One year later... Three caucuses still around as Chicago Teachers Union continues its robust brand of democracy

One year ago, thousands of members of the (then) 30,000-member Chicago Teachers Union were mulling over who (and what) to elect to lead the largest union in Illinois. The incumbent Marilyn Stewart and her United Progressive Caucus (UPC) had been in power for six years and had been forced into a runoff by the CORE (Concerned Rank and File Educators) caucus, which was still three years away from its birth when Marilyn Stewart unseated one-term CTU president Deborah Lynch in a hotly contested election in May and June 2004. Lynch's downfall, according to most observers, was a disappointing contract that she and her leadership team brought in in two phases in October and December 2003. The result was that Lynch, who began her term in office amid great hopes from the union's membership, ended it and returned to the classroom by September 2004.

Flash forward to 2010 and 2011. One year ago, one of the main reasons that Karen Lewis became President of the Chicago Teachers Union was that she brought together a “unity” coalition in support of the CORE ticket. After the five-way race for union office was over on May 21, 2010, most of the offices were still to be filled. The CTU elections require that a candidate get a majority of the votes for each office. After the votes were counted on May 21, only the high schools and most PSRP executive board slots had been decided (with members of CORE winning in the high school and members of Marilyn Stewart’s UPC in the PSRP positions).

In a series of careful moves, CORE brought together all of the opposing candidates who had run against Marilyn Stewart, and the candidates (and their caucuses) supported Karen Lewis and CORE. The resulting coalition brought CORE to the winner’s circle on June 11, with nearly 60 percent of the vote for citywide offices, and a decisive victory for all the remaining executive board seats.

At the time of the June 11, 2011, runoff, there were five functioning caucuses in the CTU. Three of those that had opposed Marilyn Stewart and the UPC had joined forces behind CORE and Karen Lewis to elect Lewis and most of the CORE slate.

Where are they today?

Based on the activity on their websites, two (CORE and the UPC) are still very active, one is relatively inactive, and two have died.

By far the most active caucus is CORE, whose website ( is updated almost daily, and whose members are active across the city. The first year of the CORE leadership hasn’t been without problems, but overall, CORE retained an organizational coherence that was seldom seen in the history of the Chicago Teachers Union.

Marilyn Stewart’s United Progressive Caucus (UPC) is also still quite active, although their website is not as robust as the CORE website.

The PACT caucus, headed by Gage Park High School teacher Deborah Lynch, is also active, although its website is dormant, as a brief visit shows.

The Caucus for a Strong Democratic Union (CSDU), which fielded former CTU Treasurer Linda Porter for President, has been dead in all but name. Occasionally someone leaflets for CSDU (often with a leaflet that is not attributed to anyone).

The SEA (School Employees Action) caucus is also dead. Neither their website nor their candidates are functioning independently in the union at this time.

A robust democracy that has always characterized the CTU continues.


Add your own comment (all fields are necessary)

Substance readers:

You must give your first name and last name under "Name" when you post a comment at We are not operating a blog and do not allow anonymous or pseudonymous comments. Our readers deserve to know who is commenting, just as they deserve to know the source of our news reports and analysis.

Please respect this, and also provide us with an accurate e-mail address.

Thank you,

The Editors of Substance

Your Name

Your Email

What's your comment about?

Your Comment

Please answer this to prove you're not a robot:

5 + 3 =