Teachers in Massachusetts made history recently when they became the first group of charter school teachers to join the Teamsters Union. The 80 teachers, who work at the Advanced Math and Science Academy Charter School in Marlborough, Mass., joined Teamsters Local 170 in Worcester, Mass., through card-check recognition. The vote was certified by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Department of Labor Relations.
“These teachers are going to make great Teamsters. They’re smart, dedicated, and they now have a voice that can be heard, and a mechanism to resolve their problems amicably. We’re excited to move forward together and negotiate the best contract for them,” said Mike Hogan, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 170. “Their efforts to organize were impressive, and we are thankful to the new members, and to Teamsters Joint Council 10 for their support.”
“The #1 issue is the employee at-will status,” said Paul Stuart, a Teamsters Local 170 organizer who worked with the teachers as they organized. “They have one-year contracts. They never knew from year to year if they’d be working again.”
Nearly 1,000 students in grades 6 to 12 attend Advanced, which U.S. News & World Report ranks the second-best school in Massachusetts. This is no doubt due in large part to the efforts of the teachers. Yet, the teachers cite a lack of respect and security as reasons for joining the Teamsters.
“A lot of key people, award-winning teachers, were let go. That decision cannot be made in five minutes in a back room so someone else can get the job. We need a process so that everyone can feel more protected,” said Lino Alvarez, a computer science and web design teacher at Advanced. “We looked at other unions but decided the Teamsters was the best union for us.”
“I see how vulnerable workers can be without unions. I’m a history teacher so I studied the labor movement, but in an academic sense. To see how it works firsthand is eye opening,” said Jessica Bowen, a six-year teacher at Advanced. “The Teamsters were so positive and every time we asked questions, we got answers. It felt right, like we now have the support we needed.”