A big win for charter school staff on Cesar Chavez Day

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On Cesar Chavez's birthday, teachers at Cesar Chavez Academy, Detroit's largest charter school, won a settlement that will return laid-off educators to the school and provide more than $75,000 in back pay.

Representatives from the teachers union, the Cesar Chavez Academy Alliance of Charter Teachers & Staff (CCA ACTS), reached a deal on March 31 with the Leona Group—the for-profit company that manages the day-to-day operations of the charter school.

"This win could not have come on a better day," says Rose Crowley, a reading specialist at CCA High School. "It's incredible that we were able to celebrate this victory on Cesar Chavez's birthday, and I'm elated that we were able to share this moment with hundreds of our school's amazing students and parents."

Chavez Celebration

CCA ACTS is negotiating a first contract with the CCA board of directors and the Leona Group. On March 31, CCA educators were joined by more than 600 parents, students, alumni, union leaders, public officials and community representatives at a screening, sponsored by AFT Michigan and CCA ACTS, of the new Diego Luna film, "Cesar Chavez: History Is Made One Step at a Time." The film documents Chavez's struggle to unionize immigrant farm workers in California. Throughout the CCA ACTS organizing campaign and contract negotiations, CCA teachers have drawn inspiration from Chavez's work and his legacy as a union organizer.

Lynne Santoscoy, a social worker from CCA Middle School who was laid off with no advance notice, will be returning to work as soon as the settlement is finalized by the National Labor Relations Board. "I'm so excited to get back to CCA and work with our wonderful students and families. I have been so supported by my colleagues and the community over these past six months. What was done wrong has been made right, and we will continue to work with the Leona Group to reach a fair first contract that will make our school community an even better place to work and learn."

At the close of the movie, hundreds gathered in the lobby to hear the announcement of Santoscoy's reinstatement (pictured above), chanting "Si, se puede," the United Farm Workers' slogan, which roughly translates to "yes, we can."

"This is a fitting tribute to Cesar Chavez on his birthday," says David Hecker, AFT Michigan president and an AFT vice president. "Charter school teachers are a growing part of AFT Michigan and they can accomplish amazing things when they join together with parents and community to reclaim the promise of public education." [AFT Michigan press release]

April 1, 2014