chicago teachers union
Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey (center) and Vice President Stacy Davis Gates (left) join members of to walk the streets of Chicago on Thursday, Oct. 17.
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Y’all, the days of the Chicago Teachers Union terrorizing students and families may be coming to an end and I couldn’t be more happy!

Hot off the press, The Members First Chicago Union Teachers Caucus is a group of educators in Chicago – who are also union members – seeking to unseat current union leadership. The first thing you see when you go on their website is, “We need a union that will deliver more for us than a couple of KN95 masks for four days of lost pay…we need a union that puts members first”.

As I’ve had to do many times before, I’ll state for the record that I 100% support unions and good educators. But when unions manipulate their members and communities in the name of politics, power and personal gain – as they have in Chicago – that’s when I get bothered. And I’ve been bothered and rallying against CTU leadership for at least ten years now.

Last-minute decision leaves students out in the cold

Nationally, the Chicago Teachers Union has been the gold standard for how unions should negotiate and maintain power. From the outside looking in, educators and other unions have viewed them as superheroes. However, some of us in Chicago know and see them for the villains they are.

As an example, in early January of this year, union leadership passed a vote at 11p on a school night for teachers to boycott physically showing up to classrooms until CPS met their demands on Covid-19 protocols and practices–shutting down the entire district. The next morning, many parents were in a frenzy trying to make arrangements for their 300,000+ students who couldn’t go to school because teachers would not be in the buildings.

Many of the teachers complained that they were locked out of virtual classrooms and couldn’t conduct remote learning but little did they know – because union leadership hadn’t shared this piece of information – they were participating in an illegal strike. So basically, the union made a decision for teachers to work from home when, under state law, they weren’t permitted to. 

A new collaboration is born

This was the last straw for many people. Parents filed lawsuits, students all over the city staged a walkout, frustrated over being left out of decisions that affect them and most importantly, the Members First group was born.

The creation of this opposition group and overall, community uprising is important locally and nationally. It’s the awakening, emergence and flexing of the power of people who are typically the pawns, proxies and casualties of political discourse. Moreover, it’s a growing call for accountability– holding law-makers, political players and administrative decision-makers responsible for the failures and agendas that got us here in the first place. It’s the disruption, dismantling and rebuilding of systems that have harmed us for generations. 

It’s a wake-up call and a much needed revolution that we all have to be brave enough to support and join.

Tanesha Peeples is driven by one question in her work--"If not me then who?" As a strategist and injustice interrupter, Tanesha merges the worlds of communications and grassroots activism to push for radical...

3 replies on “The Chicago Teachers Union May Finally Be Going Down and I’m Here For It”

  1. Good for you. Private schools should be on their hands and knees thanking CTU for increasing enrollment in privates. Screaming, carrying on, name calling, going to Puerto Rico and posting campy pictures is ridiculous. I just hope a third CTU group emerges called “Kids First”.

  2. This is bad reporting. Students didn’t stage a walkout in response to the earlier school closures, they walked out for better Covid-19 safety precautions (in line with CTU). Members First was also not born out of the closures, the caucus has existed for years and ran several failed campaigns against current CTU leadership.

  3. Many of the students have been saying they want to have a seat at the table/their voices heard. Is that not the same thing as what’s stated in the piece? And just have parents and teachers have been brainwashed by CTU leadership, students have too. Why is it that one of their top demands – and I heard this personally from students – be an apology to CTU from the mayor when overall. they’re being treated as pawns by both? And again, the piece does not state the group was born out of school closures. If the group has existed for years, this is the first time they’re getting notable public coverage. Maybe you should take another look.

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