NLRB Declares Civitas Teachers Private Employees

From: Catalyst Chicago—Teachers and staff at three Civitas charter schools are confident as they focus on their next steps to get their union officially certified. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled yesterday that Civitas is a private employer, a finding that requires the employees now to hold a union election, even though the union already had been certified based on majority sign-up.

In April, three-quarters of the Civitas teachers and staff at the three schools signed cards stating they wanted the Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff (Chicago ACTS) to represent them as a union. Under state law, that was enough for the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board to automatically certify Chicago ACTS as the union representative, which the board did. But school officials filed a petition with the NLRB, claiming Civitas was a private entity that required an NLRB-supervised election.

“We continue to believe that these charter schools are public schools because they are funded with taxpayer dollars,” said Brian Harris, a special education teacher at CICS/Civitas Northtown Academy and a member of Chicago ACTS. “We are prepared to proceed with an election as soon as possible and are confident that our union will prevail.”

Civitas argued that its charter schools are essentially private schools not accountable to the public, despite receiving taxpayer dollars. In the brief Civitas submitted to the NLRB, it claimed it is a for-profit company not required to provide any type of annual presentation to any government body to justify its annual expenditures, and that it has no “direct personal accountability” to any government public officials.

“We urge Civitas administrators to work with the teachers and staff at the school to ensure the election is conducted fairly and quickly,” said Martha Biondi, chair of Chicago Workers’ Rights Board and an associate professor of African American studies and history at Northwestern University. “We applaud the teachers and staff at the school for working to have a say in their school in order to improve learning and teaching conditions that will ultimately benefit the children.”

Chicago ACTS is a joint project of the American Federation of Teachers, the Illinois Federation of Teachers and the Chicago Teachers Union. Chicago ACTS is an affiliate of the IFT.


Chicago ACTS brief to National Labor Relations Board

CICS/Civitas brief to National Labor Relations Board

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