Former Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) President Karen Lewis has died at age 67, The Chicago Tribune reported.
She led a seven-day strike in 2012 (the first in a quarter-century) and was a one-time mayoral hopeful who was unable to run because of a cancer diagnosis in October 2014.
Stephanie Gadlina former teachers union spokeswoman and representative who said she was representing the Lewis familyemailed the newspaper, "The nation has lost a true champion. Karen Lewis was one of the most powerful and prolific voices in public education, advocating for students, their families and the communities in which they live."
In 2018, Lewis issued a statement to Windy City Times that cited her retirement. In part, it read, "Given my health challenges, it is unlikely that I will return to my beloved classroom. In light of that, and after much consideration, I recently submitted a retirement request to the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund, ending my tenure as an educator with Chicago Public Schools.
"For nearly three decades, I have worked to educate our city's children and provide them with a foundation for learning that will follow them throughout their lives. In the coming weeks, I will make a determination regarding my role as president of the Chicago Teachers Union and our path forward in fighting for the schools our children deserve."
The CTU issued a statement on Feb. 8 saying, "Karen taught us how to fight, and she taught us how to love. She was a direct descendant of the legendary Jackie Vaughnthe first Black, female president of our local. Both were fierce advocates for educators and children, but where Jackie was stately elegance, Karen was a brawler with sharp wit and an Ivy League education. She spoke three languages, loved her opera and her show tunes, and dazzled you with her smile, yet could stare down the most powerful enemies of public education and defend our institution with a force rarely seen in organized labor.
"She bowed to no one, and gave strength to tens of thousands of Chicago Teachers Union educators who followed her lead, and who live by her principles to this day."
In a separate press release, Congressman Jesus "Chuy" García (IL-04) said, "My heart is broken for the passing of my dear friend and legendary labor activist Karen Lewis. As head of the Chicago Teachers Union, she forcefully fought for educators and students, and mentored generations of defenders of workers' rights in Chicago and the nation. Today is a sad day for the labor movement."
The full Tribune article is at www.chicagotribune.com/news/breaking/ct-karen-lewis-chicago-teachers-union-leader-dies-20210208-qruqfcggurcqjaw62r4f5ppoeq-story.html.