Chicago Federation of Labor Declines to Endorse Transfer Tax


The momentum of Mayor Brandon Johnson’s proposal to raise property transfer taxes on high-end deals hit an obstacle, amid a heated referendum campaign between the bill’s advocates and opponents.

Johnson’s Bring Chicago Home proposal, aimed at funding affordable housing and anti-homelessness initiatives, has been hit with a setback, as it failed to secure an endorsement from the Chicago Federation of Labor, Crain’s reported

The federation, representing over 300 unions, fell just short of the two-thirds weighted vote needed to back the referendum.

Despite personal appeals from Mayor Johnson to union leaders, the opposition was fueled by two traditionally progressive unions representing workers in hotels and buildings affected by the proposed transfer-tax hike. 

Bring Chicago Home, which is scheduled for a citywide vote on March 19, would raise the one-time tax rate from 0.75 percent to 2 percent for sales between $1 million and $1.5 million. It would increase to 3 percent for transactions greater than $1.5 million. The rate would drop to 0.6 percent for sales lower than $1 million, a savings for the majority of Chicago homebuyers. 

The Johnson administration aims to use the increased revenue to combat homelessness in Chicago, where an estimated 68,000 people are without homes. The initiative faces resistance mainly from downtown landlords and business interests. The real estate community fears that it would burden a market that’s already grappling with record-high office vacancies, high interest rates and subdued sales. 

The CFL’s endorsement could have had a significant impact, reaching its affiliated union members and potentially generating financial contributions. The rejection, however, leaves room for a possible reconsideration by the federation, although tension among labor groups is anticipated. Some unions were absent from the vote due to poor weather conditions, and a second vote is being considered.

Stacy Davis Gates, president of the Chicago Teachers Union and a supporter of Mayor Johnson’s agenda, is hopeful that the CFL will reconsider.

SEIU Local 1, a key union that could have tipped the vote in favor of the measure, chose to abstain. Had the union supported it, the proposal would have received CFL endorsement, the outlet said. 

The bill’s opponents are raising funds through accounts set up by the Illinois Realtors association and campaign veteran Greg Goldner.

—Quinn Donoghue

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