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Bid to unionize Detroit charter school system in limbo

Shawn D. Lewis
The Detroit News

Detroit — An effort to unionize a local charter school system remained unresolved Friday with no official results from an election held a day earlier.

The election was held to establish a union of teachers and staff at University Prep Schools.

UPrep Schools consist of seven campuses under the University Preparatory Academy and University Preparatory Science and Math charters. They are managed by Detroit 90/90.

"While there were 19 more no votes from those who did not want the union, Detroit 90/90 challenged the voting rights of Teachers for America teachers and long-term substitutes, claiming the teachers they hired to stand in front of students are not actually professionals," said Nate Walker, K-12 organizer and policy analyst with AFT Michigan.

Walker said the voting rights of 30 teachers were challenged before the election, during an April 30 proceeding before the National labor Relations Board. Of those, 20 voted Thursday, and their ballots are in question.

David Hecker, president of AFT Michigan, said the vote Thursday is "not determinative, as there are 20 challenged ballots, most of which result from 90/90 not considering Teach for America teachers and long-term substitutes to be teachers."

"TFA teachers and long-term subs were hired by the company to teach students and that is exactly what they do," said Hecker. "UPrep United/Michigan ACTS look forward to the outcome of the hearing. Moreover, we will challenge 90/90's illegal conduct throughout the campaign, including on the day of the vote."

Hecker said AFT Michigan represents teachers and staff at five charter schools.

Walker said a hearing before the NLRB will be held within 21 days. The petitioning union is the Michigan Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff, local 6482 of the American Federation of Teachers Michigan.

"This is a predictable and typical move on the part of AFT," said Mark Ornstein, CEO of Detroit 90/90. "There is no truth to it. We followed the letter of the law, and we ensured that every one of our administrators was trained in the do's and the don't's of responding to a union campaign."

Gregg Malone of Detroit, who has a 12-year-old daughter in seventh grade at University Science and Math Middle School, said she supports the organizing effort.

"Unions came into existence for a reason, because there are issues," Malone said. "I'm from Detroit — a union city. Unions have been around for a long time serving a purpose. I would not oppose a union at the schools."

Detroit Federation of Teachers president Steve Conn said he is "fully confident charter schools throughout Detroit want a union ... so they can join with DPS teachers to join the fight for the rights of the students throughout the city."


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