After overcoming significant anti-union efforts from their administrations, teachers and staff at the Chicago High School for the Arts (ChiArts) and Namaste Charter School officially
joined the IFT in March. Both groups will now be part of CTU-ACTS, the newly merged charter school division of the Chicago Teachers Union (Local 1).
“We are proud to welcome the 81 educators and staff from ChiArts and Namaste into the Illinois Federation of Teachers,” said Dan Montgomery, IFT president. “Despite the attacks on collective bargaining from Governor Rauner and President Trump, we continue to see educators and other workers join the labor movement because they know that unions are good for workers and our communities. The dedicated professionals at Namaste and ChiArts are leading the charge and inspiring others.”
The new members at both schools were frustrated with a lack of voice and transparency, high teacher turnover, and unstable learning environments for their students. Educators and staff organized to improve these conditions and more effectively advocate for their students and professions.
“Our union will help us create a learning environment in which students and teachers can flourish,” said Maia Golley, kindergarten teacher at Namaste. “During my 13 years at Namaste, I have come to love my students and their families, and I believe they deserve the very best. Now with a union, we will have voice at the table in creating policies that will be responsive to the changing needs of our amazing students.”
“ChiArts has the potential to be an international model for public arts education, but in order for us to get there, it is absolutely essential that the teachers of ChiArts have a say in the negotiation of the policies that impact our students and us,” said Dan Duffy, English teacher at ChiArts. “The students at ChiArts deserve consistency in their education and in the culture and climate of their school. Now that the teachers of ChiArts have the power to negotiate with management over issues that impact our students and us, that consistency will be possible.”
ChiArts and Namaste teachers and staff are the latest part of a massive movement of charter school professionals to come together in strong unions.
“Teachers do even more for students when they have the power to participate in decisions and advocate for students without fear of reprisal,” said CTU-ACTS Chair Chris Baehrend. “That is why there is a nationwide movement of educators at charter schools to form unions – with the epicenter of that organizing in Chicago – because we know what our students need and are fighting for a real say in their education.”