Chicago Teachers Union charges members $8 a month for Brandon Johnson campaign
Chicago Teachers Union delegates voted to apportion $8 per month per member’s dues to help fund Brandon Johnson’s mayoral campaign. The motion to potentially triple the union’s campaign investment has drawn criticism from members.
Chicago Teachers Union representatives voted March 8 to use $8 per month of each member’s dues through June in support of Brandon Johnson’s mayoral bid, pledging up to $2 million to land the union’s lobbyist in the city’s top office.
The House of Delegates voted 70% in favor of potentially tripling their current contributions to Johnson’s campaign, citing Paul Vallas’ record on school privatization and charter school proliferation as an “existential threat to public education in Chicago.”
Per Illinois election law, the money-moving tactic could allow union leaders to circumvent limitations on labor union donations to political action committees by referring to the money as “aggregate union dues.”
Union leaders said Johnson would be a “pro-labor mayor” and “strategic partner in working with the General Assembly and the City Council.”
While the motion received majority support from delegates, the use of dues for political purposes has drawn criticism from some union members who felt the vote lacked transparency and could potentially violate rules within the member handbook.
The CTU member handbook specifically states “dues are not used for political purposes.” Instead, the union “PAC relies on extra contributions from our members to support progressive candidates and to impact elected officials at the city, county and state levels.”
Union leadership argued the quick vote without full-member approval was necessary to secure the funding before the runoff on April 4.
CTU’s spending in the campaign has been met with internal criticism from members before. Members started questioning the union’s failure to get approval from its House of Delegates before allegedly borrowing $415,000 from its operating funds and transferring the money to its political action committee, according to a report by the Chicago Tribune.
In total, the Chicago Teachers Union and its affiliates have donated nearly $3.2 million to Johnson’s mayoral campaign from Jan. 1, 2022, through March 6, 2023.
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.
Both Johnson and Paul Vallas are headed into a runoff election April 4 to decide which candidate will take the city’s top office for the next four years.