Detroit's Chavez Academy Is First For-Profit School in State to Unionize

Labor leaders and teachers at Detroit's largest charter school are savoring a breakthrough.

About 150 educators and social workers at Cesar Chavez Academy in Southwest Detroit, the second-largest charter school in Michigan, voted last month to unionize by 88-39, organizer Daniel Kukuk tells blogger Mark Maynard: 

2013 02 13 062938"They elected to join the Michigan Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff (Michigan ACTS), an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). . . .

"This is the first for-profit school to go union in Michigan. The academy is the flagship school of The Leona Group, the nation’s third largest for-profit management company."

Chavez Academy, which opened in 1996, has about 2,200 students at four campuses for lower elementary, upper elementary, middle school and high school. It's among Michigan's oldest charter schools.

"It can be very difficult to successfully organize charter school employees," says Kukuk, who works for the Michigan AFT.

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Chavez Academy staff member at December organizing drive rally..
"Turnover is high. We’re also dealing with private management companies that are not interested in yielding the unmitigated power they have at their schools. . . .

"Charter school teachers have almost none of the protections that teachers in traditional K-12s have."

Maynard, a Ypsilanti-based blogger, asks Kukuk about the changed organizing climate in Michigan.

"Right-to-work legislation makes organizing even more difficult. The important takeaway from Chavez, I think, is that despite the attacks on organized labor in recent years, teachers still want to join unions."

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