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By Julian Peeples

A coalition of four charter educators’ unions from across the state rallied Wednesday with legendary organizer Dolores Huerta in their continued fights for a first contract.

California Charter Educators United (CCEU) is comprised of St. Hope Educators Association (SHEA)/SCTA, Alliance Educators United (AEU)/UTLA, Unite Summit, and Gompers Teachers Association/SDEA. Some of these educators have been fighting for basic contract rights for as long as six years, including fundamental rights like the end to at-will employment.

“We are charter educators collectively advocating for our schools, our students, and our profession,” the coalition stated. “Our hope is to build mutual support amongst the four unions as we continue to serve our students.”

The virtual rally comes as all four local unions continue to face off with charter school administrations that don’t seem to be interested in reaching agreement on fair contracts. Labor leader and community activist Dolores Huerta encouraged educators to keep up their righteous fight, recounting that Cesar Chavez once told her that as long as they kept fighting, they would eventually be victorious.

“We win by fighting,” Huerta told hundreds of charter educators and supporters. “¡Si se puede! ¡Que viva los maestros! We’re going to win this fight!”

SHEA began organizing in late 2016 and was finally certified in December 2019. Collective bargaining started in late 2019, with educators focused on teacher recruitment, retention and development, as well as collaborating with their school communities to best support students in reaching their goals.

The California Charter Educators United virtual rally drew hundreds in solidarity

“We want to end years of neglect and high teacher turnover,” said SHEA educator Capricia Williams-Alston, adding that St. Hope Public Schools in Sacramento have refused to negotiate respectfully and continues to act unilaterally instead of collaboratively.

Three of five Alliance College-Ready Public Schools in Los Angeles have already been certified for AEU with the other two pending certification. Alliance educators unionized to address high teacher turnover and improve the quality of education their students receive. To date, Alliance administration has refused to recognize the union and comply with two state orders to immediately enter negotiations.

“Alliance is doing everything they can to delay our right to bargain, but we’re determined to have an equal seat at the table to advocate collectively for our schools, our students, and our profession,” said Edgar Hermosillo, Alliance educator and AEU member. “It’s time for Alliance to do the right thing and bargain.”

United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) President Cecily Myart-Cruz delivered a message of support from the union’s more than 34,000 members.

“We stand with you!” she said.

UTLA President Cecily Myart-Cruz

Unite Summit represents seven Summit charter schools in the San Francisco Bay Area. Educators filed for union recognition in January 2019 and began to negotiate a first contract in March 2020. Their goals are to be a voice for themselves and their students in decisions made by Summit; to bargain for essential student services; and to address teacher turnover. The continued anti-union actions of Summit’s top leadership has caused Unite Summit to file five Unfair Labor Practice complaints and strengthened the resolve of educators to fight and win.

“We ask for your public solidarity to negotiate a strong first contract that supports our students including English language development and mental health supports, respects our professional insight, and strengthens our learning community,” said Sarah Rivas, educator and vice president of Unite Summit.

Sarah Rivas, educator and Unite Summit vice president

Gompers Teachers Association (GTA) was certified in early 2019 and began bargaining in April that year. Gompers educators organized to address high teacher turnover and other issues that impact the quality of services that students receive. Since then, they have reached tentative agreement with school administration on only three of 18 contract articles. GTA has filed three unfair labor practice complaints for Gompers Preparatory Academy’s (GPA) failure to bargain in good faith.

“We will continue to advocate for our students and teachers, and call upon GPA to bargain in good faith and work with us to reach an agreement,” said John Melendez, educator and GTA member. “Supporting students means supporting teachers.”

CTA Vice President David Goldberg thanked the charter educators for their dedication to each other and their students, saying that he brings the power and energy of CTA’s 310,000 educators to their fight for justice and respect.

“Our power is directly connected to our ability to fight for each other and our communities,” Goldberg said. “We’re here to support you in your struggle!”

CTA Vice President David Goldberg