The James and Grace Lee Boggs School (162453)
Credit: Google

An under-the-radar ruling has a big chance to shape the nature of certain education programs in America.

Last month, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that Teach for America educators at a Detroit charter school have the right to join a union if they choose. During proceedings, legal representatives for Detroit 90/90, the private company that operates the schools, argued that members of Teach for America and long-term substitute teachers weren’t professional employees.

NLRB’s ruling declared that because they share the same responsibilities, evaluations and contracts as other teachers in their respective districts, TFA members were professional employees. This ruling means that the teachers can join the Michigan Alliance of Charters Teachers and Staff, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers.

The University Prep charter network tried to argue that its TFA teachers were ineligible for union membership because they were rendered temporary service workers by their two-year minimum commitment.

“We are really pleased to be recognized as professional teachers,” said Patrick Sheehan, a TFA member and second-grade adviser at the school, in a statement. “U-Prep hired us to teach just like other teachers.” Sheehan also told, “U-Prep hired us to teach just like other teachers. Making the legal argument that we are not professionals means one of two things, either Detroit 90/90 doesn’t respect the work we do with students or they lied to prevent us from organizing a union.”

Earlier this year, teachers at University Yes Academy voted to unionize despite their parent company, New Urban Learning, announcing that it was walking away from the school. New Urban Learning’s announcement occurred several days after teachers had announced that a unionization vote would be taken.

Of the 306 charter schools in Michigan, only six are unionized. Only three unionized charter schools in metropolitan Detroit:the Arts Academy in the Woods, Cesar Chavez Academy and James and Grace Lee Boggs School.