As a CTU delegate, organizer and now health and benefits representative, Murray believes that helping our members ultimately helps our students.
If you ask field agent extraordinaire Cathy Murray what made her want to work for CTU, she has two words for you.
Murray was a delegate who worked at a well-run school with no labor problems, Owen Training Academy, the school he attended as a child. But Emanuel’s anti-teacher, anti-public pensioner, anti-union rhetoric caused the entire CTU membership at her school to take action.
They began attending union rallies and downtown pickets. In 2011 they did an early strike vote poll and it was unanimous. They would all walk if the union asked them to.
“I called the CTU office to tell the staff that the members of Owen Training Academy had voted to strike,” she recalled. “It was unanimous. We got fed up and decided to stand up.”
Born and raised on the South Side of Chicago, Murray’s parents were city and county workers, and she always knew she too would be a public servant. After earning a degree in elementary education from Eastern Illinois University, she began working as a kindergarten teacher in Roseland, then Hegewish, and finally at Owen Learning Academy, her own children’s school.
“My mom taught me that the two most important items in a paycheck are health insurance and a pension,” she said. “And it’s the union that wins those benefits for you. Bosses don’t provide them out of a good heart.”
In 2009, Murray became an elected CTU delegate in Owen, where she was led by some great unionists who had walked the pickets in the 1980s with then-CTU president Jackie Vaughn.
“Those ladies taught me well,” Murray said. “I’ve always supported the CTU, but they lived and breathed the union and it rubbed off on me.”
In 2011, inspired by the transformation of CTU under the leadership of Karen Lewis and CORE, Murray joined the first group of CTU Summer Organizational Institute. That experience led her to CTU’s organizational department, where she worked until becoming a field representative in 2016. After receiving a master’s degree in human resource management from Roosevelt University, she transferred in 2021 to her current staff position , representative of the field/health and social assistance.
In this role, she helps members navigate the sometimes complex health benefits that the CTU contract won. Her job became even more challenging during the pandemic as members and their families contracted COVID and needed medical leave and telecommuting options.
“Like many people, the immediate transition to telecommuting has been difficult – for me as a union member, but especially for our members,” she said. “We were in a constant battle with the CPS and the mayor for our safety, we attended car caravans instead of rallies, and we had to deal with the real-life crises and deaths that members faced.”
She recently helped a member whose health insurance was terminated when he switched from TAT to PAT. The board claimed she never registered for benefits, but Murray found email evidence to the contrary. Confronted with its mistake, CPS agreed to restore members’ benefits, forgive any missed premiums and pay any medical bills accrued in the interim.
In her work, Murray supports CTU members on some of their most difficult days when they are sick and in need of medical care and leave.
“I am proud to support our members by helping them access their benefits during illness,” she said. “But when one of them goes by, it hits me hard. These are the hardest days for me.”
Whether as a CTU delegate, organizer, or health and benefits representative, Murray believes that helping our members ultimately helps our students. If you have health issues, you definitely want Cathy on your side.