Chicago Teachers Union’s questionable finances include hiring union boss’ mom

Chicago Teachers Union’s questionable finances include hiring union boss’ mom

Since 2018, the Chicago Teachers Union has paid Robin Potter’s law firms nearly $320,000 – with thousands of that for unspecified purposes. She’s the mother of CTU’s vice president.

CTU has recently come under fire for their questionable finances: spending member dues on politics; failing to release a mandatory annual audit; and operating under a deficit budget.

But another controversy remains under the radar for some members: the union’s relationship with the law firm of Chicago-area attorney Robin Potter.

Robin Potter is the mother of CTU vice president Jackson Potter, who is one of the key CTU organizers who ushered in new leadership in 2010.

CTU steered at least two massive lawsuits directly into Robin Potter’s hands, resulting in a net pay out of $9.25 million, with Potter’s firm receiving $4 million of that amount. Additionally, from 2018-2023, CTU gave Robin Potter’s law firm nearly $320,000 in business, with $33,000 of that for undisclosed purposes.

It’s yet another example of the questionable financial antics of a union that is bent on breaking the pocketbooks of regular Chicagoans in its next round of negotiations.

Potter’s firm scored $4 million on the backs of teachers

In 2021, Potter’s firm landed a $9 million settlement against CPS for discrimination. Her firm, Fish Potter Bolaños, kept $4 million, while the vast majority of involved teachers received an average of just $12,700 each.

The case stemmed from school closures in 2012, 2013 and 2014. The schools were selected based on various academic metrics such as MAP scores and dropout rates.

CTU claimed CPS was disproportionately targeting African American educators, and in 2012 it filed a discrimination lawsuit. When CPS closed more schools in 2013 and 2014, CTU filed the second suit, and the lawsuits were combined into a class-action lawsuit in 2015.

The litigation for this case lasted nearly a decade, and in 2021 the parties settled. The judge approved a $9.25 million dollar settlement, of which Potter’s firm received $4 million for attorneys’ fees and costs. The three named plaintiffs received just $25,000, according to the court’s final approval. The remaining 410 teachers received an estimated $12,700 each.

CPS held public hearings for the public to voice concerns about the schools being considered for closure. CTU representatives spoke at almost all of them, but at the time they did not voice their discrimination theory that was the central argument in the lawsuit.

Is it a mere coincidence the mother of one of the top CTU executives was able to take on this massively profitable lawsuit, or was it the result of Jackson Potter using his high-ranking position to funnel business to his mother’s firm?

CTU’s federal reports show it pays Potter’s law firms

Each year, CTU is required to file federal documents with the U.S. Department of Labor called LM-2s. Those documents detail a union’s receipts and disbursements from the previous fiscal year.

CTU’s LM2s during the past six years point to a possible abuse of power. From 2018 to 2023, CTU paid Robin Potter’s firms nearly $320,000.

Of that, $286,692 was for “member defense,” “member cases” and “billing.” But the rest of the money – more than $32,900 – was for unspecified purposes.

It begs the question: was Potter’s firm the best firm for the job, or did she land the union’s business because of her relationship with Jackson Potter? And what are the non-itemized expenses?

CTU’s members deserve to know.

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