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ChicagoQuest Charter School Teachers Join Union in a Nearly Unanimous Vote

5/20/2014

CHICAGO – On Tuesday, Teachers at CICS ChicagoQuest Charter School in a nearly unanimous vote,  joined a union after months of their employer refusing to recognize a majority's wish to unionize. 96% of staff at the west side school voted for a union, joining fellow educators at the three other CICS schools as members of the Local 4343 of the Illinois Federation of Teachers and American Federation of Teachers.

In December, 94% of teachers and staff signed cards showing their decision to join the union and announced this decision on December 18th. Teachers and staff indicated that the lack of voice they had in the decision making at the school was a key factor in their desire to unionize. Like most charter schools in Chicago, the main authority over CICS schools is an appointed Board of Directors that does not include any CICS teachers, parents or students. CICS Board meetings, though subject to the Open Meetings Act, are practically inaccessible to those stakeholders. A Union gives teachers and staff a mechanism to advocate for the students they serve and the security to do so without fear of retaliation.  

 "We feel that this is a new day for the teachers, students, and parents who make up the ChicagoQuest community," said Alex Fishman, a teacher at ChicagoQuest. "For too long we've been voiceless against the bloated, wasteful bureaucracy that runs CICS schools and this has led to a high turnover, which short changes our students of experienced educators who will teach their families for generations to come."  
"We're proud have our colleagues at ChicagoQuest joining us in Local 4343," said AFT Charter School Local 4343 President Brian Harris, who teaches at CICS Northtown Academy. "We were disappointed with the pushback from CICS management when ChicagoQuest teachers and staff announced their intent to join the union, as it limited our ability to bring teacher voice into CICS schools, but going forward we will continue our efforts to improve our schools in coalition with parents and students."

While supporting the organizing efforts, Local 4343 is working in conjunction with the IFT to help pass HB 3232, the Charter Accountability Act, in the Illinois General Assembly. This bill will make crucial changes to charter school law forcing charters to be more transparent and accountable to taxpayers. The law will require a transparent process for admission lotteries, prohibits staff double-dipping, codifies how property is transferred once a charter is dissolved, and requires disclosure when advertisements for schools are paid for with public dollars. The bill advanced in the legislature today.   

You can read Local 4343's statement on charter legislation HERE.  

Chicago ACTS (Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff) Local 4343 is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Federation of Teachers. Chicago ACTS currently represents more than 800 teachers and staff at 29 charter school campuses across Chicago.

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