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Old Town School Of Folk Music Teachers Reach Deal For 1st Union Contract

Teachers are expected to vote on the new contract this month, a union spokesman said.

Teachers unionizing at the Old Town School of Folk at a rally outside the school's Lincoln Square building on Dec. 11, 2018.
Alex Hernandez / Block Club Chicago
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LINCOLN SQUARE — More than three years after unionizing, Old Town School of Folk Music teachers have a tentative deal for its first contract.

The union representing more than 200 music, dance, art and theater teachers reached an agreement with the school’s board of directors this week. The union is expected to vote this month to finalize the deal.

Union presidents Bill Brickey and Jessica Martino said in a statement the deal is a “historic day” for Old Town’s community that reflects the dedication of teachers who have “sown and nurtured the seeds of equity since our school’s inception.”

Details of the contract will not be public until after members vote on it. Last year, teachers presented a letter of support to have four seats on the school’s board of directors.

The signatories include Old Town School of Folk Music co-founder Frank Hamilton, Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy and his son Spencer, Half Gringa’s Izzy Olive, Chicago Underground Quartet’s Jeff Parker, Martyrs’ Owner Ray Quinn, The Hideout’s Program Director Sen Morimoto, and more.

School leaders said having faculty members on the board would create a conflict of interest and needed to be discussed further at the bargaining table.

Demanding more say in how the school is run, teachers began organizing in 2017 with the support of Arise Chicago. Teachers unionized under the Illinois Federation of Teachers in 2019.

Contract negotiations started in October 2019.

“The teachers have always been the backbone and heart of the OTSFM,” Rev. C.J. Hawking, executive director of Arise Chicago, said in a statement. “Through their talent and dedication to their students, they saved the school several times, including during the pandemic. Arise Chicago, music lovers, and workers everywhere are deeply inspired by these cultural workers who won a voice on the job and better working conditions.”

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