When Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza (10th) signed on to Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s City Council leadership team, she did not agree to forfeit her independence or sever her deep roots at the Chicago Teachers Union.
That much was painfully obvious this week when Garza, Lightfoot’s hand-picked chairman of the City Council’s Committee on Workforce Development, introduced Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders at a CTU rally called to rev up a rank-and-file casting a strike vote.
The provocative video circulated on social media shows Garza stepping to the podium and promptly using profanity.
“That’s right, mother-f---er!” Garza said, raising her fist in the air, after being introduced by Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th).
After describing herself as the first CTU member ever to win a City Council seat, Garza shouted, “Queen Mother of God, I see people ready to strike. Right out here.”
The daughter of longtime Steelworkers Union President Edward Sadlowski, Garza goes on to introduce Sanders as a man who has “fought to give working people a voice” and “stood in solidarity with ordinary Americans across this county to build a better, a fairer and more just society.”
“He’s never wavered. ... The fact that he’s standing with us today shows his deep commitment to the men and women who need him the most: the working class,” she said.
Lightfoot is notoriously thin-skinned. She stripped 20-year veteran Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) of his committee chairmanship for publicly opposing her choice of Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) as Finance Committee chairman.
The question now is whether the new mayor will tolerate a key member of her leadership team openly advocating a teachers’ strike that Lightfoot is trying so desperately to avoid.
On Wednesday, Garza acknowledged she “got carried away” introducing Sanders and probably should not have used profanity.
“It wasn’t appropriate. But I’m not gonna say I regret it. … I was at CTU. That’s my place. That’s my house. That’s where I got my fighting chops. Well, I got my fighting chops from my dad. But, it was a spur-of-the-moment thing,” Garza said.
“Should I have said it? No. Probably not. But the moment was right. The energy was there. And that’s what came out. ... I don’t have anything to apologize for.”
Garza also made no apologies for exhorting the troops to authorize a strike with potential to become a national embarrassment for Lightfoot.
She’s a former school counselor and area vice-president south for the CTU. Her first loyalty lies with the union — not the mayor.
“I support the teachers. ... When people negotiate, the only thing they have is to withhold their labor. That’s the ultimate thing,” Garza said.
“My allegiance is with the teachers, always. ... I spent 23 years of my life inside a classroom accounting for 894 students and me with no help. Of course I support the teachers. ... I support the mayor as well in this issue. They both have to come to a compromise. If both people leave the table unhappy, then you did something right.”
Garza said she still hopes for a compromise to prevent the teachers, janitors and Chicago Park District employees — whose services would be needed more than ever in the event of a strike — from walking off the job en-masse.
But, she added: “If there’s no compromise, then they have no choice but to strike. What are you gonna do?”
What would Lightfoot think if she saw the Garza video?
“I think she would understand. She knows why I’m at CTU introducing Bernie Sanders in front of the teachers. I’m not being disloyal to the mayor,” Garza said.
“As a human being, we have multi-facets. I can be loyal to the teachers that work hard every day. It doesn’t mean I’m disloyal to the mayor. ... I came out of CTU. I can be loyal to my husband. I can be loyal to my kids. I can be loyal to my employees and the people I work with. Your loyalty doesn’t have to lie in one spot.”
NOTE: Video of Garza’s remarks was shared online. Readers are warned it contains profanity: