Thursday, May 26, 2016

Having it both ways

The Lusher Charter School board could have just accepted the results of a petition drive with the support of 60 percent of its teachers and chosen to recognize them a bargaining unit. Instead, they opted to force an NLRB administered election.

Some of you may recall that way back in 2009, some of us were pushing for the Employee Free Choice Act. This legislation would have, among other things, ended the unfair advantage held my management in setting the terms under which a union is formed. You can read more about that here. But President Obama and the Democrats who held large majorities in congress at the time sold out labor yet again and failed to advance EFCA. And so here we are.

Which is why the Lusher board was able to declare itself "neutral" and state that it would not countenance administrative coercion of teachers while simultaneously ensuring that such coercion would inevitably occur. Which it did.
The National Labor Relations Act prohibits employers from interfering with their employees' right to unionize. That includes limiting the extent to which employers may coerce workers or poll them on how they plan to vote.

But six members of the United Teachers of Lusher spread fistfuls of anti-union letters and postcards onto a coffee house table Saturday. Some came to their homes; they have received emails and calls at their personal addresses and numbers as well, they said.

One letter was signed by the organization's six top leaders, including Riedlinger and all three principals. Several came from the director of a competing, dues-based teacher support group. Some were anonymous, giving the return address of a mailbox and shipping center on Magazine Street, but spoke of "our" community and school, using Lusher's colors, logo and school principles.

The pressure came in person as well, said high school teachers Terry Marek, Beth Rota, Julie Sanders and Jerome White, and second-grade teachers Gigi Boesch and Bonnie Bowler. They said Riedlinger had pulled teachers into her office and asked them to vote no. Administrators stood up at faculty meetings and said they personally felt a union would be bad for Lusher, they said.

It's hard to go against what your boss says, Rota said: "It's intimidating, it's not comfortable and it's not fair."
The Lusher board and administration took full advantage of an NLRB process they knew would be weighted in their favor.  And then today they're turning around and saying the whole thing is illegitimate anyway. Just in case anybody gets any ideas about complaining.

In an effort to stave off any future attempts by teachers to unionize, Lusher Charter School administrators on Tuesday fired off an appeal of a recent ruling that the National Labor Relations Board has the right to oversee union elections at the Uptown school.
Meanwhile, an effort by International High School of New Orleans teachers to unionize has been decried by leaders at that school, who also have questioned the federal agency’s jurisdiction and have criticized the union in emails to teachers.

Lusher attorneys on Tuesday filed a request for review with the national office of the National Labor Relations Board, challenging a regional director’s decision that the agency has the right to oversee union elections at the school.

International High, which also was found to be under the agency’s jurisdiction, has not yet decided whether to file its own appeal.

The dogged resistance to union organizing showcases the divide between unions and charter schools in New Orleans. Only two charters in the city — Benjamin Franklin High School and Morris Jeff Community School — have approved teachers unions thus far.
This issue isn't going away. It's only going to become more important as the state run Recovery School District turns oversight of local charters back over to the Orleans Parish School Board.  By the way, do we know who is running for OSPB seats this year, yet?

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