FOP raises union dues to create $2.5 million political action committee ‘powerhouse’

Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara said the $240 increase in annual dues to fund the PAC will send a clear message, because police are under attack, and “we need to let these politicians know that enough is enough.”

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Chicago Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara, shown at a pro-police rally in Grant Park in 2020.

Chicago Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara, shown at a pro-police rally in Grant Park in 2020.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Last fall, Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara compared Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s vaccine mandate to the midnight destruction of Meigs Field and warned City Council members who refused to stand against it that “we are coming for every one of your damn seats” in 2023.

Now, Catanzara is taking steps to make good on that threat — by putting some union money where his mouth is.

At Wednesday’s monthly FOP meeting, Catanzara said, he convinced the union board to raise the dues rank-and-file police officers pay by $10 per paycheck — a $240-a-year increase.

That 35% increase in an annual dues tab now pegged at $685 will “go into a general membership fund,” but the FOP board will be empowered to transfer the money “as needed up to $2.5 million” to create what Catanzara called a political action committee “powerhouse.”

“I know there’s some people who think that’s crazy money,” Catanzara said. But consider that Chicago Fire Fighters Union Local 2 dues are $1,000 a year, and “the firemen are not under attack like we are,” he added, in a video posted Wednesday.

“Our profession is not gonna stop being under attack any time soon and we need to let these politicians know that enough is enough,” Catanzara said.

“I can guarantee you, a $2.5 million dedicated fund is going to really get some attention and movement and it’s gonna make a difference in an election cycle.”

Catanzara insisted the decision has everything to do with the fact that the union’s political fund has been “woefully under-funded” — and nothing to do with his threat to challenge Mayor Lori Lightfoot, his longtime nemesis.

“There was always the conversation and intention that there would be a dues increase going forward to make that fund more super-sized and significant to start doing more political activity ... because this state and city is as crooked as it can possibly be and the only way to change it is with the funding to run campaigns and candidates to get the slackers and the crooked politicians gone once and for all,” he said.

“For politicians that are gonna see this, I told you we were coming for your seats and I meant it. Enough is enough. Whether it’s Springfield or City Hall, change is coming. You were warned.”

Former FOP President Kevin Graham, Catanzara’s predecessor, said he believes in “supporting candidates who are favorable to the police.” But “you can do that without raising the dues for our members,” Graham added.

Fraternal Order of Police President Kevin Graham is interviewed Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019 by Sun-Times City Hall reporter Fran Spielman.

Fraternal Order of Police President Kevin Graham is interviewed by the Sun-Times in 2019.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times file

“People should be doing it because we are trying to do the right thing and protect people. The idea is to make sure politicians know how hard we work and how honest the vast majority of police officers are.”

Graham is now appealing Catanzara’s decision to remove him from the FOP board after Catanzara accused him of leaving behind a camera in the president’s office that, Catanzara believes, was used to spy on him after he took office.

The last time Catanzara threatened alderpersons he viewed as anti-police, he was trying to force an immediate vote on two vaccine-related ordinances that had just been introduced.

The ordinance championed by Ald. Silvana Tabares (23rd) and Ald. Anthony Napolitano (41st) would have effectively repealed Lightfoot’s vaccine mandate, which is now before an arbitrator, by retroactively requiring Council approval of “all policies, rules and regulations governing discipline” of city employees.

The second ordinance, introduced by Ald. Edward Burke (14th), wouldhave required the continuation of health care benefits for the dependents of city employees for the duration of the dispute.

Both were shunted to the Rules Committee, the burial ground for legislation opposed by the mayor. Ald. Ray Lopez (15th) tried to suspend the rules to reverse that action, but was voted down, 30-20.

That didn’t stop Chicago police officers from showing up in force outside City Hall. Nor did it stop Catanzara from threatening Council members who won’t support repealing the vaccine mandate.

“We’re taking a report card and anybody who does not raise their hand — you will be challenged in 2023. We are coming for every one of your damn seats because this is not the way a government is supposed to run. It is not a queen on that throne. … It is not, ‘Take it or leave it,’” Catanzara said during public comments at that day’s Council meeting.

“Shame on every one of you. When she challenged your aldermanic prerogative, you all lost your mind.”

Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 President John Catanzara addresses a group of union protesters and their supporters outside City Hall as they rally against a requirement that police, like all other city employees, get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 President John Catanzara addresses a group of union protesters and their supporters outside City Hall in October, as they rally against a requirement that police, like all other city employees, get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times


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