Chicago Teachers Union records show it paid Brandon Johnson during run for mayor

Mailee Smith

Senior Director of Labor Policy and Staff Attorney

Mailee Smith
November 3, 2023

Chicago Teachers Union records show it paid Brandon Johnson during run for mayor

Johnson announced his bid for mayor on Oct. 27, 2022. CTU’s federal filing shows it paid him more than $75,000 during its 2023 fiscal year, which ended June 30, 2023.

Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson was questioned during his campaign about whether he would be able to separate himself as mayor from his then-employer, the Chicago Teachers Union.

He never answered the question.

Records filed by CTU in October with the U.S. Department of Labor show the union paid Johnson $75,014 during its fiscal year, which did not end until June 30, 2023. Johnson announced his bid for mayor on Oct. 27, 2022.

Unless he was paid his entire salary of $75,000 from July 1 through Oct. 31 – at more than $18,500 a month – CTU continued to pay him while he was busy campaigning.

Previous records filed with the U.S. Department of Labor reveal CTU paid Johnson $85,906 the year before. The decrease between 2022 and 2023 is likely because wages stopped after his inauguration on May 15, approximately six weeks before the end of CTU’s fiscal year.

Being paid by a special interest group with something to gain by his election – coupled with his failure to explicitly distance himself from CTU – doesn’t bode well for Chicagoans.

CTU had a lot to gain by his election.

As a former “legislative coordinator” for CTU, Johnson was hand-picked by the union to run for mayor. As of June 30, 2023, CTU had funneled more than $2.6 million into Johnson’s campaign. He has received more than $6 million from teachers unions altogether.

Now he will be sitting across the table from his former CTU colleagues when they negotiate a new contract in 2024. Elected leaders should represent taxpayers and be a neutral arbiter of what’s fair. But the tight relationship between Johnson and the CTU effectively places CTU on both sides of the bargaining table.

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

Johnson’s speech after securing a spot in the mayoral run-off 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.

Then within the first month of his inauguration, Johnson expanded the current parental leave policy for Chicago Public Schools teachers to up to 12 weeks when it had been from six to eight weeks. That expansion, which did not go through the typical bargaining process, was announced in a joint statement by the city and CTU.

Johnson’s inability to distinguish himself from the union backing him makes it likely he will continue pushing CTU’s radical agenda.

What’s on the line if he keeps favoring CTU? A plethora of expensive contract demands. Past demands included defunding the police – Johnson himself once said he would cut the Chicago Police budget by at least $150 million – and creating affordable housing. None of those potential provisions are typically negotiated into teachers union contracts, but could be under Johnson.

That could cripple the citizens and businesses of Chicago with new financial burdens. The five-year deal struck between CTU and former Mayor Lori Lightfoot in 2019 will end up costing Chicagoans at least $1.5 billion, according to the Chicago Tribune. A potential landmark deal from Johnson, with extra union perks and untraditional political provisions, could cost even more.

Illinois has long been a bastion of union power and a test state for union-friendly labor reforms. Now that CTU and other unions have bankrolled Johnson’s way into office, other cities should expect to see similar moves by government unions.

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