Union goes on the offensive with charter schools

Interview published on People’s World, by Lance Cohn, December 5 2009.

CHICAGO — On Dec. 6, Hugo Hernandez will receive an award at the People’s World/Mundo Popular 22nd annual banquet here. Hernandez will be joined by three other award recipients: South Austin Coalition, Illinois Campaign for Better Health Care, Carmen Cohen of HEART/AFSCME and keynote speaker Amy Dean, former president of the South Bay Labor Council, as honored guests at the event themed, “Unity in action for a people’s economic recovery.”

Q: Why did AFT decide that it was time to organize charter schools?  

A: In July of 2000, the AFT convention passed a resolution supporting charter school teachers. Former AFT President Al Shanker originally promoted innovative lab schools to develop new ideas to help public schools. It was hijacked by corporate America.

I first got involved in 2006 as AFT national representative in Florida. I was assigned to Pembroke Pines Charter Schools which had 350 teachers. We succeeded in organizing seven schools into a union in a “right-to-work state.” This first historic victory was the spark for a national organizing drive … //

… Q: What would you say is the future of organizing charter schools?

A: This is just the beginning. Our public school teachers and organized charter school teachers will play a vital role in future organizing drives. Solidarity is the key to success. We have just started a rank and file charter school advisory committee. This includes teachers from all over the country who have been organized or are having contract battles.

If you are able to help, please contact Chicago ACTS at 312-738-3010 or, on our website at www.chicagoacts.org. (full interview text).

(Lance Cohn is a retired teacher and 41-year member of the Chicago Teachers Union, AFT Local 1, and one of the founding members of Chicago ACTS).

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