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Chicago Public School Teachers Vote to Include Charter Teachers in Union


The Chicago Teachers Union will soon merge with the union that represents some of the city's charter schools. 

Last week, the union, which has historically only represented educators from traditional public schools, conducted a vote that will allow unionized charter school teachers to create a charter school division within the CTU. Over 16,200 of the union's 30,000 members cast a vote—71 percent of those who voted were in favor of the merger. 

This past summer, the Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff had voted to join the CTU, with 671 educators in favor and 130 against the unification. Union leaders have said that unifying will help charter educators better organize, and the groups will be able to coordinate their policy positions, member outreach, and revenue campaigns. (Charter school teachers will still have separate contracts negotiated with their individual schools.)

"Our two unions share the same goals: an end to school privatization and charter expansion, a living wage and a fair contract for workers, and classroom resources and supports that allow our students not just to survive but to thrive and grow into engaged, empowered, productive adults," wrote Jesse Sharkey, the CTU vice president, in a blog post. "This merger isn't a magic bullet—but it does mightily strengthen our hand against charter operators, who were rabidly opposed to merger and the threat it poses to charter expansion and the very survival of the charter venture in Chicago." 

The Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff, which is a branch of the American Federation of Teachers, represents 1,000 teachers and staff at 32 charter schools in the city. Under this merger, charter teachers' union dues are set to increase over the next three years, the Chicago Tribune reports

Not all educators are in favor of this move: George Schmidt, a long-time CTU member who runs an online news site, wrote in a blog post that just half the union's members voted in favor of this deal. The CTU leadership, he wrote, "has been standing alone" in recent years. 

And Andrew Broy, the president of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools, criticized the merger to reporters, saying it was a power grab for the CTU. "Certainly this is much more of a political play for the CTU than it is a play that is good for either charter school teachers or, more importantly, in my view, the students educated in those charter schools," he said. 

Meanwhile, teachers at a separate charter school in Chicago have filed their intent to unionize, according to the news station Chicago Tonight—if successful, they too would join the newly formed charter school division of the CTU. And teachers in the largest charter network in Chicago, Noble Charter Schools, have been trying to unionize for about a year

The American Federation of Teachers has been trying to organize charters, which might be particularly important as the teachers' unions brace for the upcoming Supreme Court case, Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Council 31, that threatens to deplete their membership by allowing teachers to opt out of paying union fees. Here's a primer on how that case could affect the unions. 

Image via Pixabay, licensed under Creative Commons 

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