Labor Board also disappoints frontline workers by excluding three from bargaining unit.
CHICAGO, May 19, 2020—Educators at EPIC Academy College Prep seeking to join the Chicago Teachers Union celebrated Monday afternoon when the NLRB — the National Labor Relations Board — blocked their employer’s reckless demand that they hold an in-person union election at the school. Such an election would have forced workers to risk their own health and the health of their loved ones during the shelter-in-place order.
Educators’ relief was tempered by disappointment at the labor board’s ruling to exclude three colleagues—Security Specialists at the school—from the bargaining unit. “We are extremely frustrated with the decision that the security staff at EPIC would be considered guards alone,” said EPIC teacher Quincy Bloem. “These dedicated and kindhearted workers represent the glue that holds EPIC together; they work daily to build strong relationships with students and faculty alike to help make EPIC feel like a second home.”
Andrew Escalante, Tenth Grade Lead Teacher at EPIC, said educators will push through in their bid to join the CTU. “This decision will not stop us from establishing our union and working to ensure all members of the EPIC community are being supported.”
With those security specialists excluded, 42 educators will vote on joining the CTU. Ballots will be mailed Friday, May 29 and must be returned by Wednesday, June 24. Ballots will be counted Wednesday, July 1 at 3:00 p.m.
Management’s wasteful appeal: EPIC should have recognized the union and negotiated with educators immediately. An overwhelming majority of the school’s more than 40 teachers and staff have pledged to join the Chicago Teachers Union. Management instead filed a costly appeal with the NLRB. This wasted both time and money in management’s vain effort to break up solidarity among employees. Since the educators formally announced their intention to unionize on March 11, management has been calling employees individually to pressure them to drop their support for unionizing.
The charter management group’s attempt to prevent unionization has not only wasted resources, but has hampered adjustments to schooling during the governor’s current shelter-in-place order. Unionized educators have a formal structure and legal safeguards that foster useful dialogue over working conditions. Educators on the front lines are regularly in contact with students and families, and can detail classroom and community needs more effectively with union representation. Throughout Chicago, where education management has unilaterally imposed decisions, preventable chaos has plagued school efforts to adapt to the current emergency.
Fighting to effectively serve vulnerable students: Educators began their union organizing drive last year in an effort to address a number of chronic problems plaguing the school. Frontline staff are working to win:
- Legally mandated supports for diverse learners and English language learners;
- Staff retention with timely and fair contracts that reflect accurate roles and duties;
- Resources to support student academic, social and emotional growth;
- Evaluations that build a culture of support and keep great teachers at EPIC;
- Guidance counselors, social workers and a nurse to support students;
- Voice for teachers and staff to participate in decision-making.
At EPIC, 94 percent of students qualify for free or reduced lunch under federal poverty guidelines. Of the school’s nearly 500 students, 63 percent are Black, and 35 percent are Latino. About 14 percent are English-language learners, and 22 percent of students have special education needs.