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Teachers union yanks funds from bank in protest

In a largely symbolic move, the Chicago Teachers Union closed its Bank of America account Wednesday and urged others not to keep funds with an institution the union argues has contributed to Chicago Public Schools’ dire financial state.

“We are demanding that Bank of America act as a good corporate citizen and deal fairly with our schools and city, and most importantly, we encourage supporters of public education to take the same action at this bank and other banks profiting from the toxic interest rate swaps,” said Michael Brunson, CTU’s recording secretary, as he stood outside the Bank of America branch at 135 S. LaSalle in the Loop.

Brunson and other officials walked into the bank, closed the account and said they planned to transfer funds — about $725,000 — to another bank.

It was the first volley from the union after CTU President Karen Lewis declared CPS’ intention to cut $100 million in spending and staff as an “act of war.”

The union plans to stage a rally at 4:30 p.m. Thursday outside Bank of America on LaSalle Street and then march to City Hall.

For several years, union officials have criticized Bank of America and other banks for receiving fees for “toxic swap” investments by CPS even as the district makes cuts elsewhere.

“We will be transferring the funds to a bank that is not profiting off of toxic interest rate swaps,” Brunson told reporters. “We know that closing CTU’s account won’t be enough, but just imagine if Bank of America was told they would not do business again with the city of Chicago until they address this issue . . . ”

Citing privacy reasons, a Bank of America spokeswoman declined comment.

Asked why CTU was withdrawing funds now, when they’ve been complaining about the bank’s practices for several years, CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey said: “Because now, there is a fiscal crisis. Now, we are getting to the point where we are going to be laying off thousands of front-line educators so that these guys can make their high returns.”