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Progressives win election in Chicago Teachers Union

By Sarah Chambers |
June 13, 2010
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Karen Lewis, Chicago Teachers Union
Karen Lewis of the Caucus of Rank and File Educators (CORE).

Chicago, IL - On June 11, the Caucus of Rank and File Educators (CORE) won - actually swept, with wide margins - an election victory in the Chicago Teachers Union. With President Karen Lewis at the head of the slate, the reformers won every seat: all four officers, nine citywide offices, and 23 vice-presidencies for elementary and high schools. The old-guard leadership, of the United Progressive Caucus, with presidential candidate Marilyn Stewart, went down, with only 8300 votes against CORE’s 12,000.

Five caucuses ran for the election on May 21, and none of them won a majority. The other three slates (PACT - ProActive Chicago Teachers; SEA - School Employee Alliance Caucus; and CSDU - Caucus for a Strong Democratic Union) endorsed Karen Lewis and CORE in the runoff, totaling two-thirds of votes cast against the old guard United Progressive Caucus (UPC).

The outcome of this election displays that teachers, paraprofessionals and secretaries desire a change in the Chicago Teachers Union. When the United Progressive Caucus was in power, over 40 schools closed and pensions have been under attack, with no fight back organized by the union. The Chicago School Board is closing schools throughout working-class communities, mostly African American and Latino. This amounts to punishing those already most hit by poverty, unemployment and racist national oppression. Also, with the encouragement of the school board’s CEO, Ron Huberman, non-union charter schools are on the rise.

CORE showed real leadership by taking a stand to oppose school closings and displaced teachers. They united teachers, students, parents and community members to speak against these unjust closings at board meetings and rallied and picketed to save the targeted schools. In the past two years, CORE stopped 12 schools from closing and saved 1000 jobs.

At 30,000 members, the Chicago Teachers Union is the biggest union in the Midwest and it should be a force to be reckoned with. CORE’s victory is seen as a turning point for the Chicago Teachers Union to make the union a fighting union again.


Sarah Chambers is a Chicago Public School teacher.

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