Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza (10th Ward) announced Monday that she will not run for re-election to represent the Southeast Side in 2023, joining a growing exodus from the Chicago City Council.
Sadlowski Garza, 62, the first member of the Chicago Teachers Union to be elected to the City Council, said in a statement released on Labor Day that she wanted to start the “next chapter” of her life.
“After 31 years of working tirelessly for this ward, it’s time for me to take a step back and take care of my family and myself,” Sadlowski Garza said. “This has been one of the greatest achievements of my life and also one of the hardest.”
Mayor Lori Lightfoot tapped Sadlowski Garza to lead the City Council’s Workforce Development Committee in 2019, putting the staunch union supporter in charge of efforts to expand protections for Chicago’s workers. Sadlowski Garza is the daughter of labor icon Ed “Oil Can Eddie” Sadlowski, a former president of the United Steelworkers of America Local 65.
The leadership of the Chicago Teachers Union said Sadlowski Garza, a former school counselor, had a profound impact at City Hall.
"Sue took our movement to the Chicago City Council, and in doing so, opened the door to others just as committed to the common good, and committed to the school communities we all deserve," the union said in a statement. "Sue worked hard, and loved as hard as she worked, and we thank her deeply for her love of our complex city. She will forever be our sister, and we are forever grateful for her life and her work in our movement."
The former chair of the City Council’s Progressive Caucus, Sadlowski Garza helped push through a measure that requires most large employers to give their workers two-weeks notice of their schedules in an effort to reduce the stress caused by unpredictable shift work. Sadlowski Garza also championed efforts to raise Chicago’s minimum wage to $15 per hour in 2021.
Sadlowski Garza broke with the mayor in February, telling the Chicago Reader’s Ben Joravsky that she would not support Lightfoot’s bid for re-election, lifting the curtain on the deep tension and distrust between the mayor and members of the City Council — even those who once considered themselves her close allies.
“I have never met anybody who has managed to piss off every single person they come in contact with — police, fire, teachers, aldermen, businesses, manufacturing, and that’s it,” Sadlowski Garza said at the time. “I said it. That’s it. I don’t care.”
Sadlowski Garza is the fifth City Council committee chair to announce they will not run for re-election, joining Ald. Tom Tunney (44th Ward), former Ald. Michele Smith (43rd Ward), Ald. George Cardenas (12th Ward) and Ald. Harry Osterman (48th Ward.)
Indicted Ald. Carrie Austin (34th Ward), Ald. James Cappleman (46th Ward) and Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th Ward) have also announced they will not run for the City Council again.
Ald. Sophia King (4th Ward), Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th Ward) and Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th Ward) announced bids for mayor in 2023.
Sadlowski Garza’s retirement means 11 Chicago wards — representing more than 20% of the city — are set for new City Council leadership in May 2023.
First elected in 2015, Sadlowski Garza defeated longtime 10th Ward Ald. John Pope by just 20 votes. Pope was an aide to former Mayor Richard M. Daley and had the endorsement of former Mayor Rahm Emanuel. In 2019, Sadlowski Garza won a second term handily, earning nearly 69% of the vote.
Had she run for a third term, Sadlowski Garza was certain to have faced a tougher race than she did in 2019.
Oscar Sanchez, who was one of a number of Southeast Side residents who went on a 30-day hunger strike to protest city officials’ decision to allow a metal shredding and recycling operation to move from the North Side to the Southeast Side, announced he would challenge Sadlowski Garza.
Sadlowski Garza supported the relocation of the metal scrapper, saying it would bring much needed jobs to the 10th Ward, which borders Indiana.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development determined July 19 that not only did the city act improperly when they approved Reserve Management Group’s plans for the metal shredding and recycling operation in the 10th Ward, but also found that decision “continued a broader policy of shifting polluting activities from White neighborhoods to Black and Hispanic neighborhoods, despite the latter already experiencing a disproportionate burden of environmental harms.”
The determination was made after a coalition of community groups filed a complaint with the federal government as part of a multipronged effort to stop the scrapper from opening on the Southeast Side that included the hunger strike and marches near Lightfoot's North Side home.
Sadlowski Garza’s announcement was first reported by the Chicago Tribune.