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The AFT announced that a charter school in Cleveland chose to join the union, despite the efforts of the charter operator to dissuade them. This is a tricky situation. On one hand, charter advocates don’t want their teachers in a union. Of an estimated 7,000 charter schools, very few have union teachers. So it is a victory when charter teachers join a union. On the other hand, as small numbers of charters unionize, the national union becomes less likely to take a stand against charters, even though many–if not most–were created by rightwingers like the Waltons to bypass unions.
“For Immediate Release
May 5, 2016
Educators at second Cleveland charter school unionize
Northeast Ohio College Preparatory High School staff join national charter union wave
CLEVELAND—Teachers and support staff at Northeast Ohio College Preparatory High School (NEO High School) voted 21-3 today to join the Cleveland Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff, the Ohio Federation of Teachers, and the American Federation of Teachers, after a two-year fight to improve conditions for children and educators. NEO is part of the network of charter schools operated by Cleveland-based I CAN Schools.
The victory at NEO High School follows years of persistence in the face of employer attacks. In 2014, in response to teachers’ organizing efforts at NEO and University of Cleveland Preparatory, seven teachers were illegally fired. The National Labor Relations Board issued a complaint against the employer, and teachers were offered settlement to make them whole. Then, in March 2016, the NLRB issued a further complaint finding evidence of illegal surveillance and intimidation of teachers engaged in organizing at NEO High School.
NEO High School is the second I CAN school to unionize in recent months, after fellow University of Cleveland Preparatory School educators also voted overwhelmingly in March for representation.
Miles Paterson, a high school science teacher at NEO, said: “Our efforts the last two years were all about the students in our classrooms. Students need stability in the classroom and the halls of their school. We voted to form our union today to make sure we can retain the passionate, talented teachers and staff that make our school effective.”
Jessica Coleman, a ninth-grade physical science teacher, commented: “Forming our union is about having the freedom to advocate for student-specific needs in the classroom. My co-workers and I want to teach in memorable and long-lasting ways, but too often we see talented teachers walking out the door. We want to be the teachers who show up for our kids, day after day and year after year. This is why we organized our union.”
Cleveland Teachers Union President David Quolke, who is an AFT vice president, said: “After two years, the principled and brave teachers and support staff at NEO refused to back down. They stuck together and stayed committed, not only to raise their voice and improve conditions, but to secure the best education possible for their students and families. We’re proud to welcome our new AFT members at NEO High School who join their sisters and brothers at UCP and across Cleveland in our collective effort to raise standards.”
Ohio Federation of Teachers President Melissa Cropper, also an AFT vice president, said: “Charter operators like I CAN are finally getting the message that for standards to improve, frontline teachers and support staff must be involved. We welcome the teachers and support staff of NEO High School into our union. The values of shared accountability and unmatched commitment to students we share, and working together, we can make an impact on education policy and practice.”
Across the nation, charter educators are exercising their rights to demand dignity at work and a better school for their pupils. Today’s victory brings to 226 the number of charter schools represented by the AFT across 15 different states.
AFT President Randi Weingarten said: “The win today at NEO High School shows a growing movement by teachers at charter schools to have a real voice in their students’ education and in their profession. The fight at NEO—like so many others—is driven by educators joining together and raising their voice to have a real say in the workplace to demand better teaching resources and quality in their schools.”