The election of Brandon Johnson and the power of the CTU

After a close runoff election, Chicago is sending a new leader to the 5th floor of City Hall.

Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson, a longtime Chicago Teachers Union leader, owes much of his support to the power of the CTU. While the CTU has been fighting for its students and schools for decades, the 2013 closure of 50 schools by then-mayor Rahm Emanuel sparked a movement that fueled Johnson’s victory.

The architect of those protests, beloved late CTU president Karen Lewis, planned to run for mayor in 2015 but was instead diagnosed with brain cancer. Her support of then-Cook County commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia was a significant factor in his rise to prominence among Chicago progressives.

Since then, the CTU and its allies in the labor movement have helped to elect progressive candidates who are creating a more independent City Council and played a major role in Johnson’s election.

Current CTU president Stacy Davis Gates told the Chicago Tribune, “We planted seeds in 2015.”

This clip from Kartemquin Films’ 2017 documentary ’63 Boycott focuses on those school closure protests and their legacy. ’63 Boycott was directed by Gordon Quinn and produced by Rachel Dickson and Tracye Matthews.

Rev. Jesse Jackson, CTU president Karen Lewis, and Rep. Bobby Rush in a 6-minute excerpt from ’63 Boycott, Kartemquin Films, 2017

To learn more:

’63 Boycott digital exhibit
’63 Boycott curriculum guide
Full collection of camera original interviews from ’63 Boycott
Chicago Teachers Union 1975 strike video by Kartemquin Films’ Judy Hoffman



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