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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

Why unify with the Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers (ChiACTS) and Staff Local 4343, and what would be the implications?

Unification would mean that Chicago Teachers Union 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 also 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 even 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 also allow us to use our collective power politically as a movement to advance public education and benefit the students and working families we serve. For example, prior to the establishment of Richardson Elementary, a traditional, public school in the Midway area, the school had been slated to become a charter before we helped to organize a union in the UNO charter school network. Advocacy and efforts to organize unions in charter schools have slowed the momentum of privatization, and will help stop future school closings.

Additionally, the collective effort of both unions has inspired other non-union charter teachers and paraprofessionals to organize unions and even prepare for strikes. At Passages, UNO, ASPIRA and now Noble, educators are standing up for themselves and their classrooms, united, in greater numbers.

How could unification happen?

Eighty-four percent of ChiACTS members have already voted to join the CTU. Now it is the CTU’s turn to vote and decide whether or not to accept our brothers and sisters in the charter local into our union.  

Why now?

There is more power in greater solidarity to organize new schools, raise the level of benefits in our contracts and win changes that benefit our students and our profession. Also, in an increasingly union-hostile and rapidly changing political environment, unification would mean the extra security needed to accomplish ambitious goals. We all need smaller class sizes, more investment in our classrooms and wraparound supports. We all benefit when we are not pitted against each other, but when we act on our shared interests.

What would change for CTU members and ChiACTS members?

Not much. ChiACTS would retain its internal council structure and its contract with each employer. ChiACTS would begin to elect representatives from its councils as representatives to the 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 Chicago Public Schools. State law prohibits our bargaining units—those who work for CPS and those who work for charter networks—from being under a single contract. State law does not, however, 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 decade.

Also, when a growing number of charter teachers in the city earn substantially less than our members, it is harder for the 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?

In October or November of the 2017-18 school year.

If approved, would ChiACTS members vote for CTU officers?

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

How would this affect CTU financially?

Full-time ChiACTS dues are currently $717 per year, and will rise in the coming months to better approximate the amount of dues that CTU members currently pay. CTU would see an increase in number of members and associated revenue.

I thought we were supposed to hate charter schools?

ChiACTS members are educators who care for the same population of young people as we do. Our policy criticisms of charter proliferation and models of school governance, privatization, lack of transparency, instability in our school system, school closings and turnarounds, union-hostility, and 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.

The CTU and ChiACTS have done a lot of common policy, legislative and political work within the Illinois Federation of Teachers and the American Federation of Teachers, especially over the past six years. We are working together in campaigns to fight special education cuts and defend immigrant students, and our fates have often been tied together. In fact, the CTU has been a key partner, along with the IFT and AFT, in resourcing and helping to strategize unionization drives within charter schools throughout the last decade. Coming together in one union, like they have in New York and Los Angeles, 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