Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Stacy Davis Gates sat down for The Daily Line’s Aldercast podcast on Dec. 21 — the calm before the storm. It was weeks before Ald. Ed Burke’s (14) attempted extortion charge and its links to CTU’s endorsed candidate, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.
It was before before television ads began rolling in the mayoral race, while several ballot challenges to mayoral candidates were still pending, and before reporters needed a flowchart to map who was attacking whom on what day.
Gates, a former high school social studies teacher at Englewood, Clemente and Mason Community Links, previously served as the union’s political director and helped organize the CORE takeover of CTU with former President Karen Lewis in 2010.
The wide-ranging interview touches on Preckwinkle, the union’s next contract, strikes at the city’s charter schools, the union’s increased focus on affordable housing, turning political tides on an elected school board, and Davis’ own experience as a black woman in labor.
The Chicago Teachers Union released its endorsement of Preckwinkle and several aldermanic candidates on Dec. 5. It was one of the most anticipated endorsements of the 2019 cycle, even before Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced he would not run for re-election.
Combined with SEIU’s endorsement the same day as her September mayoral announcement, it meant Preckwinkle had the most substantial labor muscle of any candidate. Labor’s money, foot soldiers and communications arms would help counter the millions of dollars that fellow candidates Gery Chico and Bill Daley were raising, and any trade and construction union backing that other candidates might consolidate.
In the weeks since, CTU has served as an attack dog for Preckwinkle, including attempting to quell some of the Burke furor by releasing a nearly month-old poll showing Preckwinkle in the lead, albeit with just 18 percent of the vote in a crowded field and 19 percent of voters undecided.
Six key takeaways from the interview:
- On Toni Preckwinkle – “I think that Toni Preckwinkle is a reflection of black women who have had to be in politics before their time matured. I’ve had a very personal experience in politics and labor as a black woman, and I can tell you that in 2018 the experiences that I’m having, I can only imagine what they were for her in the 80s and the 90s and the early 2000s. I’m afraid to peek under that hood… Toni Preckwinkle, quite frankly, is both a victim and a product of the legacy of sexism and racism in politics. The fact that she is at the peak, where she stands now, is a testament to her resilience. That’s the story I hope some reporter begins to tell along the way, because that’s what is inspiring to me as a mother raising children in this city is how she has overcome. What sacrifice did that take?”
- On the union’s endorsement of Ald. Marty Quinn after his handling of charges of sexual harassment by his brother, Kevin Quinn – “We’re never going to be okay with the objectification of women. I’m a woman. I know what it feels like to work in politics and labor, for that matter, as a woman. It’s not the most friendly space all the time, it’s not always the most comfortable space… Our endorsement has three different levels, and on every level, Ald. Quinn received it. He spoke to our [political action committee] very candidly about who he is as a leader in that space and that he has a brother, he loves him, and he was wrong.”
- On what aldermen should be doing on affordable housing – “You see John Arena up in the 45th Ward taking a lot of heat for doing something that Pat Dowell should be doing in the 3rd Ward or that Sophia King should be leading in the 4th ward, and that is affordable housing, to be perfectly honest with you. He’s taking heat for that. You get a white guy from the Northwest Side of Chicago taking an extraordinary amount of heat for saying the housing needs to be affordable and actually exposing that we think affordable housing is about poor black people instead of people who have been marginalized by the loss of the public sector.”
- On the need for an elected school board – “Those who need the education make themselves available for it, have to receive it in the ways in which the dominant elite class provides it, and that concept is absolutely racist. The continual absence of an elected school board in the city of Chicago says that democracy only matters for those who have money… I think [Gov. JB Pritzker] has to make good on [an elected school board]. And if he doesn’t, then he’s cloaking for that same very racist, colonial way of looking at stuff. He said it on the campaign trail over and over again. It’s my hope that he can compel the Senate president to finally play ball. The bill has passed the House twice, overwhelming majorities each time.”
- On CPS CEO Dr. Janice Jackson – “If I’m honest with you about how I see a CEO in Chicago Public Schools, I don’t. This district has been under mayoral control. At the beginning of our discussion I had to remember who the person was when [former CPS CEO Arne Duncan] left. It’s a revolving door, it has nothing to do with those people. The mayor’s in charge of public schools in Chicago and has been since 1995. That’s the beginning, middle, and end of that story.”
- On Chicago’s population loss – “Since 1987 there’s been this serious assault on the public sector, especially teachers in this city,” Gates said. “At that same time you’ve seen this decline of black middle class in this city. Chicago was black teacher mecca, and what we understand now is in the same neighborhoods that are losing population are the same schools that have been closed, are the same spaces where the middle class black people have been pushed out of here. So you have to wonder if city policy has been to push black people clean out of the city.”