Charter Teachers Unionize at ACLC and Nea
The recent action by ACLC and Nea represents the edge of a movement gaining statewide ground as more and more teachers seek representation.
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For some, the subject of teacher unions elicits strong emotions and opinions, either pro or con. And when ACLC and Nea staffs decided to unionize, the action garnered national attention. Within Alameda itself, though, the organizing effort seems to have generated less public controversy than it might have in some other places. If anything, the new union has gained acceptance, even within the school’s management.
“I think it’s fine,” said Patti Wilczek, executive director of Community Learning Centers, Inc. “If that’s what employees need to feel empowered, there’s no issue from my perspective with that.”
Despite the lack of resistance to Nea ACLC United’s creation, major differences between the schools’ staff and management led to the union’s certification in November 2013, as almost three-quarters of the combined staff of 60 signed the organizing petition.
“Right now, we’re in the process of bargaining our first contract,” Blanche said. “We have a 75 percent agreement, but the other 25 is probably most critical.”
Among the issues still to resolve are class size, work hours, salary, and employment status. At this time, the union and management seem to have reached an impasse on the latter, which might end up in arbitration.
“We’re heading back to the bargaining table, and we intend to work hard throughout the fall to come to an agreement on our outstanding articles,” Blanche said.
According to the CTA, California has some 1,100 charter schools, just 180 of which are unionized. What has happened locally only reflects a part of a statewide push to unionize charters.
“We have very strong support from the staff, and we have very strong parent support,” Blanche said. “The parents understand the same things that the staff understands—that good working conditions lead to good learning conditions ... that they’re tied together, hand in hand.”
Management agrees that the existence of the union will not in any way harm the quality of education provided to students. “Our goal is to give quality education,” Wilczek said. “Union or nonunion, that is not going to change.”