Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey will not seek another term when the members vote in May, but the union leader will not absolutely rule out running for mayor.
Sharkey’s surprise announcement comes just as another group of CTU members have become more vocal and drafted an opposing slate of officers for the upcoming election.
In an interview following his decision to not run for reelection, Sharkey says that he dismisses criticisms of his leadership style.
“People call me ‘union boss this and union boss that,’” he said. “I don’t hire and fire our members. They hire and fire me.”
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Sharkey’s decision not to seek another three-year term comes after holding leadership roles within the union for 12 years. Initially he served as union vice president under Karen Lewis’ leadership, taking over after she suffered health issues.
During those years, the CTU has had two strikes – after more than 25 years of labor peace – and last month saw classes cancelled for five days as the union and city hall negotiated new COVID safety guidelines.
It’s still not clear if those days will be made up and teachers will be paid for the time missed.
“While I acknowledge it was frustrating and difficult, and that’s a deal that maybe we could have achieved without a fight, if we had a different mayor, but for that, a lot of things could have been different,” he said of the controversial battle.
Citing the toxic relationship between the union and city hall, within the last two weeks a new slate of candidates has emerged within the CTU. The Members First Caucus says those currently in charge have misplaced priorities.
Mary Esposito-Usterbowski is one of the candidates, announcing her intention to run for the union’s presidency.
“They’re far more focused on advancing their own political careers than delivering for us members,” she said.
Current CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates has Sharkey’s support to succeed him as the union’s leader. An interesting wrinkle has also emerged, as she has been mentioned as a possible mayoral candidate next year, and now with his departure from leadership Sharkey will not answer directly whether he’s also interested in running.
“I’m going to be involved in the city’s politics, in general and the union in particular,” he said.
When reminded that was not a no, Sharkey said “I don’t know if there’s a Draft Jesse movement right now. I’m a little wonkish.”