Chicago Teachers Union leader says its mission will continue, ‘the Supreme Court be damned’

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Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Jesse Sharkey said Wednesday that the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in a major organized labor case is an “attack on public-sector unions across the whole country.”

Still, Sharkey said, CTU and others will not be deterred from their mission.

“Our movement is not going away. We’re going to continue to advocate for what’s just,” Sharkey said. “The Supreme Court, the Supreme Court be damned.”

Sharkey gathered with a crowd of parent groups on the sidewalk outside Chicago Public Schools headquarters in the hours after the Janus v. AFSCME decision was released. The case has roots in Gov. Bruce Rauner’s first weeks in office, and the court ruled that public workers should not have to pay fees to a union they don’t want to join.

“It is very hard to see this decision as anything other than an attack on black people, on brown people, on working-class people in the city of Chicago,” Sharkey said. “That’s what’s going on with this decision. … None of the people who are staying here today are going to take that lightly, are going to take that lying down.”

READ: Gov. Rauner says state will stop withholding union fees from nonmembers; workers will be ‘given an opportunity to modify their union status’ »

Still, the decision was far from unexpected, and the union has been preparing in recent weeks with a “Re-Card and Resist” campaign in an effort to have members recommit to the union. Sharkey said there are 301 staffers who have not signed CTU union cards. The average yearly dues are about $1,000, he said, so there are potential budget ramifications for the union.

But Sharkey said the issue is not about collecting fees, “it’s about unifying those people who do the work in our public schools.”

“Compelling people to pay fees is not what our game is about, it’s about being stronger together,” Sharkey said.

Patrick M. O’Connell
Chicago Tribune

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