice President of the CTU from 2018 through 2022, and beforehand was the CTU’s Political and Legislative Director. In addition, she became the Chairwoman of the political advocacy organization United Working Families in 2017, serves on the board of economic advocacy group Action Center on Race & the Economy and is the executive vice president of the Illinois Federation of Teachers. 54

The previous CTU President was Jesse Sharkey, who was appointed to the position in 2018 and served until 2022. Sharkey joined the CTU in 1998, previously serving as the CTU’s vice president. Prior to working with CTU, Sharkey was a social studies teacher and a political activist. 55  The World Socialist Web Site has called Sharkey “a leading member of the International Socialist Organization.” 56

Vice-President

Jackson Porter is the Vice President of the CTU, taking the position in 2022 when former vice president Stacey Davis Gates was appointed as president. He previously worked as the CTU’s staff coordinator from 2010 through 2018. He temporarily left the CTU afterwards to serve as a social studies professor at Back of The Yards College Preparatory High School in Chicago, but returned to after being elected vice president in 2022. 57 58

Financials

In its Form 990 disclosure for July 2017 to June 2018, the Chicago Teachers Union had total revenue of $28 million and total expenses of $30 million, resulting in a net loss of approximately $2 million. In the year prior, CTU had lost $4 million. Net assets declined to less than $1 million. Compensation for top executives and Board members ranged from $120,000 to $330,000. 59

References

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  3. McQueary, Kristen. “Column: Surprised by CTU’s Venezuela Visit? Then You Haven’t Been Paying Attention.” chicagotribune.com. Chicago Tribune, August 20, 2019. https://www.chicagotribune.com/columns/kristen-mcqueary/ct-column-ctu-teachers-venezuela-maduro-mcqueary-20190819-ulffab2mxjbyrdfu7hju5e4nz4-story.html.
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  33. Szalinski, Ben, “The new contract continues a moratorium on school closings despite plummeting student enrollment,” Illinois Policy, November 22, 2019. Accessed June 02, 2020.
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  34. Stephanie Simon and James B. Kelleher, “Analysis: Striking Chicago teachers take on national education reform,” Reuters, September 10, 2012. Accessed June 02, 2020. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-chicago-schools-analysis/analysis-striking-chicago-teachers-take-on-national-education-reform-idUSBRE8890VS20120910
  35. Fusco, Chris, “The Watchdogs: How Chicago Teachers Union spends its money,” Chicago Sun-Times, January 30, 2017. Accessed June 02. 2020. https://chicago.suntimes.com/2017/1/30/18461114/the-watchdogs-how-chicago-teachers-union-spends-its-money
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  38. Belsha, Kalyn, “Chicago teachers union leaders back Sanders, becoming latest to offer personal endorsements as unions tread carefully,” Chalkbeat, March 04, 2020. Accessed June 02, 2020. https://www.chalkbeat.org/2020/3/4/21178699/chicago-teachers-union-leaders-back-sanders-becoming-latest-to-offer-personal-endorsements-as-unions
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  52. Schutz, Paul. “Chicago Teachers Union Under Fire From Within for Campaign Spending.” WTTW, February 22, 2023. https://news.wttw.com/2023/02/22/chicago-teachers-union-under-fire-within-campaign-spending
  53. Schutz, Paul. “Chicago Teachers Union Under Fire From Within for Campaign Spending.” WTTW, February 22, 2023. https://news.wttw.com/2023/02/22/chicago-teachers-union-under-fire-within-campaign-spending
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  • Tax Exemption Received: August 1, 1967

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2020 Jun Form 990 $30,980,791 $30,225,543 $15,769,092 $12,555,758 N $27,828,701 $2,767,227 $1,400 $647,749
    2019 Jun Form 990 $28,927,292 $27,373,691 $16,901,137 $14,443,051 Y $25,626,535 $2,901,684 $1,001 $638,349 PDF
    2018 Jun Form 990 $27,852,762 $29,842,018 $15,643,750 $14,600,537 Y $24,619,480 $2,836,470 $2,320 $576,276 PDF
    2017 Jun Form 990 $27,878,897 $32,111,159 $16,818,501 $13,800,405 Y $24,842,054 $2,989,307 $1,453 $591,905 PDF
    2016 Jun Form 990 $28,787,665 $29,890,135 $13,073,051 $5,172,693 Y $25,567,454 $3,162,249 $2,740 $562,608
    2015 Jun Form 990 $29,886,974 $30,708,395 $15,899,197 $6,896,369 Y $26,598,457 $3,032,254 $3,694 $555,766 PDF
    2014 Jun Form 990 $30,064,566 $27,798,055 $15,490,206 $5,665,957 Y $26,904,716 $3,044,582 $4,722 $554,217 PDF
    2013 Jun Form 990 $30,567,383 $29,400,080 $15,108,964 $7,551,226 Y $26,939,420 $3,556,652 $5,594 $527,071 PDF
    2012 Jun Form 990 $29,560,945 $28,873,818 $12,792,330 $6,401,895 Y $26,268,042 $3,242,580 $5,423 $513,567 PDF
    2011 Jun Form 990 $29,493,809 $27,525,066 $13,744,951 $8,041,643 Y $26,011,768 $3,472,331 $9,471 $518,752 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    Chicago Teachers Union

    1901 W CARROLL AVE
    CHICAGO, IL 60612-2401