By JoAnne Powers
Members of the nation’s largest union of charter school educators announced Friday that they have voted overwhelmingly to merge with the Chicago Teachers Union. The Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff, Local 4343 of the American Federation of Teachers, represents a thousand teachers at 32 of the city’s charter schools. CTU’s 30,000 members are expected to vote on approval this fall.
Chris Baehrend is President of Local 4343:
[Chris Baehrend]: “Our vote represents the fact that charter teachers, are educators of the public. We face the same challenges that district schools face: budget cuts, privatization, lack of accountability. And we feel that uniting our power with district teachers is the way that all Chicago teachers can fight for what our students deserve. We’ve been working with them for a long time. There’s been a lot of support between us, so I’m hopeful that we’re able to stand together as one local and defend the students and the working families.”
Baehrend feels that the CTU and Local 4343 have much in common:
[Chris Baehrend]: “…risking their own livelihood in order to defend their schools and their students. That’s the kind of militancy to be admired. Our members have had three overwhelming strike authorization votes this past year. In all three of those cases, the employer gave us everything we wanted at the end. Why? Because it was reasonable what we asked…but we had to show that we were willing to shut down the schools in order for them to do what’s reasonable…reasonable with taxpayer dollars.”