Michael Brunson, CTU Recording Secretary, to retire after a career of fighting for fairness

Michael E. Brunson, Chicago Teachers Union Recording Secretary from 2010 through 2019, will be retiring on June 30, the last day of the present CPS-CTU contract. Michael Brunson will retire as CTU Recording Secretary on June 30, 2019. Photo by Kimberly Goldbaum.Michael Brunson is a son of the south side of Chicago. Born and bred a fighter, he came from a union family living in rough circumstances. He was a military man and also worked in the industrial trades. Earning his teaching certificate in 2003, he has experience substituting and with early childhood education. Even so, his love became maintaining vocational school and Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs. Brunson was known for showing up when workers needed it: he was visible in support during the Wisconsin Uprising in early 2011. If schools were under strain and attack, community groups like Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization were happy to have the Recording Secretary standing on the picket. Brunson also had a particular interest in the needs of paraprofessional and retired educators. Margo Murray speaks about Michael Brunson's dedication to Chicago students and education workers. Photo by Kim Goldbaum.Jackson Potter of the Caucus of Rank-and-File Educators (CORE) has said that “Michael Brunson is the conscience of our caucus. He’s like the philosopher,” an apt description, considering that one of Michael’s college degrees was in philosophy. He is known for spearheading big ideas, like the LaSalle Street tax, or the financial transaction tax, which would fill in the deficit for the City of Chicago and fund our schools properly. He is also credited with conceiving the union’s campaign regarding the Tax Incremental Financing (TIF), insisting on directing TIF monies to developing blighted neighborhoods, which would help communities, students, and families.

Recording Secretary Brunson was feted the last week by two of the caucuses of which he was an active member. On June 17, 2019, Brunson attended the monthly meeting of CORE, the caucus he helped to build that took over union leadership in the highly contentious 2010 election. Rank-and-file members recognized his retirement and celebrated with cake.

The next day, the American Federation of Teachers Black Caucus Chicago group celebrated Michael’s career with an abundant potluck, cake, and remembrances. He was given a jade glass trophy inscribed with a tribute on what a difference he made to the caucus, the union and labor. But it was his union comrades’ speeches that showed how appreciated he was.

Jacqueline Price-Ward, former CTU Recording Secretary in the early 2000s, shares how Michael and she bonded over their knowledge of the office.Tammy Vinson, chair of the Black Caucus, introduced Brunson and invited people to give accolades. Patricia Boughton, retired teacher, spoke about having gone to the same high school, having graduated the same year, and having fought the same battles as they lived life in CPS. Margo Murray, current BC co-chair and also retired, spoke of how Michael Brunson was supportive and showed up for education workers who needed it. She mentioned how regularly Michael showed up to the monthly Board of Education meetings, fighting for what Chicago students and education workers deserved. Jacqueline Price-Ward, former CTU Recording Secretary in the early 2000s, discussed how Michael and she bonded over knowing the shared responsibility of the office, and how they were able to mutually support each other in the time of hard education reform and its systemwide attacks. Kimberly Goldbaum, former CTU E-Board member, reminded attendees of Michael’s past and how it has not been easy to work in the union just because he was an officer. Others who spoke included Lois Nelson, Lee White, and LaShawn Wallace Burks.

He’d stand up for individuals who were being attacked, such as his support and defense of George Schmidt, founder of Substance News, when some CORE members attempted to oust him from the caucus last year. Individual black teachers, affected by REACH and targeted during the Rahm-led years, asked for his advice and support during their battles. His interest in preserving the positions of black educators in public education was put to use when current Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson, former teacher-turned-union employee, reignited the Black Caucus in the CTU. Michael helped get the charter, and later, like Brandon, was chair of that caucus.

A debt of gratitude is owed to fighters like outgoing CTU Recording Secretary Michael E. Brunson, who, in his best moments, was known for speaking truth to power, trying to save our schools, and endeavoring to improve our union. None of those things is done without great sacrifice, sometimes marginalization, and misunderstanding, and none of those things is received without paying the price for putting oneself out there. Michael E. Brunson has shown himself to be a fighter and now will retire with the same benefits for which he fought so hard for others. Those benefits include a place in labor history and the appreciation of his union sisters and brothers.

[Correction: The article was revised to reflect that Mr. Brunson came from a middle-class union family. Substance reporter Kim Goldbaum regrets the error.]


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