CHICAGO — The Chicago Teacher Union faces challenges within their ranks, expressing frustration with leadership’s constant brinksmanship with Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
It comes on the heels of an exhausting dispute between the leaders of the CTU and Lightfoot’s administration – one that saw the union lose some support from both parents and rank-and-file teachers.
The public bickering has become so bitter that the teachers union president described the mayor in unflattering terms during contentious negotiations over in-person learning last month.
“The mayor is being relentless, but she’s being relentlessly stupid,” CTU president Jesse Sharkey said.
The mayor hit back.
“This is an illegal work stoppage,” Lightfoot said.
The working relationship between CPS administration and the president of the 30,000 member union remains fractured.
The evidence is in the three work stoppages, either strikes of work actions or lockouts, over the last 27 months.
“We have truly abused that process. Striking? That’s a last resort,” said Sandi Hoggatt, a 25 year CPS staff member who works at Kenwood Academy. “But, because there’s this contention between the leadership and the mayor’s office, we end up in these positions.”
Hoggatt is part of a group called “Members First,” trying to oust Sharkey and vice president Stacy Davis Gates in the CTU election on May 20.
“Too contentious,” Hoggatt said. “We’ve got to be able to collaborate and we haven’t seen this with this leadership and our mayor. Are you serious? What are we doing? We’re sending out an entirely different message than we teach our kids every day.”
The group has tried unsuccessfully to defeat the current leaders in the last election three years ago.
In a statement published in Politico’s playbook Tuesday morning, Sharkey said, “This leadership has advocated for good quality public schools for students and the people who work in them. It’s been difficult working with this mayor and the previous one, who are poor listeners. We’re proud of our advocacy.”
Hoggatt says Sharkey and Gates are positioning themselves for future political gain, which Davis Gates vehemently denies.
“All and all, I would say that during this pandemic, our members have been safe,” Davis Gates said. “They have been employed and those are the things that have mattered to the union and the leadership of this union.”