Earlier today, the Senate voted to pass HB 1120, the "Charter School Union Neutrality" bill. While versions of a charter school neutrality bill have been introduced since 2020, this is the first time the bill has gained enough traction to get out of committee and to a vote. Nearly 500 parents and charter school advocates expressed opposition to the bill, which is supported by the Chicago Teachers Union. Governor Pritzker is expected to sign the bill after it reaches his desk.
HB 1120 provides that any renewal of a certified charter must include a so-called "union neutrality clause." The bill defines a "union neutrality clause" as a provision requiring a charter school to:
- "Be Neutral" regarding the unionization of its employees – which has the effect of prohibiting charter schools from expressing a position on the matter of unionizing;
- Provide any bona fide labor organization access to school premises at reasonable times / areas to meet with employees about their right to representation; and
- Recognize union representation through majority card-check, rather than through a secret-ballot election.
Each of the foregoing is a sharp departure from the rights currently guaranteed to Illinois charter schools and charter school employees under federal law, which expressly protects employers' free speech rights and employees' right to vote in a secret-ballot union election. We continue to monitor the status of the HB 1120, and whether legal challenges will be raised in opposition to the bill.
In the meantime, charter schools should remember that the aforementioned neutrality requirements are not applicable to charter schools until they are incorporated into future renewal charter agreements with CPS. For this reason, charter schools should continue to seek legal advice when negotiating a renewal charter from CPS, or any MOU purporting to impose neutrality pursuant to HB 1120.