Chicago Teachers Union, affiliates donate nearly $3.2M to Johnson campaign

Mailee Smith

Senior Director of Labor Policy and Staff Attorney

Mailee Smith
March 8, 2023

Chicago Teachers Union, affiliates donate nearly $3.2M to Johnson campaign

The Chicago Teachers Union and its affiliates have given nearly $3.2 million to Brandon Johnson’s campaign for Chicago mayor. The union has come under fire for shifting dues to political activities without members’ OK, but the cash is still flowing.

Member dissension hasn’t hindered the Chicago Teachers Union’s quest to see one of its own employees as mayor of Chicago, with union cash now topping $1 million for Brandon Johnson.

Between Jan. 1, 2022, and March 6, 2023, the Chicago Teachers Union and its PAC had funneled over $1 million to Johnson, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections. That is more than triple the $291,000 it put into Toni Preckwinkle’s failed mayoral bid in 2019.

The CTU’s parent affiliates are also strongly behind Johnson, with nearly $1.7 million from the American Federation of Teachers and more than $440,000 from the Illinois Federation of Teachers. Grand total: nearly $3.2 million.

The majority of Johnson’s $4.8 million in funding has come from unions. Less than 6% of it has come from individuals or non-union sources.

CTU’s spending in the campaign has been met with internal criticism from members. Members started questioning CTU’s failure to get approval from its House of Delegates before allegedly borrowing $415,000 from its union operating funds and transferring the money to its political action committee, according to a report by the Chicago Tribune.

CTU claimed the money will be repaid, but regardless the loan itself might be illegal. It also claimed it would repay a loan in 2015, but failed to do so.

It’s clear CTU is fully invested in the Johnson campaign, regardless of member backlash. Instead of listening to members’ concerns, it sent out a scathing memo criticizing dissenting members.

Member dissension hasn’t changed CTU’s approach. In fact, the union’s PAC continues sending money to the Johnson campaign. Of the more than $1 million CTU has funneled to Johnson, more than $131,000 came after members started speaking out, according to state records.

For at least the past five years, Johnson has been on the union payroll and taken in over $390,000 as a “legislative coordinator,” according to documents CTU filed with the U.S. Department of Labor. At the same time, he was also earning a salary as a Cook County Board commissioner.

Johnson’s response to a question during the Feb. 7 WTTW mayoral forum doesn’t bode well for Johnson’s ability to remain neutral toward the union during contract negotiations. When asked where he differs from the CTU, Johnson answered, “What kind of question is that?” He never answered the question.

Johnson’s election night speech also highlighted CTU’s role in his mayoral bid. After thanking God and his family, his third priority in giving thanks went to the city’s government unions, including CTU.

His inability to distinguish himself from the union backing him makes it likely Johnson would continue pushing CTU’s agenda if he became mayor. That leaves the union negotiating with itself, and no one guarding taxpayers’ interests.

Want more? Get stories like this delivered straight to your inbox.

Thank you, we'll keep you informed!