Governor Pritzker (D) of Illinois signed legislation restoring the collective bargaining rights of the Chicago Teachers Union, which had been suspended since 1995 by a Republican Governor and Legislature.

CTU President Jesse Sharkey sent out this announcement:

After a decades-long struggle, today Governor Pritzker signed HB 2275, fully restoring our bargaining rights. The repeal of the despised 1995 Amendatory Act gutting bargaining rights for CPS unions at last eliminates restrictions on our ability to advocate for our students and families.

For more than a decade, the CTU has fought to win back the right to advocate for our students in our contract negotiations, with our beloved President Emerita Karen GJ Lewis leading the charge to reverse this injustice. Karen understood that laws follow social movements. Like every great democratic leader, she nurtured rank and file organizing and the creation of legislative and political initiatives to build and sustain our movement for common good demands, grounded in the basic rights and dignity of educators and the students and families we serve.  

With his signature today, Governor Pritzker has now restored the right to bargain freely for real equity in our public schools, and advance our organizing for the common good. The restoration of our fundamental labor rights lies at the heart of Karen’s legacy as a fighter for racial and economic justice and as a fearless advocate for those disenfranchised in our City by systemic racism and multi-generational neglect. We owe our students, their families and community allies an enormous debt of gratitude in setting the stage to reverse this unjust 1995 law, passed by a Republican legislature and a Republican governor — and backed by three consecutive mayors. We’re also deeply grateful to the bill’s sponsors, Senator Bill Cunningham, former State Rep. and current Chicago Alderman Silvana Tabares, and former State Rep. and current Chicago City Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Irvin for their tireless and steadfast leadership.

Those who supported this legislation understand that workers’ rights are human rights. They understand that it was critical to correct the core injustice of the 1995 Amendatory Act and instead return to Chicago educators the central right that every other school district gives its workers: the right without restrictions to bargain for what our students need and deserve.

With the passage of this law and our commitment to common good bargaining, our students and families can at last realize their right to real equity — and never has that commitment been more important than today. Families are struggling under the dual weights of a pandemic that has disproportionately hammered their families and the income inequality and economic hardship the pandemic has exacerbated. Our union is committed to their recovery.

With the signing of this bill, we now at last bargain from a level playing field — with the ability to at last reject the chronic classroom overcrowding, incompetent and wasteful third party contracting, and the desperate shortage of school nurses, social workers, counselors and other chronic staffing needs that have plagued our schools for years.

The state legislature has one more step to take this spring to bring real equity and democracy to our public schools, by giving Chicagoans the right that only we among Illinois residents lack: the right to elect our own representative school board. The families and educators of our school district deserve no less.

In solidarity,

CTU President Jesse Sharkey
Chicago Teachers Union • 1901 W. Carroll Ave. • Chicago, IL 60612 • 312-329-9100