Chicago Teachers Union president quitting after 3rd strike in 27 months
Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey announced he’s returning to the classroom once his term expires in June. Sharkey has led CTU since 2014 through three work stoppages.
Jesse Sharkey announced Feb. 2 he won’t seek another term as president of the Chicago Teachers Union. He says his mind was made up before last month’s work stoppage that led to canceled classes for five days and a new group formed seeking to oust him.
“This is something I’ve been thinking about for a couple of months and would have made the announcement earlier, but for the fact that there was the omicron surge, and we were in this dispute with the board about a safety agreement back in December and January,” Sharkey told the Chicago Tribune.
Sharkey joined union leadership in 2010 as vice president. He became acting CTU president in 2014 after his predecessor, Karen Lewis, stepped down while she was battling brain cancer.
Under Sharkey, disputes with Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Chicago Public Schools led to three teachers strikes. At the height of the January standoff he called the mayor “relentlessly stupid” in negotiations over school safety.
Shortly after the most recent stoppage, the Members First Caucus of the CTU announced a campaign challenging Sharkey and Vice President Stacey Davis Gates. Members First claimed leadership “sees work stoppages and strikes as the first step, and not the last one.”
Some educators argued the safety protocol agreement, described as “a couple of KN95 masks,” wasn’t enough to justify the loss of instruction for students and loss of pay for teachers.
Sharkey and Gates represent the Caucus of Rank and File Educators, who will have to select a new leadership slate for May’s election. Sharkey supports Davis.
CTU is Exhibit A in how union power can run amok in Illinois under existing laws. Still, it could get worse under a proposal to amend the Illinois Constitution that voters will decide Nov. 8.
Amendment 1 would enshrine union power in the state constitution, giving public worker unions the ability to strike over an unlimited number of topics and deny state lawmakers the power to curb them. CTU has already threatened strikes to advance its social agenda on housing, immigration, “restorative justice,” wealth redistribution and defunding the police.
Sharkey may be leaving, but Amendment 1 would be a lasting legacy for government union bosses bent on gathering political power at the expense of students, vulnerable Illinoisans and property taxpayers.