Chicago’s powerful teachers’ union ditched Lightfoot for challenging it

(Daily Caller) – The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) celebrated Democratic Chicago Mayor candidate Brandon Johnson on Tuesday after he defeated Democratic Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, an endorsement…

(Daily Caller) – The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) celebrated Democratic Chicago Mayor candidate Brandon Johnson on Tuesday after he defeated Democratic Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, an endorsement that could have cost her the reelection.

On Tuesday, Lightfoot lost her reelection bid as leading challenger Paul Vallas and second-place candidate Brandon Johnson, a former teacher, advanced to an April runoff contest. Since 2019, Lightfoot has been sparring with the union on COVID-19 policies and contracts, causing the union to drop their support of the mayor and pour more than $1 million into Johnson’s campaign, according to the Chicago Tribune.

“Throughout the campaign, hundreds of CTU members fanned out across the city talking with voters about Brandon and his comprehensive plan to invest in our communities,” the union wrote in a Tuesday press release. “By the end of this weekend, the CTU had organized hundreds of volunteers to make more than 45,000 phone calls, send more than 60,000 texts and knock on some 10,000 doors in the run-up to Tuesday’s election. This program was critical to Johnson’s success and organizers are already working on expanding and building on it to push him to victory in April.”

In 2019, the CTU voiced their support for Lightfoot, noting they were proud to have an “openly gay Black woman as mayor of Chicago,” according to a press release.

Shortly after praising Lightfoot, CTU went on its longest strike in decades after the mayor and the union could not come to a contract agreement, according to CBS News. CTU accused Lightfoot in 2019 of not following through on campaign promises and once an agreement was reached, former union President Jesse Sharkey turned down the opportunity to announce the compromise with the Mayor saying he didn’t feel like “doing a celebration lap” with her.

In 2021, CTU defied Lightfoot’s wishes and refused to return to the classroom, requesting that all Chicago Public School (CPS) educators have at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine before in-person instruction continues, WIFR reported.

“We’re deeply disappointed that the mayor has chosen to stop negotiating and instead move to lock out educators and shut down schools rather than work out our differences,” Sharkey said, according to the WSJ.

In 2022, Chicago schools closed for a week after the union and Lightfoot entered a labor standoff over the school’s COVID-19 protocols. CTU returned to virtual learning after winter break while 90% of CTU members  promised to strike if the district returned to in-person instruction.

CTU, then in 2023, accused Lightfoot of pulling her offer that would have given CPS educators 12 weeks of paid parental leave, the same agreement all city employees have, NBC Chicago reported. Lightfoot, however, denied the union’s claims.

Lightfoot came under fire by the teachers union one last time before the election after a report showed her reelection campaign encouraged CPS teachers to offer class credit to students who volunteered. Stacy Davis Gates, president of CTU, called the email “unethical” and accused Lightfoot of “shaking down” union members, according to NBC Chicago.

Since 2010, CTU has spent more than $17 million on Illinois political committees, including over $1.3 million to current mayoral candidates in Chicago, according to the Illinois Policy.

“Mayor Lightfoot has found herself at odds with teachers unions: a bad place to be in as a Democrat trying to win an election,” Elizabeth Messenger, CEO of Americans for Fair Treatment, a group focused on educating employees on their rights within unions, told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “These primary results are an example of the power unions have to sway elections – after all, they spend millions each year on progressive campaigns.”

Lightfoot and CTU did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.