CTU d'etat? Chicago Teachers Union issues a press release announcing last minute mayoral candidate Chuy Garcia as 'keynote' speaker for annual LEAD dinner... without any discussion or debate within the CTU's democratically elected House of Delegates or Executive Board -- or any membership approval

Without any discussion or debate among the membership, the House of Delegates, or at the Executive Board, someone at the Chicago Teachers Union decided to issue a press release late in the day on October 30, 2014 announcing that Jesus "Chuy" Garcia would be the "keynote speaker" at the union's LEAD dinner on Halloween night (October 31). The press release stated: "Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia will be the keynote speaker at 2014 LEAD." Garcia, one of several announced candidates for mayor of Chicago, threw his hat in the ring on October 27, 2014.

The CTU press release claiming that the "PAC" (the union's appointed Political Action Committee) -- and not the CTU -- organizes the annual LEAD dinner was issued on October 30, 2014 by the Chicago Teachers Union. This is an unprecedented claim, since the union's careful work on legislation and for the LEAD dinner over the past century has been devoted to representing the principles of union democracy. The PAC Committee is an appointed committee, and none of the decisions about the LEAD dinner has been approved by the membership either through the Executive Board of by the House of Delegates.The dinner, an annual event which has been organized by the Chicago Teachers Union (and not by any sub-committee within the union) for nearly 100 years, is scheduled to take place at the Plumbers Union hall (1340 W. Washington) beginning at 4:00 p.m. Speakers will apparently begin around 5:30. [Disclosure: Substance has purchased a table for LEAD 2014, as Substance has done for the past years and years].

The Chicago Teachers Union's Political Action (PAC) fund is financed separately from union dues, as required by law. Contributions to political candidates have been routinely approved by a vote of the House of Delegates after the publication to the House of Delegates itemizing every dollar contributed to political candidates. [Disclosure: this reporter first served in the House of Delegates in 1979 and has been a delegate for most of the years since; I am presently a delegate representing retired teachers and other retired union members].

The LEAD dinner, an annual event for almost every year during the past century (with one or two exceptions) has always reflected the consensus of the union on political endorsements, campaign work, and contributions. For at least half a century, the policy of the CTU was not to endorse candidate in local Chicago elections for two main reasons: First, such endorsements required a higher level of unity than the union's members would generally reach. Second, the laws that govern the Chicago Public Schools (and the rights of the CTU and its members) are made in Springfield by Illinois state representatives and senators, along with the governor.

The last minute announcement that Garcia will be speaking came after the union had previously announced that speakers would include American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, and Chicago Congressman Danny Davis. A discussion of these selections has been reported previously at

Although the CTU press release notes that several CTU members (and community allies) are "running for alderman" in some of the city's 50 wards, there is no mention of the fact that the petitions to place aldermanic and mayoral candidates on the ballots do not even get turned in until the middle of November. The November 4 election is for Illinois political races -- not for local races for City Council or the office of Mayor of Chicago. Nominating petitions can be turned in between November 17 and November 24. There are no real candidates for the February 24, 2015 local Chicago elections until after the petitions have been submitted and vetted. Traditionally in Chicago, the signatures on nominating petitions for candidates challenging incumbents have had to pass severe scrutiny before a candidate's name goes on the ballot for the February election.

Text of the press release in its entirety below here:

"Unity is Power" at 2014 Chicago Teachers Union Legislators Educators Appreciation Dinner

CHICAGO - The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) on Friday, Oct. 31, 2014, will hold its 2014 Legislators and Educators Appreciation Dinner (LEAD) at 5:30 p.m. at Plumbers Hall, 1340 W. Washington Blvd. This annual event, organized by the CTU Political Action/Legislative Committee (PAC), provides an opportunity for rank and file members to engage elected officials and discuss the conditions in Chicago's public schools and the Union's fight for the city that Chicago's students deserve.

Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia will be the keynote speaker at 2014 LEAD. A 30-year veteran of Chicago politics, Garcia was elected to the Chicago City Council as alderman of the 22nd Ward in 1986, where he helped enact progressive legislation as a reformer and supporter of Mayor Harold Washington. In 1992, he became the first-ever Mexican-American elected to the Illinois Senate, where he served two terms and pushed forward a broad range of legislation to benefit working families.

In 2010, Garcia successfully ran for Cook County Commissioner of the 7th District, and is committed to improving county government by advocating for the most vulnerable, increasing transparency and being a good steward of public resources. Among the speakers joining Garcia at 2014 LEAD are Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and Congressman Danny Davis.

The past legislative session netted the CTU some of the strongest charter accountability laws in the country, proving that rank-and-file power has made the difference in Springfield. While 2014 LEAD will celebrate these legislative wins, the event also charts the path to 2015, as across our city, Chicagoans call for an end to the top-down, undemocratic administration that seeks to destroy schools, disinvest in neighborhoods and stifle community participation.

In 2013, CTU members and allies heeded the call to advance support and resources to fight for a smaller class sizes, defense of retiree pensions and the promotion of a broad and rich curriculum that reduces the emphasis on high-stakes, standardized testing. This year, the Union is encouraging its members to engage in a political process of their choosing. Some CTU rank-and-file members are exploring a run for alderman, while many others are collecting signatures to make sure voters weigh in on the question of whether Chicago's public schools should have an elected, representative school board.

The CTU PAC is committed to electing candidates who support authentic education reform and stand strong with labor; fight privatizers; and advance meaningful legislation and a vision for our city that honors and respects the voice of every Chicagoan.


October 31, 2014 at 2:35 PM

By: Bob Busch


I would like someone going to the dinner to please report what Mr Quinn says, and if Chainsaw Paul has the nerve to show up.

November 1, 2014 at 10:14 AM

By: Kirstin Roberts

Good Stewardship?

Public employees of Chicago should ask Cook County workers what "good stewardship" under Preckwinkle/Garcia has looked and felt like. Certainly the wealthiest citizens and corporations of Cook County haven't been asked to bear the "budget constraints" of tough times, while workers have been repeatedly forced to tighten their belts.

The problem with this sort of hurry up and endorse process is that we're not going to get a chance to discuss and debate these kinds of issues...and if we don't, we're going into the election and the contract fight with a hand tied behind our back.

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