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Chicago City Council Proposal to Unionize Charter Schools

The Chicago City Council heard a resolution during the first week of May 2011 that would support the right of charter school employees to join and form a union. However, because a majority of members were not present at the Education Committee hearing, the resolution could not be voted out of committee.

This resolution comes at a time when teacher unions across the country are under a vicious attack from corporations and state governments who are passing laws to destroy collective bargaining and tenure rights, as well as the right to strike.

The resolution reads:

“WHEREAS, charter schools have become an integral part of the education landscape in Chicago; and

“WHEREAS, charter schools receive public funding, and the state legislature has declared them to be, in fact, public schools; and

“WHEREAS, the Illinois state legislature has authorized the expansion of charter schools, required strict standards of transparency and accountability, and affirmed the right of charter employees to unionize under the Illinois Education Labor Relations Act; and

“WHEREAS, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley has consistently defended and promoted the right of all workers to form and join a union; and

“WHEREAS, the President of the United States, Barack H. Obama and his Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan have expressed full support of the right to organize; and

“WHEREAS, the Chicago Alliance of Charter School Teachers and Staff (Chicago ACTS), an affiliate of Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT), American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the AFL-CIO, was established in 2007 to help Chicago charter school employees organize; and

“WHEREAS, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) has fully endorsed the efforts of Chicago ACTS to help charter school employees unionize; and

“WHEREAS, On June 18, 2009, teachers at Civitas-operated Northtown Academy, Ralph Ellison and Wrightwood Charter Schools voted overwhelmingly to unionize; and

“WHEREAS, the Chicago City Council has a long tradition of supporting the city’s unions, and the rights of all workers to a voice at work and a decent living; and

“WHEREAS, giving charter school employees a voice in decision-making will engender an atmosphere of cooperation, respect and trust between employees and administrators and enrich the learning process: and

“WHEREAS, unionization has been a positive social good that has helped strengthen Chicago’s economy and stabilize its neighborhoods; and

“WHEREAS, it is the law and the policy of the State of Illinois, to promote the practice of collective bargaining and to prohibit the use of public funds to oppose unionization.

“NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT the City Council of the City of Chicago:

“HEREBY affirms the right of all charter school employees in Chicago to join and form a union and bargain collectively; and HEREBY urges all charter school managers and operators to respect this right by remaining neutral during union organizing campaigns, and allow their employees to make a choice concerning union representation that is free from coercion or undue influence.”

A few charters schools have been fighting against the wishes of their faculty to form a union, stating that they are private operators.

CTU alderman outreach coordinator Joey McDermott said because only 7 of 14 committee members were present for the hearing, one more member vote would have sent the resolution to the city council for a vote.

The aldermen present, according to the CTU, included chairman Latasha Thomas, Scott Waguespack, Jason Ervin, Rick Munoz, Lona Lane, Roberto Maldonado, Margaret Laurino. The committee members not present were vice chairman Danny Solis Anthony Beale, Walter Burnett, George Cardenas, Patrick O’Connor, Sharon Dixon, and Sandi Jackson.

Also present, but not a member of the committee, was Aldermen Tim Cullerton who came to show his support for the resolution, McDermott said.

Testimony was presented by Chicago ACTS coordinator James Thindwa, CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey, ACTS member and Ralph Ellison teacher Bret Gaska and director of Grassroots Collaborative Amisha Patel, McDermott said.

Current Committee chair Aldermen Latasha Thomas indicated she would like to bring the new Board members and CEO before the committee to question them, McDermott said.

“My hope is that this resolution could be on the same agenda as that meeting, and I am sure we would have a quorum for that,” McDermott said.



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