Militant Chicago Teachers Union Loses Members


The article prominently displays a photograph of Karen Lewis, head of the Chicago Teachers Union, posing triumphantly with the “Labor Rat” balloon standing guard, announcing a 2012 strike plan. Sarah Karp has the story on

Karen Lewis — the woman whose tell-it-like-it-is style catapulted the Chicago Teachers Union into [dubious] prominence both in Chicago and nationally — is officially retiring at the end of the month . . .

The union faces continued membership losses as well as financial difficulties. And  the year ahead holds a mayoral election, a union leadership election, and contract negotiations.

Their caucus [Karen Lewis and Vice President Jesse Sharkey], called CORE, believes the teachers union should lead in the battle against the privatization of public education. One of the big wins in the last contract is a moratorium on expanding the capacity of charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately managed.

At the moment, there’s an internal struggle in the union about how and when to replace Lewis. Also, Lewis and Sharkey’s leadership team, which faced so little opposition three years ago they didn’t hold an election, looks like it will face a challenge this spring when their term expires.

A group called Members First is organizing to run against the CORE slate. Members First leaders declined a request for an interview.

Members First also is hammering the union leadership for what they see as financial mismanagement. They say the CTU is running a deficit both at the union and at the foundation it runs. They are also concerned about how the CTU’s political action committees are being run.

The union, a private organization, does not share its budget. But the most recent tax filings from 2016 show the union was running a $1 million deficit and the foundation about a $2 million deficit.

About 300 staff who weren’t union members last year, but were still required to pay about $1,000 annually, now do not have to pay anything to CTU. Those numbers could grow in coming years.