News from AFT Michigan

Thursday, December 20, 2012
Contact: Nate Walker, (313) 539-7106,

Community members rally at CCA Martin Campus, both parents and teachers want a collective voice

DETROIT – Today, teachers and parents rallied together with signs outside of the Cesar Chavez Academy in Detroit, sending a message they’re ready to work together to improve schools in Southwest Detroit. Thursday morning, the teachers officially filed for a union election to be represented by the Michigan Alliance of Charter Teachers & Staff, which is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers/AFL-CIO.

“We’re here to send a message that we want what’s best for Detroit’s kids,” said Flordemaria Garay, social worker with the Cesar Chavez Academy Middle School for 10 years. “We’re in this together. I’ve been a social worker for nearly two decades, and realize the impact we have by giving a voice to educators and parents. We are forming a union so we have a voice in making sure we have a school culture that will support our students.” 

Teachers and parents held signs, and a number of speakers spoke to the enthusiastic crowd, including parents, educators, and Cindy Estrada, UAW Vice President; Rev. David Bullock, Rainbow PUSH Detroit & Change Agent Consortium; and David Hecker, AFT Michigan President.  

Employees at Cesar Chavez Academy have been working to organize since 2006. Their initial attempts were tied up in legal delays by the for-profit company that runs the charter school, the Leona Group, LLC. Parents say they support educators’ efforts to join a union and hope the Leona Group does not attempt to block the process. The parents have also organized a group, “Mujeres Mejorando Educacion,” which translates to “Women Improving Education.” They are also requesting recognition from the Academy. 

“By standing by the  teachers, we are standing by our kids,” said Karina Lopez, who has a 3rd grader at the Martin Campus. “I’m disappointed that as a parent my voice falls on deaf ears. It’s time to change that. I want a role and a voice in shaping my son’s education.

Governor Rick Snyder recently signed so-called “Right to Work” legislation, saying the bills are about giving workers in Michigan choice. Teachers are calling on him to back up his statement by supporting their efforts to choose to unionize.

“If this is about choice for employees, then let us choose for Detroit’s kids,” said Toni Carlbom, a special education teacher at the Martin Campus. “I believe families in Southwest Detroit deserve every effort to effectively serve their children. We teachers want to ensure Cesar Chavez Academy works better. Parents and teachers are united, and want to work constructively with the administration to give all students a quality education.”


AFT Michigan is a union of 97 locals and 35,000 members working across the state in PreK-12, intermediate school districts, community colleges, and universities.

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