Chicago—Today the Chicago Alliance of Charter School Teachers and Staff (Chicago ACTS) and the UNO charter organization announced an agreement that guarantees educators and staff at UNO schools the free choice to form a union. With 13 schools in Chicago, this agreement guarantees more than 300 educators the right to choose to unionize without fear of retaliation. More than 5,000 children attend UNO schools in Chicago.
"With this agreement, UNO teachers have the freedom to join with hundreds of other charter school teachers across Chicago who are using their collective voice to speak out for their profession and their students, said Chicago ACTS President Brian Harris. "Almost four years ago, my co-workers and I formed the first charter school teachers union in Chicago. We are united in the relentless pursuit of quality for our schools, and we are encouraged that UNO teachers now have the freedom to join with us to advocate on behalf of teachers, our students and our schools."
Chicago ACTS currently represents more than 350 teachers at charter schools across the city.
"I became a teacher because I believe in the power of education to transform lives and improve communities," said Jessica Hanzlik, a teacher at UNO Soccer Academy and a Teach for America corps member. "I teach math, science and social studies to 64 eighth-graders. Parents entrust their children to me every day with full faith and hope that I can grow their minds and unlock their potential. Teachers understand best what works in the classroom, how our students learn, and what tools and resources our schools and our children need. Having the freedom to form a union with other UNO teachers means we'll be able to advocate more strongly for our students, and we will have a greater ability to speak out for what we know works to improve teaching and learning."
Chicago ACTS is an affiliate of the Illinois Federation of Teachers and of the 1.5 million-member AFT, which represents charter school teachers across the U.S. Today's announcement continues the national momentum for charter school teachers to strengthen their voice through a union. Just last month, more than 200 charter school teachers in California, Michigan and New York won their efforts to form unions affiliated with the AFT.
"We are glad that UNO recognized the fundamental right of educators and all workers to have the free choice to form a union and have a voice in the decisions that impact their classrooms, their students and their profession," said AFT President Randi Weingarten. "Teachers know best what students and schools need to succeed and thrive. Enabling and empowering the voice of educators is essential to guaranteeing every child a high-quality public education that allows them not only to dream their dreams but to achieve them."
Weingarten added, "This has the potential to change the conversation between charter operators and teachers—a conversation that must change if we are to help all kids succeed."