May 18, 2022 - Politics

Chicago Teachers Union election primer

Protest march

Jesse Sharkey (center) and Stacy Davis Gates (to Sharkey's left) currently lead the CTU, but are facing challengers in this week's election. Photo: Max Herman/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The Chicago Teachers Union holds its tri-annual election Friday.

Why it matters: The CTU has emerged as arguably the most powerful labor force in the city. Its moves affect hundreds of thousands of residents and rattle the mayor.

The big picture: The race is largely seen as a referendum on the broad progressive advocacy and combative styles of its current leaders, outgoing president Jesse Sharkey and vice president Stacy Davis Gates.

  • Challengers say they want less focus on political personalities and more on bread-and-butter issues like prep time and benefits.

Between the lines: There are three caucuses with candidates for president, including:

CORE: Davis Gates is running on continued progressive momentum and the leadership's record on:

  • Class size protections.
  • Cost of living raises and COVID-19 safety agreements.
  • Winning bargaining rights and a fully elected school board.

Members First: Mary Esposito-Usterbowski is pushing a platform of "change" through strategies like:

  • Engaging in collaboration "with all stakeholders."
  • Creating more transparency by posting CTU records "in a timely manner."
  • Using strikes and work stoppages as the last step.

REAL: Darnell Dowd leads this caucus of former CORE supporters "concerned about the direction of the CTU." REAL promises to:

  • "Track bully[ing] administrators" and "publicly call out toxic school leadership."
  • "Include a minimum of two rank-and-file members" in most bargaining discussions.
  • "Add a CTU hotline" to address member needs in a timely manner.

What's next: A caucus needs to win more than 50% of the vote, which ends Friday, to avoid a runoff.


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