Chicago Teachers Union, affiliates bankroll Brandon Johnson while individuals favor Vallas

Mailee Smith

Senior Director of Labor Policy and Staff Attorney

Mailee Smith
March 28, 2023

Chicago Teachers Union, affiliates bankroll Brandon Johnson while individuals favor Vallas

Over 93% of Brandon Johnson’s Chicago mayor campaign contributions come from 20 unions, while about 71% of Paul Vallas’ come from 1,073 individuals. It’s a union machine versus the people showdown at the election April 4.

Chicago mayoral candidates Brandon Johnson and Paul Vallas don’t just represent very different views, they represent very different groups, judging by Illinois State Board of Elections records.

Over 93% of Johnson’s funding is from 20 unions. Most of that is from eight teachers unions, which have funded 62% of Johnson’s campaign to date.

Over 71% of Vallas’ funding comes from 1,073 individual donors.

Union contributions

The average aggregate amount given by the teachers unions and their political action committees to the Johnson campaign is more than $626,000, although that is heavily skewed by big spender Chicago Teachers Union. CTU has funneled nearly $2.3 million to the Johnson campaign and has angered members with its use of member dues for political purposes.

CTU’s parent affiliates are also investing heavily: the American Federation of Teachers has contributed nearly $1.7 million and the Illinois Federation of Teachers more than $940,000.

Vallas has received just over $1 million from 14 unions – but no teachers unions – with the average amount per contributor coming in at under $74,000. All of that union money came in since March 8, after CTU and its affiliates had spent nearly $2.5 million to secure Johnson’s place in the run-off election.

Individual contributions

The average aggregate amount contributed by the 1,073 individual donors to the Vallas campaign is about $11,000.

Johnson has 196 individual donors to date, with the average aggregate contribution at just under $1,400.

Chicago Teachers Union controversy

The Chicago Teachers Union’s spending has been met with internal criticism from members for failing to get member approval before funneling funds to Johnson’s campaign. It has even seemingly violated its own internal rules by using member dues for politics without their approval.

Even before the union’s latest contributions to Johnson – bringing its total funding to date to nearly $2.3 million – CTU’s role in the Johnson campaign prompted the Chicago Tribune editorial board to ask, “Is the Chicago Teachers Union the new machine?

If the Johnson and Vallas funding sources are any indication, the election April 4 certainly seems to be pitting that machine against the people.

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