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STRIKE AVERTED: Passages Charter School (IL) Reaches Tentative Agreement

May 25, 2017

Chicago-based Passages Charter School was set to strike on 7 a.m., Thursday, May 25, 2017, if it could not reach an acceptable agreement with its management organization. Asian Human Services, Inc. (AHS).

Had Passages followed through with its plans to strike, it would have been the first charter school to do so. Charter schools rarely unionize; however, it seems they are doing so more and more as charter school teachers and staff tire of living the unsustainable life of the at-will employee.

One of the Passages teacher complaints was that salaries were low, between $30K and $40K, even as CEO salaries were notably larger.

According to the Passages web site, tentative deal was reached at 11 p.m., Wednesday, May 24, 2017. The web site includes two statements: One from the union representing the Passages teachers, teaching assistant, and staff, and another from the AHS management, apparently posted prior to reaching the agreement.

Below are both statements. First, a brief word from the union, ChiACTS:

Press Release

May 25, 2017

12:15 a.m.

At approximately 11:00 p.m. May 24, 2017, bargaining teams for Asian Human Services, Inc. and ChiACTS, Local 4343, reached tentative agreement on an initial collective bargaining agreement.

Local 4343 represents the teachers, paraprofessionals, teacher assistants, administrative assistants, school counselors, case managers and office clerks employed by AHS at Passages Charter School.

In light of the tentative agreement, Local 4343 has canceled its scheduled strike planned to begin at 7:00 a.m., Thursday, May 25, 2017.

The parties are currently scheduling ratification votes among their respective groups.

And now, from AHS (Passages management), apparently prior to reaching the agreement:

AHS/LOCAL 4343 NEGOTIATIONS UPDATE

  • AHS has been bargaining in good faith with Local 4343, the union that represents the teachers and paraprofessionals at Passages Charter School, for more than a year.
  • Negotiations began in May 2016, shortly after the Union was certified by the National Labor Relations Board.
  • The parties have met on more than 30 separate occasions for negotiations over an initial collective bargaining agreement to govern the teachers’ and paraprofessionals’ terms and conditions of employment.
  • These terms and conditions of employment include both economic items, like salaries, health insurance and teacher pension contributions, and non-economic items, like union rights to access the Passages Charter School premises.
  • At this point, after more than 30 bargaining sessions, we have reached a number of tentative agreements on a range of issues, including health and safety, employee discipline/just cause, an employee grievance procedure, job descriptions, a grade entry policy and the number of after school events teachers must attend.
  • On April 26, 2017, AHS gave an economic proposal to the Union that included 2% yearly wage increases for teachers and paraprofessionals over the life of a 3-year contract, and that established salary schedules with built-in salary increases paid for years of service (“step”) and advanced degrees (“lane”).
  • Rather than respond to that proposal, the Union took a strike authorization vote on May 4, 2017.
  • We have continued to meet with the Union as scheduled for bargaining sessions, including on May 10 and May 19, 2017, and at an additional bargaining session that was scheduled at AHS’s request on May 23, 2017.
  • On May 19, the Union spent the first part of the parties’ scheduled bargaining session at a press conference announcing that, if the parties did not reach an agreement on the contract by midnight on May 24, 2017, the Union would strike on May 25, 2017. Despite this unfortunate development, and the late start to negotiations, the parties continued to make progress the night of May 19.  However, rather than continue to negotiate and receive another counterproposal from AHS, the Union ended negotiations at approximately 9:00 p.m.—so AHS requested to meet on May 23, 2017, in addition to another session scheduled for May 24, 2017.
  • At the outset of the May 23rd session, AHS tendered to the Union yet another counterproposal, which met virtually all of the Union’s economic demands, including a 7.5% base wage increase in the first year, and the establishment of a salary schedule with automatic step and lane increases in the second and third years of the contract. Meanwhile, as the parties’ session began on May 23rd, the Union announced a rally that it had planned for the following day, May 24th, right before the parties’ next bargaining session.
  • After more than three hours, the Union submitted a counterproposal, continuing to demand additional compensation and addressing the remaining outstanding issues between the parties. AHS responded to the Union’s counterproposal within the next hour, at approximately 10pm—in full agreement with every single one of the Union’s economic demands, and in full agreement with most of the remaining outstanding issues.
  • The Union did not respond to AHS’s last counterproposal from the May 23rd session. The Union then left the bargaining session that evening, while the AHS bargaining team remained ready, willing and able to negotiate.
  • AHS and the Union were originally scheduled to meet for negotiations again tonight, May 24, 2017, starting at 4:30 p.m. However, the Union notified AHS last night that, in light of the planned rally, the bargaining session would need to begin later.
  • At no point during these more than year-long negotiations has the Union requested the presence of a federal mediator.
  • AHS is exceedingly disappointed and disheartened that Union leadership, and the teachers and paraprofessionals, have continued to choose this unfortunate path of striking rather than devoting their efforts to good faith negotiations at the bargaining table.
  • AHS remains ready, willing and able to meet with the Union at any time, and any place, to conclude these negotiations. Given the relative miniscule distance remaining between the parties as of last evening’s bargaining session, there is every reason to believe that a tentative agreement was within reach at that time.
  • AHS does not wish to see a strike by its employees or any interruption in students’ education and well-being. Yet, if that is the path chosen by the Union, and the teachers and paraprofessionals, Passages Charter School will remain open to continue to educate the more than 400 students of refugee and immigrant families it is dedicated to serving.

Even though AHS states that negotiations were ongoing, note that the AHS offer for substantial teacher wage increase did not occur until after the strike date had been set.

Teachers who threaten to strike over wages are often portrayed as greedy, only thinking of themselves and not of their students. However, teacher desire for a living (indeed, a competitive) wage is not greed, and it promotes school stability. Teachers and students alike need stability in the operation of their schools.

If a teacher is earning $35,000 a year, then a base increase of 7.5 percent is $2,625, which only raises the salary to $37,625. This is not the annual salary of a greedy person.

I am a teacher in Louisiana, and I could not live off of $37,625. That would mean my monthly gross pay would be $3,135.42. If I reduce that by what I currently pay in taxes and benefits, my monthly check would be approximately $2,290.

Not greed.

I wish the Passages Charter School teachers and staff the best with their tentative agreement.

_____________________________________________________________

Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

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