Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Stacy Davis Gates was elected union president on Friday after a months-long bitter battle against two challengers to succeed outgoing president Jesse Sharkey.
Friday’s election results show the strength of the Davis Gates Grassroots Educators Caucus, which has come under fire in recent months for mishandling the union’s response to the winter spike in COVID-19 cases and for not being sufficiently transparency on union finances.
CORE won by gaining the support of 56% of union members who voted – avoiding a potential runoff in June by securing an outright majority. The tough lists of Members First and REAL garnered 27% and 17% of the vote, respectively, according to results announced by CTU early Saturday morning.
CTU has approximately 25,000 members.
The race was exceptionally vicious. Members appeared more divided than ever following the union’s decision to refuse in-person work during January’s omicron push and the decision to return to classrooms days later after signing an agreement COVID-19 safety guidelines that union leaders say Chicago Public Schools failed to meet.
The REAL Caucus was formed out of dissatisfaction with the January work stoppage. Members First, on the other hand, was created years ago by members demanding more transparency in union activity. Led by Sharkey, CORE easily beat Members First in the last election, in 2019, with around two-thirds of the vote.
Sharkey announced in February that he would step down when his term ends at the end of June. He lent his support to Davis Gates, a former high school history teacher and political director of CTU. Davis Gates has been a strong supporter of more COVID-19 safety measures, more protections for CPS’s most vulnerable students, and more mental health resources for all students as the pandemic continues.
Davis Gates is now poised to lead one of Chicago’s strongest unions in new contract negotiations; the transition to an elected school board and an unrelenting pandemic. The last contract negotiation resulted in a two-week union strike in 2019.
The leaders are due to start their three-year term on July 1. The union also elected Jackson Potter as vice president, Maria Moreno as financial secretary and Christel Williams-Hayes as recording secretary, all members of the CORE slate. They will serve three-year terms.
The CORE slate came to power in 2010 with the late Karen Lewis as chair. Under CORE’s leadership, the union also went on strike in 2012.
CTU’s already strained relationship with Mayor Lori Lightfoot – whose opponent was backed by the union before her 2019 election – soured during the pandemic, with the union twice refusing to teach in-person classes as he was fighting for more security protections for staff and students.