You can view Karen Lewis’ introduction of Dan Montgomery by going to the Fox Valley Labor News YouTube channel
You can view Dan Montgomery talking to guests by going to the Fox Valley Labor News YouTube channel
CHICAGO — Dan Montgomery was content on staying an English teacher in Skokie. He entered the profession to teach, but somewhere along the way, he become a unionist. And he’s OK with that.
“Along the way, I became a union leader and it’s been a great honor and privilege. Along the way, I discovered I loved it,” Montgomery said.
He’s OK with being part of a group of people who work hard for the continuance of democracy. “You realize you’re part of something much bigger than just those 40 minutes in your classroom every day,” Montgomery explained.
Since 2010 Montgomery’s been president of the Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT) union where he’s fought for justice for teachers, students and working families throughout the state and Chicago. For that, Chicago Jobs with Justice (CJwJ) honored Montgomery with its Charlie Hayes Award Sept. 15.
CJwJ is also celebrating 25 years of activism and organizing.
IFT Vice President Karen Lewis introduced Montgomery and recalled their election as IFT officers and traveling to its convention. “There were people that we defeated that were still on the IFT Executive Board, so, it was a very awkward time,” she said to laughs from guests.
There were some veteran IFT officials that wanted someone other than Montgomery making decisions, suggesting he act instead as a shadow to the real leaders. Lewis wanted to give Montgomery a shot. She convinced him it would be OK; that they would figure it out together.
When Lewis talks about Montgomery, you can see the admiration and respect she has for him. “I appreciate that he took that leap of faith. He went over that mountain with me, and we’ve been at it ever since,” Lewis explained.
Montgomery has recognized the need to build solidarity with other unions, with the community and with parents.
Teaching in Skokie, he said his students had parents who worked middle-class jobs. The parents were the kind of people Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump doesn’t care about.
Even though Montgomery taught to the best of his ability, nothing would have a greater impact on the lives of his students than if a parent lost their job.
“That will have a bigger impact on their lives than anything I could do as a teacher,” he explained.