The nation’s first charter school strike could happen here in Chicago as early as Oct. 19.
The United Educators of UNO (UEU), which represents teachers and support staff in Chicago’s 15-school UNO Charter School Network, has been negotiating with the network for over seven months on issues such as class size and management demands on union support staff and teachers.
The vote resulted in 531 of 532 members of UNO’s unionized workforce in favor of a strike if a deal cannot be reached. It would be the first strike in U.S. history of a charter school or charter network.
“We took this historic vote to show management that we are willing to go to great lengths to insure that our students have the best opportunities for a great education,” said Erica Stewart, a 5th-grade teacher at UNO’s Sandra Cisneros Charter School and a member of the bargaining team. “Our members have overwhelmingly voted to send a strong message to management that they need to step up and do the right thing for our kids and our schools. Now it’s management’s turn to show their dedication to the employees they claim to value — and the students whose lives are in their hands.”
UNO Charter School Network proposed a total cut in teacher and support staff pay through changes in step pay and cost of living increases and the right to reopen workers’ contract for further cuts in 2017-18. UNO also laid off all of its career counselors.
The workers said that a strike may be a necessary but unwanted step.
“We don’t want to strike — but we will if we must to protect the quality of education for our kids,” they said in a statement. “We’re defending great public schools and our students against unnecessary cuts.”