August 10, 2015
By Steve Wishnia and Neal Tepel
The National Labor Relations Board ruled July 31 that Teach for America corps members have the right to join unions. The board held that 14 Teach for America members at the University Prep Schools network in Detroit should have been allowed to vote in an election last spring on whether to join the Michigan Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff, part of the American Federation of Teachers-Michigan.
Detroit 90/90, the company that runs the network, claimed the Teach for America members were ineligible because they weren’t full-fledged professionals. "We are really pleased to be recognized as professional teachers," said Patrick Sheehan, a TFA corps member at the time of the election. "U-Prep hired us to teach just like other teachers. Making the legal argument that we are not professionals means one of two things—either Detroit 90/90 doesn't respect the work we do with students, or they lied to prevent us from organizing a union."