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Questions & Answers about Potential Unification between Chicago Teachers Union, Local 1 and Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff, Local 4343

What is unification?

Unification would mean that CTU members and ChiACTS members both vote to become one merged union. Neither CTU nor ChiACTS contracts would change with their employers, but ChiACTS would continue as a division within the CTU. A unified organization would mean that both unionized CTU members and unionized charter school members would all be members of the same union, CTU Local 1, even though we have different contracts.

Why are we discussing unification?

Unifying would support the growth of unions in every charter school in Chicago and build up the level of benefits in charter union contracts to match—then help raise—the level of benefits in the CTU contract, which sets the standard for the city. A merged union would allow us to use our collective power politically and as a movement to advance public education and to benefit the students and working families we serve. For example, prior to the establishment of a public CPS school in the Midway area, Richardson Elementary, the school had been slated to be a charter before we helped to organize a union at UNO Charter School Network. Our advocacy and efforts to organize unions in charter schools has slowed the momentum of privatization and will help to stop future school closings.

ChiACTS schools are also being hurt by charter proliferation, suffering enrollment declines, budget cuts, and multiple rounds of layoffs at most of our schools last year. In 2012, a few years after its founding, ChiACTS brought a resolution to the AFT Convention demanding a moratorium on new charters, school closings, and turnarounds. They have continued to be outspoken in the press.

Additionally, the collective efforts of both unions have inspired other non-union charter teachers and PSRPs to organize unions and even prepare for strikes. At Passages, UNO Charter School Network, Aspira, and now Noble, educators are standing up for themselves and their classrooms in greater numbers in greater unity.

How could unification happen?

Unification would require amendments to both the ChiACTS and CTU respective Constitutions, which require a majority vote of each local’s members in order to ratify any changes. Members of the CTU executive board and ChiACTS 4343 executive board have been authorized by their respective bodies, to engage in very substantive, respectful and exciting conversations about potential unification between Chicago Teachers Union Local 1 and Chi ACTS 4343.

As a result of ongoing discussions, the two organizations have developed a set of guiding principles which we will use to draft Constitutional language and will be voted on by CTU members in the fall of 2017.

Why unify now?

With CTU’s help, ChiACTS has grown quickly since 2009. Now, educators from the Noble Network have reached out to organize, and we have committed to support their union drive for educators’ voice. The CTU has supported ChiACTS’ growth and organizing, since 2010, by contributing resources to their work, which now amounts to 800-900% of current dues revenue for them. However, this is not sustainable into the future. Unification would help streamline expenses and consolidate shared costs. There is more power in greater solidarity, power to organize new schools, power to raise the level of benefits in our contracts, and greater collective power to win changes in our schools, city and society that benefit our students and our profession. Also, in an increasingly union-hostile and rapidly-changing political/legal environment, unification would mean some extra security for the resources needed to accomplish our ambitious goals. Increasingly, our fates are tied together. We all need smaller class sizes, more investment into our classrooms and wrap around supports. We all benefit when we are not pitted against each other, but act on our shared interests. The city and state budget crisis requires a broader and stronger set of forces to fight for public education.

What would change for CTU members and ChiACTS members?

Not much actually. ChiACTS would retain its internal Council structures and their contract with each employer. ChiACTS would begin to elect representatives from their councils as representatives to CTU’s House of Delegates and Executive Board. In the event that we unify, ChiACTS would still have separate contracts from those of us who work for CPS. State law prohibits our bargaining units (those who work for CPS and those who work for charter networks) from being under a single contract. However, state law does not prohibit us from being in the same union.

What are the benefits of unification for CTU members?

When ChiACTS members organize unions and expand membership, they negotiate a contract and move tax revenue out of management’s hands and into the classroom, in the form of dedicated resources for students and educator salaries. This decreases the financial incentive for charter proliferation, which has caused decreased enrollment, the greatest number of school closings in Chicago’s history, budget cuts, and layoffs at the majority of schools in the last 10 years. Also, when a growing number of charter teachers in the city earn substantially less than CTU members, that makes it harder for CTU to negotiate wage increases in our contract. All educators in Chicago benefit when all educators in Chicago have a union voice to defend and uplift the working conditions in all schools.

When could a ratification vote of each Local take place?

ChiACTS members voted in June 2017 to support unification with 85 percent of members voting in favor. A unification vote for the CTU will occur before the end of calendar year 2017. No changes will take effect until CTU members ratify the proposal.

If approved, would ChiACTS members vote for CTU Officers?

Yes, they would both have the ability to vote for CTU officers and Executive Board members, as well as run for those offices/positions in CTU elections in 2019 and beyond.

How would this affect CTU financially?

ChiACTS full-time dues are currently $717, and are likely to rise in coming months. Unification would not mean that all ChiACTS members move automatically to the current CTU dues rate. Any increase would be democratically approved by their members. CTU would see an increase in number of members and associated revenue.

Wait, I thought we were supposed to hate charter schools?

Like CTU members, ChiACTS members are educators who care for the same population of young people as we do. Our policy criticisms of proliferation and the charter model of school governance, of privatization, of lack of transparency, of instability in our school system, of school closings and turnarounds, of union-hostility, and of decreasing union density in Chicago schools, are shared by most ChiACTS members. Together, we can better fight any efforts to dismantle public education and pit unionized charter teachers against unionized district teachers.

CTU and ChiACTS have done a lot of common policy, legislative, and political work within IFT and AFT, especially over the past six years, and we are working together in campaigns to fight Special Education cuts and defend immigrant students. Our fates have always been tied together. In fact, the CTU has been a key partner, along with the IFT and AFT, in resourcing and helping to strategize the unionization drives within charter schools throughout the last decade. Coming together in one union, like they have in New York and LA, would be the natural next step in our work on this effort.

A vote for unification would be a hugely significant act that allows all Chicago educators to speak with one voice and engage in a powerful form of solidarity to defend and advance our schools, public education, and the needs of all the students and families we serve.

Chicago Teachers Union