AFT Vice President
Jesse Sharkey was appointed president of the 28,000-member Chicago Teachers Union in 2018, replacing retiring President Karen Lewis. A member of the CTU since 1998, Sharkey has championed workers’ rights throughout his career, believing that a union’s true power comes from the strength of members and their willingness to fight for public school students, families and communities.
Sharkey served as CTU vice president from 2010 until 2018. He played a key role in two rounds of contract negotiations, the merger of the CTU and the Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff, and the union’s historic 2012 and 2019 strikes. He led rank-and-file members on the frontlines of the fight against school closings in 2013, and continues to lead them during the ongoing campaign to secure revenue for the schools Chicago’s students deserve.
Prior to being elected to CTU leadership in 2010, Sharkey taught social studies in Chicago Public Schools for 12 years at Senn High School and Chicago Vocational Career Academy, where he also coached chess, served as union delegate, and worked with community and activist groups such as the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization and the Campaign to End the Death Penalty. In 2004, he played a leading role in the Save Senn campaign that mobilized hundreds of parents to oppose the takeover of the school by a military academy—an experience that taught him the value of defending traditional public schools against privatization.
Sharkey represents Chicago members on the American Federation of Teachers executive council, and helps steer union policy on the AFT executive board. He earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Brown University, where he studied history and education. He lives with his wife and two children in Chicago’s Rogers Park neighborhood.