Educators at the Academy of the City Charter School in Queens, NY announced this week that they are unionizing to better meet the needs of their students. The “yes” vote, which took place on May 21st, means that the teachers will now be represented by the United Federation of Teachers (UFT):
In letters given to the school’s principal and board of directors teachers outlined their reasons for organizing a union. The letters, signed by the entire teaching staff, called for a formal collective voice at the school and the recognition of educators as vital partners “to the success of our school and to the realization of its mission to empower students.”
The UFT filed the proper petitions and paperwork to the New York State Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) and the school’s trustees after teachers and staff signed union authorization cards. The school, which opened last year, currently serves 100 kindergartners and first graders, but will eventually be K-5.
“As teachers, we are the best advocates for the children we work with every day. In order to support our students, the staff at Academy of the City Charter School has to work as a unit. We are building the foundation of our school, and we need to put the students and their needs first. Forming a union will help us to work together to make informed decisions and support one another and our students,” said Samantha Feigelson, a kindergarten ELL teacher at the school.
First grade teacher Alice McNeil agreed, stating that “having a union at Academy of the City Charter School will give the teachers a strong voice in making decisions to best support the students.”
This kind of action represents an important step. The common wisdom among unionists and many progressives is to fight tooth and nail against the chartering of schools, a sympathetic and very understandable position. Charter schools, though, have become somewhat of an inevitability in many instances, making unionization of their employees a crucial next-best-thing moving forward.