Measure will protect educators from management intimidation, interference during union organizing drives
CHICAGO—The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) Thursday commended the Illinois General Assembly for passing a bill that protects Illinois educators from intimidation, retaliation and interference when they organize to join a union in privately operated charter schools, a move that will help educators improve the teaching and learning conditions in their schools.
The legislation, HB 1120, requires charter school operators taking public school funding to include a labor neutrality clause as part of its school authorization. Under such a clause, an employer agrees to refrain from opposing or taking a position on union organizing by their employees.
“This measure will put charter schools on notice that the state of Illinois supports workers and public education, and the overwhelming support for this measure reaffirms the general assembly’s commitment to working families and public education,” said CTU President Stacy Davis Gates. “The bill provides important protections for educators and the families they serve because the working conditions of our charter teachers are the learning conditions of their students.”
Protections provided under the new law will be critically important for charter educators whose schools and students face critical shortages of staff and resources, while charter administrators bring in outsized salaries and profits for their management companies. Meanwhile, the charter educators earn less than those in CPS district-run schools.
“Thousands of charter school workers have overcome threats and intimidation in order to organize and demand more resources for their students and sustainable careers for their educators,” Davis Gates said. “Forming a union is a decision to be made by educators, not management. Now thousands more will be able to do so with protections against the kind of abusive and unlawful retaliation and interference we’ve seen from charter corporations.”
The passage of the legislation comes after the passage of the Workers Rights amendment and amid an increase in unionization efforts across the country. Seventy-one percent of Americans now approve of labor unions.
CTU represents educators and staff at 35 charter schools run by 13 different charter operators. Contracts at those schools are up for negotiation this year, and the union has launched a groundbreaking strategy to coordinate bargaining at all the schools in an effort to win historic resources for students, combat racial inequities that have been rampant in charter schools, and provide sustainable pay and benefits for educators.
The need for the critical protection of charter school workers was highlighted last month when Hope Learning Academy decided to close its near West Side school rather than accept its staff’s decision to join CTU. Educators at the school voted 47–0 in April to join the union, and shortly after the administration announced it would close the school.
The school serves mostly Black special education students, and parents are outraged by the heartless decision to shutter the program, in which educators have provided transformational supports to students.
HB 1120, known as the Charter Neutrality Bill, passed the Illinois House last month and the Illinois Senate Wednesday, by a vote of 36–19, and is headed to Gov. JB Pritzker’s desk. The measure has broad support from labor and community organizations, including the CTU, Operating Engineers 399, Illinois Federation of Teachers, Illinois Education Association, AFL-CIO, AFSCME Council 31, National Association of Social Workers — Illinois chapter, and the Chicago Federation of Labor.
CTU looks forward to the governor’s approval and thanks the bill’s chief sponsors, Rep. Will Guzzardi and Sen. Celina Villanueva, for their determined and skilled leadership in passing this crucial legislation.