UNO Teachers, School Staff Overwhelmingly Ratify First Contract
CHICAGO—Teachers and staff at schools operated by the United Neighborhood Organization, one of city's largest charter school networks, overwhelmingly ratified a first contract today. The contract includes salaries that will promote teacher recruitment and retention, increased time to prepare and collaborate, and a meaningful voice to advocate for their students and participate in decisions that affect their schools and their profession. The vote was nearly unanimous.
The contract covers more than 500 teachers and staff at 16 schools operated by UNO, and comes less than a year after nearly 90 percent of teachers and school staff voted to organize and join Chicago ACTS. Chicago ACTS is an affiliate of the 1.6 million-member American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Federation of Teachers. Nearly a quarter of Chicago's charter school teachers and staff are now unionized.
"What I am most excited about is that this contract will provide teachers more of a voice in our schools," said Robyn Vester, who teaches at the Bartolome de Las Casas school in Pilsen. "We needed more of a say in instructional decisions for our students. I have been teaching first grade for a while, so I am excited to have my opinion count more."
"By joining together as a union, UNO teachers and school staff were able to secure a first contract with more tools to better do their jobs, greater input so they can better advocate for their students and their profession, and solid economic gains that recognize the work they do," said AFT President Randi Weingarten. "This is a contract that management and labor worked very hard to craft. It's premised on what UNO's teachers and staff and its management need to do together to transform their schools and ensure their students succeed, and it respects the experience and expertise of UNO educators. The negotiation process, combined with the strong ratification votes by the UNO board and our educators, are helping change the climate between teachers and charter operators."
"The UNO effort is a great example of what can happen when teachers and charter management work together for what's most important—the students' success," said Daniel Montgomery, president of the Illinois Federation of Teachers and an AFT vice president. "Teachers know firsthand what works in the classroom and how children learn best. Strong staffs lead to strong schools, and their ability to advocate for high-quality education with a collective voice will greatly benefit the students and our communities."