Will teachers at UNO at least get a secret-ballot vote?
Under the agreement, union organizers would be allowed to make their pitch for unionizing to teachers on school property, and would even be given personal information for teachers.
Director of Labor Policy
As we noted on Tuesday, the United Neighborhood Organization, or UNO, which runs a network of 13 charter schools in Chicago, reached an understanding of sorts with the American Federation of Teachers, or AFT. Under the agreement, union organizers would be allowed to make their pitch for unionizing to teachers on school property, and would even be given personal information for teachers. It is unusual for employers to give unions this sort of access, especially in charter schools. Unionization could completely change the character of UNO charter schools, and not in a good way.
While UNO may now be neutral about unionization if not outright encouraging its teachers to organize the question that really matters is still whether teachers want the union. UNOs administrators may, for various reasons noble or otherwise, prefer to work with the union, but the union is supposed to represent teachers. A union should be the teachers choice, not the administrations. And decades of experience show that the only reliable way to determine what UNOs teachers want is with a secret-ballot vote.
UNO officials may be tempted to take a shortcut by recognizing AFT without a secret-ballot vote, based on teacher signatures on cards collected by the union. But this card-check process is fraught with opportunities for fraud and abuse, and is bound to overstate teacher support for the union.
There is no guarantee that teachers will be told the full significance of signing a union card. (For instance, union reps may say that its just to get information.) Signatures may be gained through harassment (something that becomes even more likely when AFT has teachers personal information). Forgery is another concern. Union support tends to drop, sometimes dramatically, between the collection of cards and the holding of a vote.
We have asked UNOs office if they intend to have a secret-ballot vote to ensure that teachers can express their preferences without fear of retribution from the union or the administration. UNO has yet to respond. We hope that they will give their teachers the final say through a secret-ballot vote.