Rank-and-file CTU members, elected officials will come together at 4 p.m. to honor Lewis’ transformational leadership of union and Chicago’s progressive movement.

  • 4 p.m. Friday, September 30: Street renaming ceremony, CTU headquarters, 1901 W. Carroll.

CHICAGO —The Chicago Teachers Union will honor their beloved President Emerita Karen GJ Lewis on Friday by renaming the street in front of the union’s headquarters, at 1901 W. Carroll, “Karen Lewis CTU Way.”

The union will host a ceremony with CTU leaders, rank-and-file members and elected officials to announce the honor at 4 p.m. Friday, Sept. 30, at the corner of N. Damen Ave. and W. Carroll St.

As president of the CTU from 2010 until her retirement in 2018, Lewis transformed the union into a force to be reckoned with at City Hall and CPS. Karen’s leadership of the historic 2012 strike laid the infrastructure for the Red for Ed movement that seeded a wave of strikes from Oakland to West Virginia. Under her leadership, the CTU adopted a new, historic vision of “bargaining for the common good,” which became a blueprint for progressive change in schools and communities throughout the world.

That platform argues that the mayor and the school district must consider issues outside the confines of the “classroom” — such as affordable housing and community investment — because strong families and communities mean strong schools.

As a labor leader, Karen helped build a strong, powerful progressive movement across the city to improve our public schools and the living conditions of Chicago’s Black and Brown working-class families. She pushed the union to build coalitions with parents and community organizations, coalitions that have posted impressive gains, including winning an elected school board for Chicagoans for the first time in history.

“To say Karen was a transformational leader is an understatement,” said current CTU President Stacy Davis Gates. “She forced virtually everyone in our society to face up to generations of disinvestment in our Black and Brown schools and communities. Her greatest achievement, perhaps, was connecting the schools Chicago students deserve to the need for a safe and just Chicago. Karen presented our members as stakeholders in CPS and our city. Karen gave voice to educators in every corner of the city and opened our union to parents, students and community.

The street renaming ceremony will be held in advance of the union’s Legislators and Educators Appreciation Dinner (LEAD), back after a three-year pandemic-induced hiatus. The dinner provides CTU members an opportunity to engage with elected officials and honor those lawmakers who advanced the union’s mission of social and economic justice in Chicago, Springfield and nationwide.

This week, the CTU released a newly updated version of the Union’s groundbreaking call for equity for Chicago’s public schools, “Schools Chicago Students Deserve 3.0: From Pandemic to a Real Path Forward.” The new report comes as many Chicago public school communities remain mired in deficiencies caused by decades of civic neglect and unrelenting segregation in Chicago’s neighborhoods and schools.

SCSD3, which was first released as a seminal policy platform by Karen Lewis’ administration in 2012, lays out a plan to address trauma, chronic inequities, and school funding and function as schools grapple with both systemic under-resourcing and burgeoning needs in the wake of the harms of COVID-19.

The Chicago Teachers Union represents more than 25,000 teachers and educational support personnel working in Chicago Public Schools, and by extension, the nearly 400,000 students and families they serve. The CTU is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Federation of Teachers and is the third-largest teachers local in the United States. For more information please visit the CTU website at www.ctulocal1.org.