By Derrick Blakley

CHICAGO (CBS) — One of the things that makes charter schools different may be starting to change.

At most charters, teachers are non-union. Now, labor is making a push to unionize teachers at one of Chicago’s biggest charter networks, reports CBS 2’s Derrick Blakley.

The United Neighborhood Organization, or UNO, has become an education organization. 13 charter schools, more than 6,000 students, mostly Hispanic, and 400 teachers. All non-union. Until now.

“We really believe that collectively, we can more effectively advocate for our kids and our families and our communities,” said eighth grade teacher Jessica Hanzlik.

Hanzlik is an UNO charter school teacher at the forefront of the unionization effort and believes the teachers union can cooperate with management for the better.

“We’re creating a new union, and so the union will look like what we want it to look like,” said Hanzlik.

The Chicago Teachers Union won’t be representing the charter school teachers and they expect an approach that’s far less confrontational.

“If the employer doesn’t really want a union in there, they can take a lot of steps to work against that,” said Dan Montgomery, President of the Illinois Federation of Teachers.

But UNO has done the opposite. While it’s officially neutral on the union question, it doesn’t see a union as a barrier to effective management.

“We want to make sure our teachers have the ability to bargain collectively, if they so desire,” said UNO Chief Strategic Officer Phil Mullins.

Charter schools represent a real growth opportunity for unions.

CPS plans to open 60 more charters over the next five years, which would make a quarter of CPS schools privately-run and unless they’re unionized each teacher there represents a lost job for organized labor.

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