Feb. 8, 2021

Contact: Jake Lewis


Chicago Federation of Labor Statement on the Passing of Karen Lewis

CHICAGO – The Chicago Federation of Labor released the following statement regarding the passing of Karen Lewis, Chicago Teachers Union president emerita and former CFL Executive Board member:

“Chicago has lost a legend. A teacher, a leader, a trailblazer, and a friend, Karen Lewis was someone who stood tall not only for the educators of this city, but for every single worker in Chicago. She never compromised on the values she held dear, fighting for her students and their families with a fierce determination that will never be matched. Karen’s leadership gave rise to a generation of activists across the country, sparking a renewed energy in the fight for public education that continues to this day. She also inspired countless Chicagoans within and outside of the labor movement as she spoke truth to power without fear. She was beloved and revered as a member of the Chicago Federation of Labor Executive Board, serving as a role model of the solidarity we hold dear. Her voice – unique, uncompromising, brilliant, and kind – will be forever missed.”

CFL President Bob Reiter: “Karen Lewis was my friend. We started out as seatmates and as the new people in the room. We had our own little corner of the table and we built a relationship that was fun, loyal, and personal.  That relationship between us became more than just the table.  And I have stories of my friend. She was a great leader, but she was a person too.  We made light of situations happening around us. I ran interference for her. She ran interference for me. I believed in her. She believed in me. We shared. We talked.  We supported each other. I’ll miss her and I’m heartbroken. John and the rest of her family have my undying support for sharing her with me, Chicago, and the entire labor movement. I love you Karen.”

CFL Secretary-Treasurer Don Villar: “We will never forget Sister Lewis’ courage, charisma, and passion for teachers and the labor movement. From the classrooms at Lane Tech to city hall, she inspired students, teachers, families, and labor activists in her fight for equity, dignity, and respect for educators. Sister Lewis is that once in a lifetime legend, a game changer. In leading CTU, she sparked a renewed call for activism in the labor movement that spread across the country.”


The Chicago Federation of Labor is the third-largest central labor council of the AFL-CIO representing nearly 300 unions and labor organizations comprised of half a million union members in Chicago and Cook County.