Chicago Teachers Union membership drops under Stacy Davis Gates’ leadership

Mailee Smith

Senior Director of Labor Policy and Staff Attorney

Mailee Smith
October 10, 2023

Chicago Teachers Union membership drops under Stacy Davis Gates’ leadership

Nearly 500 education employees have stopped affiliating with CTU in the past year. But the number of members leaving the union could be even larger than currently reported.

It hasn’t been a great year for the Chicago Teachers Union.

Back in February, the union’s leaders came under fire from members for using dues for politics without consulting the members first.

More recently, it was revealed its president, Stacy Davis Gates, had placed her own son in private school rather than trusting her members to educate him – all while trying to kill school choice for low-income families.

And now the union has reported it lost members during the course of its 2023 fiscal year, which ran July 1, 2022, through June 30, 2023.

All under the leadership of Stacy Davis Gates.

At least 489 education employees stopped affiliating with the CTU in 2023 compared to 2022, as reported in the union’s recent federal filing with the U.S. Department of Labor. In 2022, the union reported 28,342 members and agency fee payers. In 2023, that number was down to 27,853.

While there was a larger drop in total members and fee payers between 2018 and 2019, that drop could be accounted for by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Janus v. AFSCME Council 31.

That decision came down on June 27, 2018 – at the end of the union’s 2017-2018 fiscal year, as reported in its 2018 report to the U.S. Department of Labor. Anyone who was a public employee forced by state law to pay their “fair share” for the union negotiating for them was automatically dropped from the rank-and-file numbers in the 2019 report after Janus in 2018 invalidated the mandate to pay the union. CTU did not file the reports before 2018.

It is not surprising CTU would suffer its largest non-Janus related drop in numbers in 2023, given members’ recent frustrations with CTU.

In 2022, CTU’s current leadership faced an election challenge from the Members First caucus, which pledged to be different than the current leaders. The caucus claimed CTU leaders were “far more focused on advancing their own political careers than delivering” for teachers.

Then in 2023, CTU funneled nearly $2.3 million to its employee and lobbyist, Brandon Johnson, to fund his successful campaign to become Chicago mayor. At least a portion of that money came from member dues without consulting the members themselves. 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.

But the membership drop could be even larger than the 489 reported in the union’s federal filing.

That filing covers only July 1, 2022, through June 20, 2023. But CTU only allows members to opt out of the union and stop paying dues in August of each year.

That means the current membership numbers don’t yet include anyone who opted out in August 2023 following the union’s Johnson campaign debacle. Any teachers who left following the union’s mishandling of funds won’t be evident until the union files its 2024 LM-2 in fall 2024.

Along with the union’s nearly tripled political spending and deficit spending, the drop in membership numbers reveals Davis Gates’ first year as president wasn’t a good one.

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