Unions still fund Johnson, individuals back Vallas for Chicago mayor

Mailee Smith

Senior Director of Labor Policy and Staff Attorney

Mailee Smith
March 31, 2023

Unions still fund Johnson, individuals back Vallas for Chicago mayor

The campaign funding of Chicago’s mayoral candidates shows they are financially supported by very different sources. Hefty teachers union contributions to Brandon Johnson’s campaign have resulted in an unfair labor practice charge by members of the Chicago Teachers Union.

The Chicago mayoral election is just days away, yet contributions to the two candidates continue to pour in – and from very different sources, according to filings with the Illinois State Board of Elections.

One of those sources is in trouble with its members. The Chicago Teachers Union is facing an unfair labor practice charge because it funneled member dues to candidate and CTU employee Brandon Johnson’s campaign.

Johnson’s campaign has been bankrolled by unions, with nearly 91% of his war chest – over $10.1 million – coming from 27 unions. Over half of his donations are from teachers unions.

Candidate Paul Vallas sees most of his contributions from individuals, with 71% of his campaign funding – over $12.8 million – coming from 1,149 people.


Union contributions

Unions have funded more than $10.1 million of Johnson’s $11.1 million in campaign funds, with a full half of his funding coming from teachers unions alone. The average aggregate amount given by a teachers union and its political action committee to the Johnson campaign is more than $563,000, although that is heavily skewed by the big-spending Chicago Teachers Union and its affiliates.

The Chicago Teachers Union has funneled nearly $2.3 million to the Johnson campaign, with the American Federation of Teachers giving nearly $2.2 million and Illinois Federation of Teachers contributing over $940,000.

Vallas has received just over $1 million from 15 unions, with none of that money coming from teachers unions. The average amount per union contributor comes in at under $69,000.

All of Vallas’ union money has come in since March 8, after CTU and its affiliates spent nearly $2.5 million to secure Johnson’s place in the run-off election.

Individual contributions

The average aggregate amount contributed by the 1,149 individual donors to the Vallas campaign is about $11,000.

Johnson has 251 individual donors to date, with the average aggregate contribution at just under $1,900.

Chicago Teachers Union controversy and legal trouble

The Chicago Teachers Union’s spending has been met with internal criticism from members for failing to get member approval before funneling funds to Johnson’s campaign. It has even seemingly violated its own internal rules by using member dues for politics without their approval.

On March 30, 2023, CTU members in the Members First Caucus announced they had filed an unfair labor practice against CTU with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board, alleging deceitful and dishonest financial practices by union leadership for diverting member dues to political committees.

Chicago Public Schools teacher and plaintiff Froy Jimenez stated, “We became public school educators to do one thing: improve the lives of Chicago’s students. CTU membership dues should not be diverted away from the needs of the membership. Membership dues should be used to guarantee our contract and ensure safe and fair working conditions.”

“Our hard-earned money should not be used as fuel for political campaigns without the proper consent of individual members. We are filing this unfair labor practice charge on behalf of thousands of Chicago Public Schools educators and Chicago Teachers Union members who do not support union leadership playing politics with our money.”

Even before the filing, CTU’s role in the Johnson campaign prompted the Chicago Tribune editorial board to ask, “Is the Chicago Teachers Union the new machine?

If the Johnson and Vallas funding sources are any indication, the election April 4 certainly seems to be pitting that machine against both the people of Chicago and the teachers CTU claims to represent.

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