TEACHERS and other staffers at Olney Charter High School voted yesterday to form a union, becoming Philadelphia's largest charter school to unionize.
The final tally was 104-38 in favor of the union, which will be under the umbrella of the Alliance of Charter School Employees, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers.
"It's amazing," teacher Sarah Apt said after the vote count. "It's just an enormous victory for our whole community, not just for our staff but for students and families and for anyone who wants us to be a good school."
Inside the school cafeteria, Olney staffers watched, many standing arm-in-arm, as a National Labor Relations Board agent counted the votes from a cardboard box. The group cheered loudly after AFT representative Evan Lundeen said, "Y'all got a union."
After many hugs and some tears, teacher Hannah Myers addressed her colleagues, telling them she was "proud" of their effort and that "we're going to make this place a better place for our students . . . Si se puede!"
Then Myers added, "How about Stetson is next?" and the gathered staffers loudly endorsed that sentiment. Staffers from John B. Stetson Charter School filed paperwork Monday asking the NLRB for a union vote.
Thomas Darden, chief operations officer of ASPIRA, which runs both schools, said the firm would work with the new union at Olney Charter.
"Throughout this process, we have always said that we would respect a vote of the Olney teachers and staff," Darden wrote in an email. "Now that they have voted in favor of union representation, we will negotiate in good faith with them to reach a fair agreement."
AFT President Randi Weingarten said in a statement: "We applaud the courage of the teacher-leaders at Olney who stood together in the face of [ASPIRA's anti-union] campaign, and we will work with them to ensure they and the kids they serve achieve the respect, dignity and opportunities they all deserve."