Frequently Asked Questions
Why are we organizing a union?
The Union of Noble Educators (UNE) is forming a union at the Noble Network of Charter Schools to create a just and stable learning community for our colleagues, our students, and their families. We believe that organizing a union will improve decision-making by including teacher and staff voice, will improve school culture by making employment sustainable, and, most importantly, will improve our ability to help students achieve the best possible futures.
WhO IS UNE? WHO IS INCLUDED?
The Union of Noble Educators is a movement led by and for teachers and staff in the Noble Network of Charter Schools organizing for a collective voice. We are forming our union so that we can work together as educators across the 18 schools to create a just and stable learning community for our colleagues, our students and their families.
Anyone who does not have the power to hire and fire is welcome to be a part of UNE. This includes teachers (regardless of certification standing), office staff, disciplinarians, paraprofessionals, college counselors, alumni counselors, and social workers.
What is a union?
A union is a group of workers (us!) who collectively use their power and voice to advocate for their students, schools, and working conditions. It is a democracy that members create, so broad participation from everyone makes us/the union most effective.
What are we asking of our Employer? HOW DO WE PLAN TO WIN?
UNE members are already acting collectively to fight for positive change in their schools. UNE members at various campuses have taken on issues like receiving offer letters to guarantee employment, firing with just cause, lowering class size, eliminating fees for discipline classes or waiving fees for enrichment, and hiring staff where there is a shortage at their respective schools. By using our collective voice now, like launching our pay petition to ensure all of our colleagues have an equitable salary schedule, we are demonstrating at our individual campuses and across the Network that we are not going to wait to fight for what we believe is best for our schools.
We want to unite across all campuses to ensure that educators at each school are able to fight for improvements that will directly affect their students. As a union, we will have the collective power to do this.
We’ve asked the Noble Network and its Board of Directors to agree to a fair & neutral process in which the Network would allow educators to decide for themselves about a union, free from interference or influence. Instead, Noble has decided to actively campaign against UNE through captive audience meetings, all-staff emails, 1 on 1 meetings, and outreach to parents. Despite administration’s decision to fight our union, we are still asking Noble to agree to a fair process as we exercise our legal rights to unionize.
Our goal is to be able to sit down with Noble’s management at the bargaining table and work together as equals to address the challenges we face.
WHAT do we want?
- As the Union of Noble Educators, we simply want just, fair, and stable working conditions for all employees at every campus across the Network.
- We want a voice to bargain on our working conditions.
- We want to collectively address policies like the Student Code of Conduct, so that disciplinary practices are restorative, anti-racist and fit the culture of the individual school.
- We want fair and predictable wages for the demanding and difficult work of all staff (not just teachers).
- We want to retain our top performers with such predictable salaries and stable working environments.
- We want financial transparency so we can fight for the resources we need at our existing schools – be it more social workers, more college counselors, and more staff to best accommodate the number of students we serve.
- We want educators involved in democratic processes around the promotion requirements and other Network decisions that affect our students, our work and our schools.
- Most importantly, we want to build a union so that this lasts beyond us. We want to protect our voice not just for our tenure at Noble, but for all teachers and students who will be a part of Noble for years to come.
What is collective bargaining?
Currently, Noble can make unilateral decisions over our conditions of work and employment. Once we are certified as a union, we have the legal right to collectively bargain to maintain what is working and to improve what needs improving. It means that we have a seat at the table as equal partners with Noble to negotiate over our salary, benefits, and other terms and conditions of employment. Once our union is certified, Noble cannot implement changes unilaterally without first negotiating with us.
Do we have the right to legally form a union at Noble? What if I am a first-year teacher, TFA member, or Non-Certified Teacher? Can I get involved in a union?
Yes and yes! Teachers and staff at charter schools are considered private sector employees, and it is our legal right to organize a union under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). It is illegal for any employer to interfere with, discriminate, or fire staff for union activity.
Please see the “Know Your Rights” section of the website for further information.
What are union dues and why are they important?
Dues help our organization run. They support the resources it takes to advocate for well supported schools and defend member’s rights and interests. Our union will be a part of CTU-ACTS, IFT and AFT, all of which work to promote what we need to best serve our students. Dues support this work.
Dues are not required until we vote on a contract that we negotiate, but educators can voluntarily pay dues at any time. Currently, “full” dues for charter educators are $717.85 a year. Members making under $42,000 per year pay “half” dues and there are additional accommodations for part time staff. Increases in dues rates are approved by members.
Are other charter schools in Chicago unionized? What union would we be joining?
Yes! Currently 34 schools or about a quarter of all charter schools in the city of Chicago have a union, including the Acero (formerly UNO) Charter School Network and Urban Prep.
UNE is proud to join the effort of teachers and staff at charter schools in the city of Chicago to elevate the voice of educators in school decision-making, led by CTU-ACTS, a division of the Chicago Teachers Union. In forming our union, we are joining CTU-ACTS, and are standing in solidarity with our brothers and sisters of the Illinois Federation of Teachers, and the American Federation of Teachers, in the fight for the schools our students deserve.
How can I get involved?
- If you are a teacher or staff person at the Noble Network of Charter Schools and want to join us as we form our union, the first step is to read and sign our open letter.
- Join your campus group’s organizing committee and having conversations with people at your campus and others about why unionizing is important to you.
- Show your solidarity by wearing UNE buttons!
- Use your voice at your school to fight for what you believe is necessary to make Noble better.
- Talk to parents, alumni and community supporters. When everyone is involved, we all win.