Friday, February 8, 2013

Detroit charter teachers live up to Chavez name

Detroit's Cesar Chavez Charter School
Congratulations to the teachers at Detroit's Cesar Chavez Charter School. Chavez teachers, counselors and social workers voted Thursday to unionize the southwest Detroit charter school. The staff voted 88-39 to have the Michigan Alliance of Charter Teachers & Staff, associated with the American Federation of Teachers' state affiliate, become their official bargaining agent.

Today's Detroit News reports: 
Employees at the four-campus academy had pushed for unionization since last year, said Eva Coleman, an English teacher at its high school. "We noticed that parents didn't have a voice, we didn't have a voice," Coleman said. "Only a select group of people made decisions for everyone."
This should put to rest the ongoing debate that Leo Casey and I had with anti-union charter backers --Eduwonk (Andy Rotherham) and DFER (Joe Williams) going back to 2007. Leo and I pointed out back then, the hypocrisy of naming a charter school after a great union organizer like Cesar Chavez, where teachers were working without a contract, without a real voice in educational decisions, or without union representation.

Rotherham called our arguments "preposterous."  DFER's snarky response was, "No one's holding a gun to their heads." In other words, if teachers really wanted a union they would have one, or if they didn't like the conditions at school like Chavez, they were free to leave and go elsewhere.

Of course these arguments completely discount the years of charter operators' active resistance to teacher unions, including the use of high-paid union-busting consultants and claims that charters were actually private schools and that teachers weren't really considered by law to be public employees.

Detroit AFT organizer Nate Walker says the schools private operators, The for-profit Leona Group,  which operates in Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio, had refused to recognize the union without a formal election, and has used intimidation tactics to discourage organizing.

According to Eva Coleman,  an 11-year teacher at Cesar Chavez,  teachers want a voice through collective bargaining. She said mistreatment of some employees and a poor working environment had driven good staff members away.
“When I first started working here, we were united,” Coleman said. “It’s not that way anymore.  Certain people are favored over others. “We’re there for the students, and the parents…to make sure everyone succeeds, and make it more of a family environment.”
What makes the Detroit teachers' victory even more impressive is that Michigan is a Right-To-Work state, making unionization twice as difficult.


  1. I was there in 2003/4 when they started working on unionizing, and the persistence and determination I know it took to make this happen could only come from a place of love for justice!! Because the company did not want it. This took ten years, and the teachers did it! That whole community-alumni, neighbors, families- deserve this incredible victory. Leona can suck it. What a terrible company. I hope the union votes to fire them.

  2. The Leona Group, which owns the Cesar Chavez Schools (ironic--seeing as Cesar Chavez is THE icon for the United Farm Workers union movement), is a corrupt for profit business. It hires bully principals and allows anyone, yes anyone, to teach, be a principal,a counselor, social worker or whatever their heart desires. As long as you tow the company line that profits come first and the education of children comes last you will have a job. Thank God that teachers and staff had the courage to fight for a union. I would not be surprised however, if TLG suddenly decides to shutter these schools. This company has at least one federal lawsuit against it and has another web page that outlines bullying and racial harassment that has taken place for years. What happens at TLG is so outrageous it is almost unbelievable. Those of us who have worked there or still work there know what goes on daily. Truth, at TLG, is indeed, stranger then fiction. Thank you for printing this story. May the employees of CCA be victorious in their fight for a fair contract bargained for by their union--AFT. Viva la gente! Viva Cesar Chavez!


Agree? Disagree? Let me hear from you.