Union busting continues at Chicago charter schools... Youth Connections Charter School 'closes' a 'campus' the day after its teachers vote to unionize

One month after its chiefs spoke at the Board of Education meeting and the Board voted to continue its charter, the administrators of "Youth Connections Charter School", an archipelago of what used to be a group of alternative schools, abruptly closed one of their so-called "campuses" — as soon as the teachers at the school voted to join a union.

According to a Chicago Teachers Union press release issued May 30, 2012:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Charter School Employees Form Union, Confront Closure

One day after union notice from staff, management recommends closure of school

Wednesday, May 30, 2012 - On May 21, the teachers and staff at Youth Connection Leadership Academy, an alternative charter school in Chicago's Bronzeville neighborhood, notified their employer of the staff's unanimous decision to form a union. YCLA is managed by Youth Connection Charter School, the charter holder for a network of 22 campuses serving at-risk high school students in Chicago.

No prior indication had been given to employees that the YCLA campus might be selected for closure. The charter school had over the previous two weeks issued letters to most of the staff renewing their employment for the 2012-13 academic year.

On May 22, YCCS notified teachers and staff by overnight mail that YCCS had decided to close or restructure the school, and that YCCS would not honor its recent employment letters of intent.

"We were shocked to learn that YCCS wants to close our school. We serve a population of high-risk students who rely on our school for consistent support. We formed our union with the intent of creating a stable faculty with the ability to effectively advocate for ourselves and our students. We hope YCCS will do the right thing for our students and keep YCLA open. Let's work together to make YCLA an even better place to learn and work," said YCLA art teacher, Lydia Merrill.

The classroom and administrative staff of YCLA had elected to join and be represented by Chicago ACTS (Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff) Local 4343, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Federation of Teachers. In response to the pre-emptive threat of closure of YCLA, Chicago ACTS filed an Unfair Labor Practice claim with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board (IELRB), arguing that the employer's intent to close the campus or dismiss teachers is in retaliation for their union activity. The union is also seeking a preliminary injunction.

"The YCLA teachers' decision to form a union shows their dedication to their students and school. It is unfortunate that YCCS management has taken such a bold step in what seems to be an attempt to avoid the teachers move to unionize. We hope the YCCS board votes to keep the school open and recognizes the YCLA teachers' union," said Chicago ACTS Local 4343 President, Brian Harris.

The unionizing teachers and Chicago ACTS will hold a press conference before the YCCS board meeting on Thursday, May 31 at 4:30 p.m. outside of the YCCS offices at 10 W. 35th Street. The President of Chicago ACTS Local 4343, a representative from the CTU, and a YCLA teacher and parent will address the press. The YCCS board meeting is open to the public and will begin at 5:30 p.m. at the YCCS office.


Leah Raffanti

Chicago ACTS

1400 W. Hubbard, Suite 230

Chicago, IL 60647

(312) 738-3010


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