by FW Noah
Teachers and staff at the Caliber: Beta Academy Charter School in Richmond, California and Caliber: ChangeMakers Academy in Vallejo won recognition of their newly formed union on June 1st. The Caliber Workers Union began when one 3rd and 4th grade teacher, Tyler Powels, reached out to the IWW Organizing Department to learn more about organizing their workplace. The staff faced multiple issues in their schools over the previous year, including communication between bosses and staff, inconsistent schedules with widening hours, and additional responsibilities piled on without compensation. The staff, most of whom are people of color, also had their healthcare benefits cut during the COVID-19 Pandemic in 2020.
Fed up, the workers got together and decided to organize. After a year of agitating, educating and communicating between both charter school campuses, the union announced in April of 2021 to the administration of Charter Public Schools, a family of charter schools in northern California, their intent to unionize. The staff chose the IWW because it aligned with their schools progressive intention to make equitable education accessible to underserved communities in the region, as well as its worker-oriented solidarity unionism compared to the more bureaucratic structures of other unions. Despite pushback and court intervention, the workers filed with the California Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) on April 21st of 2021, and a year later the PERB ruled in their favor, citing that the union had majority support from its 196 employees. This month, the administration finally recognized the union, and contract negotiations are soon to follow.
Union recognition is one step, but winning power and gains is a long struggle. Keep a lookout for wins and calls to action at https://caliberworkers.org/.
Solidarity with the Caliber Workers!