About 90% of the nation’s charter schools are non-union. The charter owners want it that way. It enables them to hire and fire at will and to make unreasonable demands on teachers, like a 9-hour or more work day. Some charters routinely expect teachers to work 50 or 60 hours a week. Unions get in the way of the owner’s control over the lives of teachers. Owners also like high turnover as they can constantly replenish their staff with those at the bottom of the salary scale and never have pension obligations.

The AFT announced that teachers at a few charters have voted to unionize. It is a drop in the bucket. But an important drop. Factory owners fought to keep unions out 100 years ago. Workers rebelled. Will teachers? Or is there an endless supply of college graduates ready to work two years and move on?

Here is the AFT press release:

AFT Welcomes Charter School Educators in Michigan, California and New York

Washington—American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten released a statement welcoming charter school educators into the AFT family following victories in Michigan, California and New York.

“More than 200 charter school educators and school employees in Michigan, California and New York will walk into their classrooms Monday morning with a stronger voice for their profession and for their students. I congratulate the educators at Detroit’s Cesar Chavez Academy, Los Angeles’ Ivy Academia and Ithaca, N.Y.’s New Roots Charter School on their efforts to win a union voice, and I welcome them to the AFT family.

“Their strength and determination—in the face of enormous odds—demonstrates their commitment to each other and the children they serve. And they will now have the support of 1.5 million AFT members beside them in their continued effort to strengthen their schools.”


On Feb. 7, in the shadow of Michigan’s recent passage of so-called right-to-work legislation, teachers and counselors on the four campuses of Detroit’s Cesar Chavez Academy won an election conducted by the National Labor Relations Board after a five-month effort. Cesar Chavez is the largest charter in Detroit and is the second-largest charter in Michigan. The Detroit victory was the first election conducted by the NLRB since a December ruling that charter schools may be considered private sector employers.

In the same week, teachers at two other charter schools successfully won access to the path toward certification under their states’ public sector labor laws. In Los Angeles, teachers at Ivy Academia received voluntary recognition of their union after 54 of 56 faculty members signed a union petition. United Teachers Los Angeles now represents more than 1,600 educators at independent charter schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Also, on the East Coast, educators at New Roots Charter School in Ithaca, N.Y., recently received voluntary recognition of their union at the end of January.