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Educators at Pittsburgh Charter School Win Union

PITTSBURGH - Educators at Environmental Charter School here have in December for union representation in an official ballot conducted by the National Labor Relations Board.

A clear majority of ECS teachers and other professionals elected to unionize after signing a petition last month stating their desire to join the American Federation of Teachers. Voter turnout was 100 percent.

ECS teachers, nurses, counselors, social workers, academic coaches and educational assistants will now move to collectively bargain a first contract with their administration that bolsters voice in decision making and improves job security amid the school’s expansion plans.

The victory adds to a wave of recent union wins at charter schools across the country, as educators stand up for their kids and achieve together what is impossible to accomplish alone.

Lauren Palamara, a K-1 environmental literacy teacher and organizing committee member, said: “I am very pleased that my colleagues voted in favor of forming our union. We have worked hard over the past months to get to where we are today. We’ve had countless conversations together as a staff—honest and meaningful dialogue that we have already learned important lessons from.

AFT Pennsylvania already represents teachers and staff at four charter schools, all of them in Philadelphia. West Oak Lane Charter School was the first union charter school (2004). Olney Charter High School won its first union contract in 2015 and New Foundations Charter School negotiated its first contract in 2018. The unions operate under the umbrella Alliance for Charter School Employees, Local 6056, AFT Pennsylvania, AFT, AFL-CIO.

“I am excited to work with everyone at ECS within a democratic and reliable system of collaboration. Before us, I see a fantastic opportunity to define what an educators’ union can do in service of our students as ECS expands over the coming years. We look forward to envisioning—together with our board, parents and families, and the entire staff—what this union can be and how it will positively impact the students under our care. We have an exciting and important task ahead of us, and I can’t wait to get to work with my colleagues.” 

AFT President Randi Weingarten said: “Charter school professionals around the country are joining together for their kids—to boost resources, improve job security and negotiate a real say in how their classrooms are run. The ECS educators love their school, and just like their peers, they decided that a union could give them the voice they need to make it an even better place for teaching and learning. The union will now work closely with administrators to forge a truly collaborative relationship that will create the latitude and voice to help students pursue their dreams.”

The AFT now represents 7,500 members at 237 charter schools in 15 states and the District of Columbia. Since the summer of 2017, educators at 12 charter schools have joined the union.

Read the coverage in the Post-Gazette.

December 19, 2018

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