In Chicago, 1,000 teachers from 32 charter schools voted to join the nation’s most militant teachers union, the CTU. There are 125 charter schools in Chicago, according to CPS data.

“Unionized teachers at Chicago’s charter schools are one step closer to unifying with their counterparts in the city’s public school district, a historic move that would strengthen opposition to austerity and neoliberal education reform.

“Last week, members of the Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff (ChiACTS)—the American Federation of Teachers local representing about 1,000 educators at 32 charter schools—voted to merge their local with the nearly 30,000-member Chicago Teachers Union (CTU).

“The unification vote passed with the approval of 84 percent of voting members, ChiACTS said. Before the merger can move forward, CTU members will also have to vote on the measure this fall.

“Our overwhelming vote for unity affirms that charter educators are educators first, and servants of the public with a shared commitment to the futures of our students across the city,” ChiACTS president Chris Baehrend told In These Times.”

Charter lobbyists attempted to dissuade ChiACTS members from approving the merger by describing the CTU as “anti-charter school.” But union leaders dispute this characterization.

“CTU has been very clear that they do not have a problem with our schools. They have a problem with the charter model of public school management,” Baehrend told In These Times….

“Though CTU undoubtedly opposes the expansion of charter schools, as demonstrated by the union’s successful effort to win a moratorium on the opening of new charters last fall, Baehrend said ChiACTS shares this goal.

“Charter proliferation does not help the charter schools that already exist. It actually spreads the pot of money more thinly,” he explained. “We’ve been seeing the nasty effects of it lately. This year, we’ve had budget cuts, layoffs and enrollment decline in the majority of the schools we represent.”

This raises many interesting questions. The major funders of charter schools are militantly anti-union (the Walton Family Foundation). More than 90% of charters are non-union. The business model of charters relies on a constant turnover of young teachers who don’t stay long enough to expect a higher salary or a pension. While it is satisfying to see charter teachers demand a fair contract and the right to bargain collectively, it is important to remember that the reason every Republican governor and so many rightwing philanthropies support charters is that they see them as weapons to bust unions. Can the unionization of charters in Chicago change the anti-union purpose of charter schools?