Grand Center Arts Academy faculty vote to unionize | St. Louis Public Radio

Grand Center Arts Academy faculty vote to unionize

Dec 4, 2015

Updated at 11:38 a.m. Dec. 18 with certification of vote: The vote by teachers at Grand Center Arts Academy to become the first faculty of a charter school in Missouri to join a union has been certified by the school's operator.

The board of Confluence Academies, which operates the school along with four other charters in St. Louis, said in a statement Friday that it certified the vote in a meeting on Thursday. It said that of 59 votes cast, 54 were in favor of the union and five were against.

Our original story from Dec. 4:

Teachers at Grand Center Arts Academy voted overwhelmingly Friday to become the first faculty of a charter school in Missouri to join a union.

Preliminary totals showed that all but five of the teachers who voted favored joining the union. Confluence Acaemies, which operates the school, said in a statement that the vote remains tentative until its board certifies the results. The board is next scheduled to meet on Dec. 17.

Members of the faculty at the charter school in Grand Center first announced in September that they wanted to join the American Federation of Teachers, with an overwhelming number of teachers signing cards to say so. About 80 voters were eligible to cast ballots.

The general sentiment among teachers was that even though the atmosphere at the school is good, they would like more stability in employment; a better sense of what their financial future is going to be; and more say in how the school is run.

The election was held at the school on Friday, on a professional development day when no students were present. It was overseen by the League of Women Voters.

The school has 743 students in grades six through 12 and operates out of a renovated building across from Powell Hall. It specializes in visual and performing arts as well as academics.

A dance class at Grand Center Arts Academy
Credit Grand Center Arts Academy website

Confluence Academies, which also operates four other charters in St. Louis, said during the weeks leading up to the election that it respects the right of teachers to organize but it wants to make sure they realize what would result from joining a union.

“The foremost priority is the best interest of students and the learning environment – and teachers are a strong part of the educational environment,” Confluence said in a statement on its website. “We also recognize that our teachers and staff can decide against organizing ...

“Confluence encourages all employees to become knowledgeable about the issues and facts to make an informed, responsible vote.”

It also stressed that “the union can make proposals in collective bargaining but they are not binding. Confluence, by law, would remain free to accept or reject AFT’s specific proposals. The union will not be able to force Confluence to accept its proposals that Confluence does not agree to. Whatever is agreed upon by the Board of Directors and AFT will be binding for everyone at GCAA. This is true whether or not you join the union, so your vote is important.”

Missouri law forbids public employees, including teachers at a charter school, from going on strike.