Press Release

Second D.C. Public Charter School in a Week Votes to Unionize with DC ACTS

DC International School Employees Will be Members of DC Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff, DC ACTS, AFT

For Release:


Kelley Ukhun

WASHINGTON—In the second organizing victory for Washington, D.C., charter school educators in less than a week, teachers and all other school staff at District of Columbia International School voted tonight to join the District of Columbia Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff, DC ACTS, an affiliate of the AFT.

In addition to the DC International union win, staff at Capital City Public Charter School voted on May 2 to join DC ACTS, which also represents all employees at both Mundo Verde Public Charter School campuses in D.C.

DC International School has 225 employees, including teachers, instructional aides, dedicated aides, counselors, restorative specialists, librarians, teaching fellows, secretarial staff and custodians.  The school educates 1,600 6th–12th grade students and has three language tracks—Spanish, Mandarin and French.

AFT President Randi Weingarten said this second union victory for D.C. charter school employees in just a few days demonstrates that educators, no matter where they teach, want a voice on the job.

“Charter school teachers have made a commitment to their students and want what public school teachers have—a voice on the job, respect and family-sustaining wages. They’re tired of walking on egg shells and look to a union as the best way to achieve improvements to make a difference for their students, families and communities,” Weingarten said.

She noted that this victory, fresh off the Capital City Public Charter School union win last Thursday, represents another sign of growing momentum on the part of workers to unionize. AFT represents about 7,500 educators and school staff across the country at more than 250 charter schools. More than 1,200 teachers and staff at more than 16 charter schools have organized with AFT just since the start of the 2022-23 school year, and hundreds of those have already won strong first contracts at their schools.

DC International staff said they want to a voice on the job to negotiate changes to improve wages and pay equity. Further, to enhance recruitment and retention of educators, they want to end the contingent atmosphere in which every staff member is subject to annual contract renewal, a more progressive and transparent discipline procedure including a grievance and arbitration system, a duty-free lunch period and better retirement benefits.

“This second victory illustrates the strong desire of charter school educators to be able to collectively advocate for their students and themselves. Workers speaking up as a group, through a union, can do what one voice cannot—participate with management in making decisions to enhance the education of students and the lives of the workers,” said DC ACTS Acting President Kelley Ukhun.

Lawren Lockett, a high school restorative team member, said a union helps build a strong, more equitable educational system.

“As both an employee and a parent within our school community, I believe in the power of unity to create positive change. Unionizing isn’t just about advocating for our rights as workers; it’s about ensuring a better future for our children and fostering an environment where both educators and families can thrive together,” Lockett said.

Katie Green, a high school social worker said: “We need to flatten the power structure at DCI in order to do the best we can for our staff to model for our students. Having this legal mechanism in place can allow everyone to share their needs and be heard, for the sake of our families, coworkers and students.”

Jacqueline Pogue Lyons, the president of the Washington Teachers’ Union—which represents the District of Columbia Public School educators—applauded the DCI and Capital City union victories.

“I’m thrilled that these charter school educators will be getting a seat at the table to have an avenue to access the respect, rights and resources that they need for themselves and their students,” Pogue Lyons said.    

AFT has organized a groundbreaking 155 new units in the last year across multiple sectors, including education, higher education, healthcare and public service.

# # # #

The AFT represents 1.7 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.