CTU President Says, “It’s Time to Move On”

“It has been a tremendous honor to lead the Chicago Teachers Union, first as vice president next to my friend and confidant, Karen Lewis, and later as president. I have always approached this work as a member of the education justice movement, and as a teacher, a leader in that movement. Like all teachers, we nurture and prepare students to become the next generation to lead and to inspire. After nearly two decades of work in this movement, it is time to let the next generation of CTU leadership guide our union.

“As I reflect on where this journey began, Karen and I took office in 2010 and immediately faced a number of attacks on public education in the form of privatization, school closings, and massive cuts to school budgets. There was a pension crisis, high turnover among Chicago Public Schools CEOs, and negligence in special education services. Then came the pandemic, and all throughout, intractable city leadership. But at that same time, I watched rank-and-file educators become reinvigorated and take our union to heights I could never have imagined possible in 2010.

“We made history with multiple labor actions, led the nation’s first strikes in CTU-organized charter schools, and ended school privatization. In the last two years of this pandemic, we have secured a moratorium on school closings, historic safety agreements, restoration of our union’s bargaining rights, an elected representative school board, and a multi-million dollar settlement for Black educators impacted by racist school turnarounds.

“We will have a nurse and a social worker in every school by 2024. We have students recognizing the power of their voice, and their action, to fight for the schools they deserve. Community partners, many of whom were doing this work long before our union, have grown even stronger.

“Vice President Stacy Davis Gates, Financial Secretary Maria Moreno and Recording Secretary Christel Williams-Hayes are ready to fight even harder for classrooms and communities with smart, bold and dependable leadership. I have been extremely fortunate to work alongside their brilliant minds, as well as Karen’s, CTU Chief of Staff Jennifer Johnson, Grievance Director Zeidre Foster, Organizing Director Rebecca Martinez and a host of rank-and-file leaders. Among our leadership team, Stacy is to me what I was to Karen: a steady force that I have leaned on during the most turbulent of times. Christel is our soul, and Maria is our heart.

“I remain confident because our union is strong, with not only capable leadership and staff, but tens of thousands of rank-and-file members and a deep bench of activists stretching from Austin to the lake, and from Rogers Park to the 10th Ward. As a kid who grew up on a dirt road in rural Maine, the son of a single mother, leading the CTU was more than I ever imagined. But my goal has never been to get into a position of influence and stay for as long as possible. That is not the leadership formula for movement work. Movement work is about building for the many, for the common good, and being willing to pass the torch as the winds of change blow.

“Our movement goes beyond classroom instruction to uplifting and enriching children and their communities. Bread and butter unionism is the foundation of traditional labor advocacy, but it cannot end there. Our students deserve similar protections, of life, and livelihood, and so do their families.

“I will return to teaching, and to serving students and families, just as Chicago public school educators do every day. It is their strength, and the strength of CTU leadership and staff, that makes me confident in the future of our union. I am confident because I know the human quality of our members. I know how much they care, how much they bring to their school communities, and how much they value our city. We have changed the narrative around public education in Chicago, together, and that is an experience I will never, ever take for granted.”

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