ILLINOIS – This past weekend, the Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT) convened over 500 union delegates from across Illinois, who voted unanimously to re-elect President Dan Montgomery, Executive Vice President and Chicago Teachers Union President Stacy Davis Gates, and elect Secretary-Treasurer and Local 434 President Cyndi Oberle-Dahm. Earlier this year, former Secretary-Treasurer Jane Russell announced her retirement from the IFT after five decades of union work. She was awarded the Margaret Blackshere Women in Union Leadership Award for her dedication and contributions to the labor movement. The theme of this year’s convention was “Together” which highlighted the work of our 100,000+ members navigating through COVID, its impact, and tremendous organizing growth.
Over the three days, 500 delegates debated and passed resolutions on a variety of issues – from preventing mass shootings, stopping the privatization of public services, reaffirming commitment to equity and antiracism work, and preventing homelessness, foreclosures, and evictions. A special resolution was passed for Chicago Teachers Union retiree, 104-year-old Beatrice “Bea” Lumpkin, who was in attendance and has been part of the labor movement for nearly 90 years. She continues to maintain her activism in critical work with the Chicago Teachers Union and supporting youth activists.
On Saturday, our union delegates heard from a variety of speakers which included, March for Our Lives founder and Parkland School shooting survivor David Hogg and fellow activist Trevon Bosley, Illinois House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, and Illinois Governor JB Pritzker.
Re-elected to his fifth term, IFT President Dan Montgomery, a high school English teacher from Skokie, IL, told the 500 delegates that they are democracy warriors, “Our nation, our children and future depend on our work. This is what togetherness means. It means that each of these challenges, and they are big, we face, not alone, but together, not as one but as one union. We see each other and our shared humanity no matter what our color, sexuality, race, and religion. We see, we acknowledge, we respect and learn and seek to find a way forward together.” Montgomery exhorted the delegates to continue to organize new workers, especially paraprofessionals, and to campaign to improve the deficient “Tier II” retirement benefits that are worth less than Social Security and have helped to cause the teacher shortage.
During her acceptance speech, IFT Executive Vice President and Chicago Teachers Union President Stacy Davis Gates said, “We have multiple threats to our democracy and one of the only things that will save us is our solidarity. The false retelling of our American story is not only dangerous, it minimizes the struggle of Americans to make a more perfect union. There is beauty, redemption, reflection and growth in the teaching of our country’s real history. Just look at this room. When you teach the truth, you teach we can reflect and do better. And, that’s where we find our collective power.”
Newly elected IFT Secretary-Treasurer Cyndi Oberle-Dahm has served as an IFT Vice President since 2016. She has been the president of the Belleville Federation of Teachers Local 434 for more than a decade. Addressing the 500 delegates, Oberle-Dahm said, “We are in a struggle for our democracy. We all must continue to lead the way, to organize. The movement is in our favor right now. Young people are pro-union, and we need to get them engaged and to vote.