The New Machine is Born! House of Delegates meets after CTU Brandon Johnson's Mayor Election Win

Former Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey proclaimed a New Chicago Machine would emerge after the election of the CTU’s very own Brandon Johnson.

“They attacked the CTU for being a political machine which gave out tax breaks to rich developers and wealthy businesses,” said Sharkey, who is now a citywide delegate teaching at South Shore High School. “It was a cruel ridiculous attack on us. I want to build a different machine.”

CTU's Brandon Johnson is elected mayor, April 4, 2023.That machine led by CTU organizer and former Cabrini Green Middle School Teacher and Chicago Mayor Elect Brandon Johnson would make the uber wealthy and corporations pay their fair share to ensure people all over the city get a fair shake.

As a delegate from Hammond Elementary School of 20 years, it was certainly a strange feeling to know we the CTU are now the boss at City Hall. A feeling of excitement and uncertainty permeated the CTU Headquarters at the April 12 House of Delegates Meeting.

I almost did a head flip when CTU Vice President Jackson Potter looked across the room of over 600 delegates and said our very own Howard Heath might be the next President of the Board of Education. Howard was once the Vice President under CTU President Debbie Lynch and battled head on against the forces of capital led by Mayor Richard Daley and his sidekick Paul Vallas who were hell bent on destroying the CTU and public schools.

“We’ve never been at the table,” Jackson said in his opening remarks. “But with great power comes great responsibility.”

Jackson told the delegates in his stoic fashion to imagine now a 30 minutes prep every morning, a point of contention in the last contract when Mayor Lori Lightfoot refused to the extra preparational time for planning that many elementary school teachers wanted, and many high school teachers supported in solidarity.

“They call us the new machine,” CTU President Stacy Davis Gates said during her presentation. “I know how to fight. You all trusted your union.”

Gates said the CTU has more members today than in 2013 despite the attacks and Janus decision where members can opt out of the union. She reminded delegates that the outgoing mayor robbed the teachers of one week of pay just because we wanted a nurse in every school and safety protocols set up during the Covid crisis.

She then directed her righteous anger at one of the biggest problems for teachers - bully principals who install a climate of fear in the schools forcing massive turnover. The new administrative candidate pool was drawn up from the Mayor Rahm Emanuel and education reform forces who were hell bent on installing an education of fear where principals were encouraged to attack and fire teachers, the union contract be damned. How about choosing principals who make teachers partners and not the enemy?

President Gates singled out one name at the HOD meeting that she took issue with - Alderman Gil Villegas who just proposed a bill in the City Council to limit the political contributions of unions. The unions actually were split in the recent Mayor election, with many building trade unions backing Paul Vallas and his pro-development, vs. SEIU and the CTU. The Chicago Federation of Labor which represents all the unions did not make any endorsement in the race.

“He’s an idiot, and you can quote me on that,” Davis Gates said.

The union said good bye to retiring Illinois Federation of Teachers IFT John Cusick and former United Progressive Caucus UPC PSRP Field Rep June Davis.

During the opening Q&A period, one teacher delegate complained that her school was forced to adopt the Skyline curriculum. President Gates then said as she’s said in the past to understand that the principal can only make decisions with the agreement of the staff and to utilize their PPLC to make curriculum decisions in a democratic fashion.

“We are the experts,” Gates said, not mincing her words.

Former PACT officer and long-time delegate Lou Pyster threw some water on the CTU post-election HOD party by again asking about a motion he made to make all political spending transparent and place a cap on it. Lou noted that the CTU had made a financial contribution to Mayor Jane Byrne, who was a machine candidate running against Harold Washington. Lou failed to mention that the CTU also made political donations to the Daley regime when he was an officer of the union.

Gates said all political spending is outlined in next month’s budget that will be presented to the HOD. She also said Paul Vallas said he didn’t do anything the CTU did not agree to. The perfect example of the union sell out to Vallas on behalf of Mayor Daley is when the CTU under the UPC agreed to teacher raises and the City in return got a pension holiday and stopped paying into the Teachers Pension Fund which is only 46 perecent funded today. This resulted in a split teacher pension salary with a Tier 2 system set up in which teachers hired after 2011 must work seven more years before they can retire.

The CTU charter director said that after teachers voted unanimously to join the CTU the Hope Learning Academy Charter School then decided to close their school. This action mirrors the vicious anti-union, anti-worker positions of businesses around the world who will close up shop when their workers dare demand better compensation and conditions.

Vallas ran on the corporate education platform to increase charter schools, standardized testing and attacks on public schools.

CTU Labor Lawyer Robert Bloch spoke briefly about the lawsuit filed by Members First Mary Esposito-Usterbowski and others just two days before the runoff Mayor election. He said they claimed the suit was filed on behalf of all the teachers alleging that the union leaders wrongfully spent dues money on political organizations supporting Brandon Johnson. Bloch noted that Members First hired a lawyer who represented former Gov. Bruce Rauner, a notorious union-buster who wanted to turn Illinois into a Right to Work state. He said the lawsuit was frivilous because the union can spend its money however it wants to under its constitution and voted on by the elected delegate representatives from all the schools.

The CTU hosted a party after the HOD meeting to celebrate the election of Brandon Johnson. In addition to union officials, teacher delegates, retired members, there were the politicians elected with CTU money. There were old-timers and new schoolers.

I noticed 40 Ward Alderman Andre Vasquez, who initially supported Chuy Garcia for Mayor. Garcia supported Johnson in the runoff. Next to him was 35 Ward Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, an ardent CTU supporter from the beginning who I wanted to ask amongst his heavy tweeting each day how he stomachs the trolls and ugly anti-union and anti-public school comments his tweets attract.

Brandon Johnson, then CTU staffer, with CTU and Grassroots Education Movement(GEM)members after canvassing in the Lewis school neighborhood on January 12, 2013. Johnson organized 20 people to knock on doors and gather petition signatures for a moratorium on school closings and turnarounds. Substance photo by Sharon SchmidtI tell people the one thing that changed with the election of Brandon Johnson was teacher bashing. The Vallas, Daley, Emanuel, Lightfoot years of corporate education reform focused on demonizing the teachers union and public schools. The hate was replaced by the love Brandon talked about.

But will these new words translate into actions and new kind of machine for the people? Only time will tell.

[This article is reprinted with permission from Jim Vail and is available at Second City Teachers.]


May 5, 2023 at 6:25 AM

By: John S. Whitfield

CTPF, What do YOU think?

New Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson Inherits America’s Worst Teacher Pension Mess

Story by Chad Aldeman

As the newly elected mayor of Chicago, Brandon Johnson just inherited what is arguably the worst teacher retirement plan in the country.

That’s a big claim, so let’s walk through some numbers.

First up is the cost side. Next year, Chicago will contribute more than $1 billion toward the city’s teacher pension plan. A large portion of that money will come from the state, and another $550 million will come from a dedicated property tax levy the state authorized in 2018.

And yet, all this money is not enough. The chart below comes from the Public Plans Database from the Boston College Center for Retirement Research. As the chart shows, Chicago’s pension contributions have risen substantially over time (the blue bars), but not once in the last 20 years has it contributed as much as what its actuaries recommended (the red bars). In 2021 alone, that gap amounted to about $350 million.

These gaps have added up over time. The result is that the Chicago Teachers’ Pension Fund is in worse financial health than it was a decade ago, despite the ramp-up in contributions and a very strong decade of investment returns.

A few statewide teacher pension plans — notably the rest of Illinois, Kentucky and Connecticut — are in similarly dire financial straits. But Chicago is different because it’s a city. It’s dependent on city taxpayers to fill any budget gaps.

There are a few other cities that, like Chicago, offer their own teacher pension plans rather than participating in a statewide system. New York City, Kansas City and St. Louis are notable examples, with challenges similar to Chicago’s. What brings Chicago to the bottom of the heap is on the benefits side.

Facing their own state pension problems, in 2010, Illinois legislators created what’s called Tier 2. Its new rules applied to Chicago as well as state employees. The state raised the age at which new employees could retire from 55 or 60 to 67, added a new cap on the maximum benefit an employee could earn and reduced cost-of-living adjustments for retirees.

The new Tier 2 also imposed a longer vesting period for new workers: Employees hired on or after Jan. 1, 2011 would need to serve for at least 10 years before qualifying for any retirement benefits at all.

How many Chicago Public School employees make it to 10 years of service with the district? Not many. The pension plan conducts regular “experience” studies based on its own data, and it estimates that 30% of new employees will leave the district in the first year and less than 1 in 3 will make it 10 years.

In other words, the majority of Chicago employees in Tier 2 won’t qualify for any pension from the system.

Of course, some long-term employees will still qualify. But on average, the city estimates it’s not spending any money at all on Tier 2 member benefits.

This may sound incredible, given the cost figures cited above, but it’s all spelled out on page 23 of the pension fund’s latest actuarial report. For Tier 2 members, the total “normal cost” of benefits is 8.99% of salary. But each member contributes 9%. In other words, Tier 2 members are putting in more toward their benefits than they’ll get back. They’re getting negative 0.1% in retirement benefits.

Oh, and Chicago teachers are part of the 40% of educators nationwide who also don’t get Social Security. Someone could teach for nine years in Chicago and have no retirement benefit at all, outside of any personal savings.

This would be illegal in the private sector, where federal law requires that employees qualify for retirement benefits after no more than five years. There’s no such protection for public-sector workers. Similarly, Congress attempted to guarantee minimum benefits for public-sector employees without Social Security coverage, but a loophole allows Chicago to offer these meager benefits to workers without any consequences.

I don’t envy Mayor-elect Johnson. The latest actuarial valuation report also notes that contributions would need to increase if the city’s payroll declines as student enrollments continue to fall. These are not problems of Johnson’s making, and they can’t be easily solved from the mayor’s office. But they are now his problems to deal with.

May 14, 2023 at 1:30 PM

By: MemberFirst

New bargaining unit

Is it true that Members First plans to separate from the CTU and provide services to teachers for a fraction of the dues required by the Chicago Leftists Union?

After all, the union is a service organization, is it?

May 21, 2023 at 2:43 PM

By: Floridian


It is a matter of time before Chicago taxpayers leave the Windy City.

All public aid recipients could enjoy themselves together with a group of people mostly from the NorthEast who again used our black brothers to fill their pockets.

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