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DETROIT May 7, 2015– When teachers at University Yes Academy (UYA) in Detroit filed a petition to have a union vote, the school’s management company, New Urban Learning, announced plans to walk away from the school, its teachers and students.But despite the challenges, on Wednesday staff voted to join the American Federation of Teachers-Michigan.
The teachers, counselors and social workers at UYA fought against anti-union behavior from their employer in their campaign for respect on the job. This vote certified the Michigan Alliance of Charter Teachers & Staff (Michigan ACTS), Local 6482 of the American Federation of Teachers Michigan, as the official bargaining agent for teachers and staff at the Academy.
Teachers and staff voted for union representation 27-18. University Yes Academy is currently operated by New Urban Learning. After the teachers filed for a union election, New Urban Learning announced it was pulling out as the management company at the end of this school year, leaving students, parents and staff hanging. Earlier in this organizing campaign, the NLRB found that New Urban Learning committed numerous unfair labor practices, but teachers continue to call on New Urban Learning to maintain their commitment to students and remain at the school and begin bargaining a fair contract.
“For me, forming a union is about creating a school culture in which teachers’ voices are being heard and our opinions valued,” said Rebecca Kissel, a 6th grade teacher at University Yes Academy. “It is about focusing on our students and working every day to make sure their futures and their well-being are placed above all else.”
“I am ecstatic that our voices as professionals can be finally heard to ensure the best possible education for our scholars,” said Brooke Harris, a 10th grade English language arts teacher.
“I am excited my colleagues and I will be able to hold the management company accountable for putting scholars first when they make decisions,” said Debra Chen, a 7th grade science teacher.
Next Thursday, May 14, teachers at University Prep and University Prep Science & Math will be voting to join UYA teachers as part of Michigan ACTS.
All three schools were founded by former State Senator Doug Ross, one of Detroit’s highest profile educational entrepreneurs, who runs the New Urban Learning and American Promise charter management organizations.
Brandon Moss, a social studies teacher at Arts Academy in the Woods and President of Michigan ACTS, welcomed the UYA teachers to the union.
“I’m so proud of all of my colleagues standing together to work for the schools our students deserve,” he said.