Teachers at two Brooklyn charter schools, in Lefferts Garden and East New York, have recently decided to join the UFT, which means the union will now represent hundreds of teachers and staff at 22 charter schools. In Chicago, more than 400 teachers and staff at a nonprofit network of charters recently joined an AFT affiliate, putting 20 percent of that city’s charter school teachers in a union. These are important victories for the labor movement, the teaching profession and the future of public education.
Many of the corporate reformers who now finance much of our nation’s charter school movement seek to hobble, if not eliminate, teachers’ unions. Some charter school proponents argue that unions interfere with school reform. But the real purpose of many in the charter movement is to defund public schools and privatize them. Unions stand in their way.
That is why the union movement at charter schools in New York and elsewhere in the country is so vital. Charter school teachers need a union for the same reason as other teachers — to have a voice, to be able to advocate for students without fear of losing their jobs, and to be treated like the professionals they are.
Unions need charter school teachers, too. To stay strong in the fight for high-quality public education, labor needs to represent as broad and deep a swath of people as possible. That includes both charter and traditional public school teachers and staff.
Originally published in the May 16, 2013 New York Teacher