Chicago Teachers Union wants revenue meant for homeless if mayor’s tax hike passes

Mailee Smith

Senior Director of Labor Policy and Staff Attorney

Mailee Smith
March 15, 2024

Chicago Teachers Union wants revenue meant for homeless if mayor’s tax hike passes

The Chicago Teachers Union has poured at least $400,000 into Mayor Brandon Johnson’s tax hike proposal. If it passes, the union wants to use the taxes generated to fund housing for its own members.

If Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson’s “Bring Chicago Home” real estate transfer tax hike passes this month, the Chicago Teachers Union intends to use the funds for its own purposes.

Leaked CTU documents outline the demands the union plans to make during contract negotiation this year. The union admits its “campaign” on housing “begins now with Bring Chicago Home on March 19.”

The first demand it lists: “Financial assistance for CTU members to live & work in the city.”

The union admits what was suspected all along: Johnson’s real estate transfer tax hike could be a slush fund for CTU leaders who want to use the funds generated for their own purposes.

There’s nothing in the ballot language to prevent it, and Johnson and the city have laid out no details as to how the money would help homeless Chicagoans. In fact, Johnson has admitted an ordinance must follow the tax hike to determine how to appropriate the money.

“There’s an ordinance that will follow, in the event that this particular referendum passes, that ordinance will ultimately establish that revenue stream, the outcomes, how we appropriate is those dollars,” he told ABC 7.

As of March 12, CTU had poured at least $400,000 into the campaign, making it the No. 3 financial backer of Johnson’s top initiative.

Johnson owes CTU for his election to the city’s top office. And CTU’s leaders know it.

Johnson owes his political career to CTU

A former “legislative coordinator” for CTU, Johnson was handpicked by the union to run for mayor. Leading up to the election, CTU poured nearly $2.3 million into Johnson’s campaign coffers and even violated its own internal rules by using members’ dues for political purposes without asking them.

But CTU didn’t stop once Johnson was elected. It’s now funding his top initiative, the “Bring Chicago Home” ballot question that would raise the real estate transfer tax on properties selling for over $1 million. It mainly will target commercial properties, with nine times as many commercial properties as residential properties selling above that amount.

As of March 12, CTU was the third-largest financial backer of the campaign, funneling at least $400,000 into the committee pushing it, according to records with the Illinois State Board of Elections.

CTU demanded provisions related to affordable housing in past negotiations, but its recently leaked document makes clear its topline demand is not to help homeless Chicagoans, but to help Chicago teachers whose median salary is already more than $93,000.

CTU’s bankrolling of Johnson and his tax hike initiative is a gamble that could pay off big time. Throwing a few million dollars at a political campaign is nothing compared to the billions it could get in return when it sits across the negotiating table from Johnson later this year.

CTU now wants its quid pro quo

CTU’s leaders know they have Johnson on their side, meaning taxpayers don’t.

In a statement sent to members March 4, CTU bosses noted contract negotiations in 2024 would be different than in the past.

This time, we are moving forward with the full restoration of our bargaining rights and a mayor who has experienced firsthand the needs of our students as a history teacher and CTU member,” it said.

It also stated, “We begin this contract negotiation process with a vision for the future of Chicago Public Schools shared by our mayor,” noting various members served on the mayor’s transition team and helped draft his education transition report.

That sentiment was further affirmed in a tele-town hall meeting March 7, when CTU President Stacy Davis Gates told members, “We’re entering a bargaining situation we haven’t experienced before. With a mayor who understands this movement because he helped to build this movement… We’re going to depend on having a negotiating table that doesn’t begin with the word ‘no.’ But with the question, ‘How might we?’”

It’s a far cry from what former CTU President Jesse Sharkey told the Chicago Tribune in 2021: “We’re a union that fights the boss. That was true for Daley, it’s true for Rahm, it’s true for Lightfoot. It’s going to be true for whoever’s mayor next,” further claiming it would have been true even if their ally and endorsed mayoral candidate, Toni Preckwinkle, had beaten Lightfoot in 2019.

But Mayor Johnson is now “next.” And CTU’s leaders know he’s with them.

When Chicagoans vote on the mayor’s tax hike, they need to remember who’s behind it – and what they want to do with the revenue collected from it.

Paid for by Vote No on Chicago Real Estate Tax

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