At a rally filled with music and celebration, teachers from Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music announced in December that an overwhelming majority of faculty signed cards to form a union and join the IFT to have a greater voice in their workplace.
The teachers began their organizing drive in November 2017 with support from local workers’ rights group Arise Chicago. Old Town Teachers Organization (OTTO) decided the best way to address issues at the school was through union representation with the IFT.
“We are passionate about the work we do and proud to be a part of this historic institution,” said Lindsay Weinberg, an Old Town School teacher of piano, guitar, and voice for thirteen years. “Our group came together fueled by a strong desire to do what’s right, to support our organization’s rich community, and to preserve its soul. It is because of our commitment to the Old Town mission that we believe the best way forward is to form a union with the Illinois Federation of Teachers. An overwhelming majority of teachers have signed union cards, and we have filed our petition with the National Labor Relations Board. As a collective group, we will ensure that our knowledge, talents, and voices are valued by the administration. And especially because our decision to unionize aligns with the culture and history of the American folk music tradition, we are asking the administration to voluntarily recognize our union. This is a huge and historic moment for our school, and I daresay that Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger would be proud.”
“The teachers at Old Town provide a community like none other. Their creative work has dignity, and they deserve a voice that reaches beyond the stage. On behalf of the 100,000 members of the IFT, we are inspired by their effort to organize and proudly welcome them to our union,” said IFT President Dan Montgomery.