Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis said on Thursday she doesn’t see a problem with staying put in her high-profile position with laborshould she decide to run for mayor.
“Yes, I can do both jobs,” Lewis told E&O.“People act like I’m the only one in this office and that I do all these different things. We have a bargaining team of 75 people.”Lewis then hit back at the pro-Rahm Emanuel group Democrats for Education Reform, which earlier this week called on her to abandon her post at CTUif she’s indeed running for mayor, and decide by Friday whether she wasgetting into the mayoral race. The group called it a conflict for Lewis to be involved in negotiations for a new teachers contract at the same time she was running for mayor.“I don’t care what DFER tells me,” Lewis said. “They can go back to running their ‘Hey,Girl’racist radio spots they did during the spots.”When pressed on whether she would consider resigning from CTUshould she jump into the mayoral race, she said she’d leave it to the union.“I think that’s a decision that the executive and the house of delegates should make,” Lewis said, adding that “resigning”has other connotations. “Do I take a leave of absence? That’s a different story…We have a member-driven union, that’s how things work. If the membership thinks that’s what I shoulddo, that’s what I do.”DFER,which is made up largely of hedge fund managers favoring charter schools and merit pay tied to test scores, released a statement on Thursday criticizing Lewis’ position.“We’re disappointed that President Lewis isn’t taking the conflict of interest issue seriously,”Illinois State Director, Rebeca Nieves-Huffman said in a statement.“She is making a mockery of the collective bargaining process by sitting on one side of the negotiating table while campaigning for the job on the other side of the table – and using her negotiating role to her own political advantage.”Lewis said her decision will come once she’s reached her internalbenchmarks, which she describedas confidential strategy, for both signed petitions and fund-raising. However, a canvasser training manual for Lewis,obtained by E&O, shows she’s set a “high goal” 100,000 signatures and a minimum of 50,000.Lewis has formed an exploratory committee and loaned herself $40,000.If she enters the race, she will go up against Emanuel andAld. Bob Fioretti (2nd), who announced his candidacy Saturday.