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UNO charter teachers vote to unionize

Teachers UNO charter schools have voted unionize. | Brian Jackson~Sun Times

Teachers at UNO charter schools have voted to unionize. | Brian Jackson~Sun Times

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Updated: June 3, 2013 3:22PM

Teachers at one of Chicago’s largest charter-school networks — run by the United Neighborhood Organization — have voted to organize into a union.

More than 400 teachers and staff at UNO’s 13 schools decided to join the Chicago Alliance of Charter School Teachers and Staff, known as Chicago ACTS, more than doubling its membership in a move national labor leaders hailed as key to their efforts to unionize charter schools.

The vote means more than 20 percent of teachers and other staff at charter schools in Chicago now belong to unions, labor leaders said.

The vote at the UNO schools had 87 percent in favor of joining Chicago ACTS, which is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Federation of Teachers, labor leaders said.

The financial impact on UNO of the teachers’ vote won’t be clear until the new union members reach a contract agreement with the charter operator.

The decision to unionize comes as UNO is facing a funding squeeze from the state. Last week, Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration suspended payments from a $98 million state school-construction grant to UNO after the Chicago Sun-Times reported the politically influential group had hired two companies with ties to a former UNO leader for work on its new schools.

Then, on Tuesday, the general contractor building the new UNO Soccer Academy High School on the Southwest Side halted work, saying UNO was behind in its payments.

UNO teachers make about $50,000 a year — more than $20,000 a year less than the average for Chicago Public Schools teachers, the Sun-Times has reported.

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