At a meeting this past week, Chicago Teachers Union delegates rejected a call to endorse Bernie Sanders.
The AFT’s Chicago affiliate will remain neutral in the March Illinois primary.
136 votes not to endorse, 121 to endorse, and 28 abstentions.
Chalkbeat reported, “Educators say the votes not to endorse were a result of a variety of concerns. Some were procedural, including questions about whether members had been adequately consulted. Others were local, including lingering tensions over the union’s endorsement of and spending on a losing 2019 mayoral candidate.”
Aside from the optics, it is hard to see how this will matter much in the upcoming primary. Activists for Sanders, Warren and others are already knocking on doors and contributing money.
But there is a bigger issue of union endorsements and use of political action money at play here.
As Chalkbeat points out, the CTU went all in to support the head of the Cook County Democratic Party in last year’s race for Chicago mayor. Voters ignored and rejected that choice by a historic margin of 50%.
At the sate level the Illinois Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Education Association were found to be conduits for teacher political action contributions that ended up in the bank account of Friends of Michael Madigan – the Speaker of the Illinois House and head of the Illinois Democratic Party – and used for lawyers and settlement costs in a sexual harassment case.
At the national level, both teacher unions have faced member push back on the manipulated back-door endorsement in 2016 of Hillary Clinton. The AFT and NEA have so far stayed away from endorsing any Democrat.
Some teacher locals like Los Angeles, have moved to endorse Sanders.
The Boston Teachers Union and the MA-AFT endorsed Warren, while the MTA, the largest union in the state and affiliated with the NEA has not voted on endorsement.
But Chicago may be more typical. Members are divided. The endorsement process and use of political action money by the teacher unions – one out of five union members in the country are in the AFT or NEA – is in disarray.
From here it seems like a case of chickens coming home to roost.