Ruling Declares Chicago Charter Teachers Public Employees

Clears Way for Union at Chicago Math and Science Academy

A ruling this week by the National Labor Relations Board clears the way for state recognition of a new union of teachers at a highly regarded charter school, and could be the final word establishing that teachers at publicly funded charter schools in Illinois are public employees.

The regional NLRB ruling involves the teachers at the Chicago Math and Science Academy. Two-thirds of the school’s teaching staff signed union authorization cards earlier this year, seeking to be represented by the Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff (Chicago ACTS), an affiliate of the Illinois Federation of Teachers and the American Federation of Teachers. Chicago ACTS already represents teachers at eight other charter schools in the city.

Clears Way for Union at Chicago Math and Science Academy

A ruling this week by the National Labor Relations Board clears the way for state recognition of a new union of teachers at a highly regarded charter school, and could be the final word establishing that teachers at publicly funded charter schools in Illinois are public employees.

The regional NLRB ruling involves the teachers at the Chicago Math and Science Academy. Two-thirds of the school’s teaching staff signed union authorization cards earlier this year, seeking to be represented by the Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff (Chicago ACTS), an affiliate of the Illinois Federation of Teachers and the American Federation of Teachers. Chicago ACTS already represents teachers at eight other charter schools in the city.Under state law, if more than half of a publicly funded group’s employees sign union authorization cards, they have the right to organize a union after receiving final certification from the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board.

“We are thrilled with this decision,” said Brian Chelmecki, a teacher at the Chicago Math and Science Academy. “The teachers want to work with the school’s leaders on all aspects of our kids’ education, and the best vehicle for that is a union.”

In a petition filed with the NLRB for the Chicago region, the Chicago Math and Science Academy asserted that it was a private employer and the “card check” law did not apply to its teachers. Rejecting that claim, the NLRB ruling said that both the academy’s operational practices and state law make it clear that the school is part of the public education system. The board noted that recent amendments to state law directed charter schools to comply with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act and included charter school governing boards within the definition of educational employers.

“The NLRB upheld the commonsense fact that faculty and staff at a public charter school are public workers. Their employment should not be considered any differently than for all other public school teachers in the state, and they should have the right to be members of a union,” said Illinois Federation of Teachers President Ed Geppert Jr. “We are ready to move forward and help the employees at CMSA enhance their careers.”

The Chicago Math and Science Academy has nearly 600 students and about 41 teachers and counselors. Once the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board certifies the union based on the authorization cards filed, Chicago ACTS can begin collective bargaining with school officials.

[Chicago ACTS press release]

 
 

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