Illinois Policy Institute Ethics Complaint: Chicago Teachers Union Pushing Students to Vote for Johnson Tax Hike

Mailee Smith

Senior Director of Labor Policy and Staff Attorney

Mailee Smith
March 11, 2024

Illinois Policy Institute Ethics Complaint: Chicago Teachers Union Pushing Students to Vote for Johnson Tax Hike

The following is an ethics complaint from the Illinois Policy Institute filed March 11 with the Chicago Public Schools ethics office and inspector general.

To whom it may concern:

The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) has announced a “Student Power Forum” taking place on Friday, March 15, which seemingly violates provisions of the Chicago Public Schools Code of Ethics.

In an email announcing the event, CTU Vice President Jackson Potter noted the union is “partnering” with Bring Chicago Home, culminating in a “Parade to the Polls, where students will march to an early voting site.”

Bring Chicago Home is the leading political advocacy organization campaigning in favor of Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson’s $100 million real estate transfer tax increase referendum, which appears on the March 19 ballot. The union has contributed at least $200,000 to Bring Chicago Home. The union and its affiliates are Johnson’s largest campaign financiers, and the union is his former employer.

In his email, Potter writes, “to get involved, the only thing your school needs to do is provide the students!” He then asks teachers to “organize a group of voting age students…” to attend the event.

Per the CPS Code of Ethics, “Employees are permitted to engage in Political Activity on a voluntary basis during non-work hours, vacation, or personal time. Employees are not permitted to engage in Political Activity during any other Board compensated time.”

Political activity is defined as: “Preparing for, organizing, or participating in any political meeting, political rally, political demonstration, or other political event.”

By asking teachers to prepare for and organize students to participate in the Student Power Forum, which is occurring during school hours and organized in part by a political campaign (Bring Chicago Home), it is clear the union is asking its members to violate the CPS Code of Ethics and possibly other state or city provisions.

We request your prompt attention to this matter.

Want more? Get stories like this delivered straight to your inbox.

Thank you, we'll keep you informed!