top of page


Old Town Teachers secure historic first contract

Teachers have been in negotiations with the Board for more than two years

CHICAGO – Teaching artists at The Old Town School of Folk Music (OTSFM) have come to a tentative agreement with the music school’s Board of Directors after a nine-hour bargaining session yesterday. With the support of Arise Chicago, the teachers in the Old Town Teachers Organization (OTTO, IFT Local 909) voted to unionize with the Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT) in 2019 and have since been working to settle a fair contract with the OTSFM Board.

OTTO Co-Presidents Bill Brickey and Jessica Martino made the following statement upon reaching the agreement: “This is an historic day for the entire OTSFM community. When OTTO members use our collective voice, we can create positive change in our school. This contract reflects the dedication of OTS teaching artists both past and present who have sown and nurtured the seeds of equity since our school’s inception, and it represents the power we have as an organized labor union in the city of Chicago.”

IFT President Dan Montgomery lauded the agreement and OTTO members’ solidarity: “When the folks at Old Town voted to join IFT, we were proud to welcome this beloved cadre of educators whose art celebrated the music of the labor movement. Their historic organizing drive and subsequent three-year fight for representation and fair compensation truly shows the power of a strong and steadfast union. We congratulate and celebrate our OTTO Local 909 members on this long-deserved agreement.”

“The teachers have always been the backbone and heart of the OTSFM. Through their talent and dedication to their students, they saved the school several times, including during the pandemic. Arise Chicago, music lovers, and workers everywhere are deeply inspired by these cultural workers who won a voice on the job and better working conditions,” said Rev. C.J. Hawking, Executive Director from Arise Chicago.

Specific details of the agreement will not be shared until the union’s members have reviewed it and held a ratification vote.


The Old Town Teachers Organization (Local 909) represents more than 200 music, dance, art, and theater teachers at Chicago's The Old Town School of Folk Music. Teachers worked with Arise Chicago to organize into a union starting in 2017 and voted to affiliate with the Illinois Federation of Teachers in January 2019.

The Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT) represents 103,000 teachers and paraprofessionals in PreK-12 school districts throughout Illinois, faculty and staff at Illinois’ community colleges and universities, public employees under every statewide elected constitutional officer, and retirees.

136 views0 comments


bottom of page