Union siblings,

Photo of CTU President Stacy Davis Gates. As the first openly gay woman mayor of Chicago, Mayor Lightfoot bills herself as an advocate for women, Black people and the LGBTQIA+ community whose life has been spent breaking glass ceilings. But her actions as mayor tell another story and her petty politics of retribution continue to harm the very women she professes to care so much about. 

CPS educators are nearly 80 percent women, while the city workforce overall is 70 percent male. Yet, starting this year, the mayor provides 12 weeks of paid parental leave to those mostly male workers and reneges on a promise to offer the same to our members. Make that make sense coming from a self-proclaimed feminist. 

As women, we have to plan our pregnancies around the school calendar. We come to work sick because we can’t afford to squander sick days when we are actually ill because we need them for parental leave. The inequity of this practice typically falls the hardest on our newer members, younger women who have not been able to accumulate enough sick days or personal business days. 

You have to question a policy that provides an incentive for women to come to work ill so they will have enough paid time off to give birth and care for a new child. That makes no sense, especially during a global pandemic. 

That’s why we were pleased that, last year, CPS agreed to provide the same expanded parental leave to our members that all city workers receive. We even worked collaboratively with the mayor’s CPS team to craft an FAQ explaining the new policy. The district was completely on board with the plan — until the mayor stepped in and pulled the plug. 

Her reversal of a good policy promised to our members is a terrible move that hurts educators — most of whom are women — our school communities and the city. 

Last year, the mayor also reneged on a pledge to our members who coach girl’s sports. In 2021, CPS won accolades for beginning Illinois’ first ever girls flag football league. The district offered a stipend of $4,446 to coaches and $2,964 to assistant coaches. Over 100 of our members at 50 plus schools applied and got to work. They spent weekends at recruiting jamborees, began holding practices, and attended mandatory league meetings. Then, shortly into the new season, CPS announced it was cutting the stipends in half. The mayor’s desire to punish our members flared again. 

After years of short-staffing our school nursing staff, in the 2019 contract, CPS committed to creating a pipeline, including tuition support, for current LPNs to become HSNs. But, in typical fashion, the mayor is refusing to fulfill that commitment, reneging on a pledge that would help mostly Black and Brown women achieve professional advancement.  

It is crystal clear that our members, most of whom are women, will never get the equity and justice they and their students and families deserve from this mayor. We need seismic change in the city and that change is our brother Brandon Johnson.

As mayor, Brandon will respect and advocate for women. I know this because I have worked side-by-side with him, as a CTU organizer, as part of our legislative team — the team that won an elected school board for Chicago, restoration of our bargaining rights and COVID sick days — and in his role as a county commissioner. 

Brandon will lead the transformational change our city, our schools and all public institutions desperately need. His governing style will be one of collaboration and coalition building. He will bring people together to work for the city we all deserve. He will be the mayor for ALL Chicago. 

But he needs our help to get there. Rank-and-file CTU members are out every weekend, in every corner of the city, introducing voters to Brandon and his vision for Chicago. Get a group of your colleagues together and sign up at ctulocal1.org/volunteer to help put a teacher on the fifth floor of City Hall. 

Since 2010, our union’s vision has been one of transformative change, not just for our members, but for the students, families and communities we serve. With Brandon Johnson as mayor and a reshaped city council that includes Lori Torres and Mueze Bawany, together we can achieve the fully funded schools, safe streets and economic security our working class, Black and Brown communities have been denied for too long. 

In solidarity,
Stacy Davis Gates, President