Teaching Profession

Chicago Union Leader Wins Second Term

By Stephen Sawchuk — May 20, 2013 1 min read

The president of the Chicago Teachers Union, Karen Lewis, has won a second three-year term, with about 80 percent of the vote in her favor. Vice President Jesse Sharkey was also re-elected.

Lewis defeated Tanya Saunders-Wolffe, a school counselor. Wolffe hails from a different group within the union that has accused Lewis’ Caucus of Rank-and-File Educators of not getting enough concessions out of the district during last September’s seven-day teacher strike.

The strike ultimately did win teachers pay raises and additional flexibility on provisions regarding assignment and “recalls.” Among the strike’s subtexts was the imminent closing of dozens of schools, which the union under Lewis’ leadership has gone on to vigorously oppose.

One of the reasons this situation bears watching is because of how the rise of Lewis and CORE have had reverberations throughout the American Federation of Teachers, CTU’s parent union.

AFT has played the card of being the more accommodating of the two national teachers’ unions with respect to national policy movements, such as teacher evaluations based partly on student achievement. But Lewis has shown that outright resistance and opposition can work in some contexts, too, and that has proved to be an attractive option for some.

Opposition groups modeled on CORE have sprung up in the AFT’s affiliates in New York City and Newark, among other places. And they seem to be having an effect on AFT, which has taken a much more strident tone on standardized testing and school closures lately.

Photo: Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union, pauses at a rally during last September’s teachers strike as union members chant their support for her leadership. (Charles Rex Arbogast/AP-File)

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.