3 bad decisions drive up Chicago Teachers Union dues by over $160

Mailee Smith

Senior Director of Labor Policy and Staff Attorney

Mailee Smith
November 22, 2023

3 bad decisions drive up Chicago Teachers Union dues by over $160

Chicago Teachers Union members are seeing their dues jump to more $1,400 this year – over $160 more than last year. Here are three reasons to believe CTU hiked dues to make up for its own questionable financial decisions.

Chicago teachers are seeing a little less in their paychecks this school year, thanks to the Chicago Teachers Union.

The union has raised members’ dues by over $160 for the 2023-2024 school year.

In 2022-2023, full-time teachers who were members of the union paid $1,242 a year in dues. In 2023-2024, that has jumped to $1,403.48 – a 13% increase, according to the union’s own documentation.

The union claims it “depends on dues to pay for everything from defending our contract and paying staff salaries to printing picket signs and bringing lawyers to bargaining.” It says that, then reports only spending 17 cents of every $1 on representing members.

The union has failed to provide an audit required by its internal rules for at least three years. When questioned by a member in a private Facebook group about the union’s failure to provide the audits,  CTU President Stacy Davis Gates attacked the member, claiming asking for an audit mandated by CTU’s own rules was a racist “dog whistle.”

The raise in dues begs the question: Is CTU increasing dues to pay for its representation of teachers, or to make up for its own questionable financial decisions?

Here are three reasons to believe it’s to cover poor decisions.

1. CTU ran its first reported deficit in 2023 under Davis Gates

With Davis Gates as president, CTU for the first time reported spending more money than it took in during its 2023 fiscal year, according to a report the union filed last month with the U.S. Department of Labor.

Specifically, CTU reported receipts of $35,506,529 in 2023. But it spent nearly $500,000 more than that, reporting $35,996,684 in disbursements.

It was the first time CTU had reported deficit spending to the U.S. Department of Labor.

2. CTU spent three times more on politics in 2023 and had to pass a resolution apportioning more of members’ dues to cover its political spending

CTU spent more money on “political activities and lobbying” in its 2023 fiscal year than it did in any previous year since it started filing federal reports.

Specifically, the union nearly tripled what it spent on politics in 2023, from just over $1 million in 2022 to over $3 million in 2023.

At least a portion of its 2023 political spending came from member dues without consulting the members themselves. CTU and its political action committee funneled nearly $2.3 million to employee Brandon Johnson in his successful campaign to become mayor of Chicago.

After an initial outcry from members who felt the union acted without their consent, CTU passed a resolution to apportion $8 a month from each member’s dues as individual contributions to the union’s political action committee, up to $2 million.

The union’s 2023 filing with the U.S. Department of Labor, which covers from July 1, 2022, through June 30, 2023, shows at least some of those transactions. The union’s largest itemized disbursements for politics were a $1.5 million and a $500,000 transfer from the union to its political action committee for the purpose of a “municipal election.”

The report also shows the union “loaned” its PAC $415,000 and has yet to be repaid the full amount, with over $122,000 still outstanding.

3. Just 17% of CTU’s spending in 2023 was on representing teachers

CTU has never prioritized spending on representing members, according to reports it files with the U.S. Department of Labor.

But that spending has dropped even farther under the leadership of Davis Gates.

Just 17% of the Chicago Teachers Union’s spending in 2023 was on “representational activities” – what should be the union’s core purpose. The rest was spent on administration, politics and other union leadership priorities.


Specifically, CTU reported spending a total of $35,996,684 in 2023. Of that, just $6,223,845 was on “representational activities,” which the Department of Labor defines as those activities “associated with preparation for, and participation in, the negotiation of collective bargaining agreements and the administration and enforcement of the agreements.”

While CTU already had a track record of prioritizing everything but representation when it comes to spending, that has gotten even worse under the leadership of Davis Gates.

While about 19-20% of the union’s spending was on “representational activities” in 2019-2022, that dropped to just 17% in 2023.

This drop in CTU’s overall percentage of representational spending coincided with its increase in raw dollars going toward politics.

CTU’s financial decisions fall on the backs of the teachers paying dues. The lack of accountability, poor financial choices and increase in dues should have members questioning what exactly they are paying for.

That could be why nearly 500 education employees stopped affiliating with the union in the past year. And because the union’s federal filing covers just July 1, 2022, through June 30, 2023, those numbers don’t include any teachers who left the union in August 2023 – the union’s opt-out “window” – following CTU’s Johnson campaign debacle.

Chicago Public Schools employees interested in opting out of the union can learn more at LeaveCTU.com.

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