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Illinois Federation of Teachers hosts 2019 Convention

by Jennifer Visk | Oct 21, 2019
Governor Pritzker is keynote speaker, CTU President Karen Lewis is honored
Nearly 400 delegates and guests from around the state convened in Rosemont this weekend to conduct union business at the Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT) 2019 Convention. Topping the agenda for the high-energy event was important conversation about the union’s support for the Fair Tax constitutional amendment, as well as the election of statewide officers.

Daniel J. Montgomery (Local 1274) was reelected to his fourth term as IFT President, while Stacy Davis-Gates (Local 1) was elected as Executive Vice President and Jane Russell (Local 571) was reelected to a second term as Secretary-Treasurer. Forty IFT vice presidents were also elected to represent members in local unions across Illinois.
 
Governor JB Pritzker was the convention’s keynote speaker. He thanked the crowd for their support in his campaign and for partnering with him during his first year in office to pass an impressive list of legislation that will benefit students and schools, improve state services, and strengthen our unions.
 
The governor also advocated for the Fair Tax, saying that to avoid massive cuts to education and programs or a 15 percent increase in the state’s flat tax, “There’s only one choice, and that is to say YES to a Fair Tax.”
 
“Our future depends on education,” he added. “I thank you for lifting up the entire state of Illinois with everything you do each day.”
 
Convention goers expressed their support for striking Chicago teachers and school staff in Chicago Teachers Union (Local 1) and SEIU Local 73, who were forced to the picket lines on Thursday in their struggle to secure smaller class sizes, adequate staffing, and educational justice for all students. 
 
IFT President Dan Montgomery gave a state of the union address, which included expressing the statewide union’s support for CTU and all locals that may be forced to strike to fight for the schools every student deserves.
“We are here for you CTU. Wherever we have members in the struggle, we will be there. If Chicago kids are denied their basics rights, then every kid in every school district is denied theirs too.
 
“This isn’t just about Chicago,” he added. “From Kankakee to Peoria to Joliet to our rural districts, the need for adequate resources is a civil rights issue, not just a union issue.”
 
Montgomery also introduced a special order of business to honor former longtime CTU President and retiring IFT Executive Vice-President Karen GJ Lewis, who attended to accept heartfelt gratitude from the IFT for her nearly 30 years of service. After delegates were shown a moving video highlighting her accomplishments, Lewis spoke to the standing-room-only crowd.

“I’m not a militant, I’m just an advocate for everybody,” she said. “And I want you to advocate for your students, your members, your communities, and for whichever candidates you like.

“Remember that nobody is going to give you anything,” she added. “You have to take it.”
 
In addition to hearing remarks from speakers including, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, State Representative Mary Edly-Allen (Dist. 51), and AFT President Randi Weingarten, delegates debated and voted on dozens of resolutions that will help set the union’s policies and direction for the next three years. Resolutions addressed on the floor included support for passing a Fair Tax, the importance of diversity in our workplaces and unions, the need to address the state’s teacher shortage, ensuring safe workplaces for educators and school staff, protecting and supporting immigrant students and their families, and more.
 

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