04/19/2013

Another big win in Chicago charter school organizing

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After two years of jurisdictional battles, teachers at Latino Youth High School, a charter school in Chicago, were finally able to vote on a union. The 10-1 vote on April 18 provided an overwhelming "yes" for unionization.

The commitment of LYHS teachers was never in doubt; they had filed cards with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board in September 2011, and it had certified their union. But the charter school's management organization appealed to the National Labor Relations Board even as the NLRB was considering a similar challenge from another charter school in Chicago. In a seminal finding last December, the NLRB ruled that charter schools may be considered private sector employers.

That set the stage for the NLRB-run election at Latino Youth, the second charter school election the labor board has conducted since December. Outcomes of both elections were strongly pro-union.

Latino Youth High School serves at-risk young people and high school dropouts. "We demand excellence," says Chris Baehrend, Chicago ACTS (Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff) chapter leader for LYHS. "When teachers work with the administration as equal partners, we will empower our students to benefit the world with their manifold talents."

"These Latino Youth teachers never lost their focus," says Brian Harris, president of Chicago ACTS. "If anything, the two-year battle reinforced their vision of collaboration as the best way to support a vulnerable population of students. Now that the path is clear, we know these teachers will be able to bring their knowledge and creativity to the bargaining table."

The NLRB will certify the election within 10 days. Teachers hope to start bargaining as soon as possible. [Connie McKenna]

April 19, 2013