LINCOLN SQUARE — Teachers forming a union at the Old Town School of Folk Music filed formal paperwork to launch the process Monday and plan to rally with supporters a day later.
The rally outside the school’s building at 4544 N. Lincoln Ave. will begin at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday and include teachers and students performing live music.
At a Nov. 29 meeting with the schools board of directors, teachers gave a presentation about their decision to begin a unionization effort with the Illinois Federation of Teachers.
“Teachers at the beloved Chicago cultural institution, the Old Town School of Folk Music, filed for a union election on Monday. Teachers report having issues at the school for years,” said a statement from teachers organizing on Monday.
Since November 2017, teachers have organized a drive to create a formalized, collective body with support from the local workers’ rights group Arise Chicago.
“After continued and growing organizing, and forming the Old Town Teachers Organization, teachers decided the best way to address issues at the school was through union representation with the Illinois Federation of Teachers,” the statement said. “On Tuesday, December 11, teachers will announce majority support for the union and request voluntary recognition of their union from school administration.”
Dave Zibell, spokesperson for the Old Town School, said the school would let the process play out with the National Labor Relations Board.
“Today the Old Town School of Folk Music received the petition filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and are in the process of reviewing it. Once we have reviewed it, we will coordinate with the NLRB and union attorney to try and reach an agreement on the scope of the unit and election details. We recognize the teachers’ right to organize and are committed to staying neutral as we move through the process set forth by the NLRB.”
In October, the school announced it plans to sell its 909 W. Armitage Ave. building and use the funds to help create an endowment for the school. Teachers and students at the school were unhappy with this decision.
After the board’s decision to sell the Armitage building became public, 117 teachers, about half the teaching staff at the school, published an open letter saying they saw “no wisdom” in the plan.
“The members of the Old Town School of Folk Music community are walking around in shock and in mourning. Had we been consulted, had the idea been floated or even sold to us, we would, perhaps, not feel this way. We would — perhaps — have recognized the hard-earned wisdom that brought you to the decision,” the letter said. “But we see no wisdom. The site has been ignored and under-utilized for a decade; its potential has been squandered and bled away. It is not in fact a white elephant but a vital part of our community and of our business.”
Last week, after outrage from staff and neighbors, the school’s board decided to postpone the sale of the 909 W. Armitage Ave. building for three months.
However the board still plans to close the music store at the Armitage building by mid-January 2019 and continues to offer non-teaching employees buyout packages. Layoffs are also possible.
A spokesperson from the school was not immediately available on Monday for comment.
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