UTLA files an un­fair prac­tice com­plaint

Union says Al­liance char­ter man­agers are in­ter­fer­ing with ef­forts to or­ga­nize teach­ers.

Los Angeles Times - - LOS ANGELES - By Zahira Tor­res zahira.tor­res@la­times.com Twit­ter: @za­hi­ra­tor­res

Nearly a month af­ter launch­ing a cam­paign to union­ize the largest char­ter group in Los An­ge­les, some teach­ers are ac­cus­ing school lead­ers of vi­o­lat­ing state laws that al­low ed­u­ca­tors to or­ga­nize with­out fear of reprisal.

United Teach­ers Los An­ge­les, which is work­ing with ed­u­ca­tors at Al­liance Col­lege-Ready Public Schools, filed an un­fair prac­tice charge with the state this week, al­leg­ing that char­ter school lead­ers have started an anti-union cam­paign, blocked emails to em­ploy­ees and de­nied or­ga­niz­ers ac­cess to school build­ings af­ter work hours.

The out­come of the drive to union­ize Al­liance could al­ter the path of school re­form in the state, where pub­licly funded but pri­vately man­aged char­ter schools have boomed. Those cam­puses have op­er­ated with­out col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing agree­ments with teach­ers.

“This is­sue has al­ways been one of ed­u­ca­tors at­tempt­ing to form a union to ad­vo­cate for their stu­dents, ad­vo­cate for their pro­fes­sion and ad­vo­cate for sus­tain­abil­ity in their schools,” UTLA Pres­i­dent Alex Ca­puto-Pearl said. “It has been dis­ap­point­ing that the Al­liance man­age­ment has bro­ken the law, which we’re go­ing to show. And, that the Al­liance man­age­ment has been us­ing what lat­i­tude there un­for­tu­nately is within the law to in­tim­i­date folks dur­ing work time.”

Al­liance spokes­woman Catherine Suitor said the char­ter group is not in­ter­fer­ing with em­ploy­ees’ right to union­ize, but staff mem­bers will share “their opin­ions, facts and ex­pe­ri­ences about union­iza­tion.”

“In fact, we be­lieve it is our re­spon­si­bil­ity to en­sure our teach­ers have a full set of facts to make an in­formed de­ci­sion — not just opin­ions from UTLA, an or­ga­ni­za­tion that for years has been op­posed to char­ter schools and Al­liance in par­tic­u­lar,” Suitor said in an email.

Nearly 70 teach­ers and coun­selors at Al­liance sent a let­ter last month to school lead­ers, ex­plain­ing their in­ten­tion to form a union. Union­iz­ing would re­quire ma­jor­ity sup­port from ed­u­ca­tors at Al­liance schools.

Al­liance lead­ers said they would not in­ter­fere with ed­u­ca­tors’ rights to de­cide whether to or­ga­nize.

The weeks that fol­lowed saw a flurry of ac­tiv­ity.

Teach­ers who be­lieve or­ga­niz­ing will give ed­u­ca­tors a greater voice in de­ci­sions that af­fect teach­ing set up a web­site, sent emails and planned meet­ings on union­iz­ing. They listed among their pri­or­i­ties: teacher re­ten­tion, class size, bud­get trans­parency, due process rights and fair eval­u­a­tions and com­pen­sa­tion.

Char­ter lead­ers set up their own web­site, which fea­tures teach­ers who op­pose union­iz­ing, and sent emails to ed­u­ca­tors, in­clud­ing one from Al­liance Pres­i­dent and Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Dan Katzir ask­ing for a “fair op­por­tu­nity” to prove the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s com­mit­ment to em­ploy­ees be­fore they made any de­ci­sions.

Al­liance also sent a let­ter to par­ents about the ef­forts that the char­ter group said had “the po­ten­tial to sig­nif­i­cantly im­pact the in­de­pen­dence and flex­i­bil­ity that have his­tor­i­cally been hall­marks of our suc­cess.”

Sam Tay­lor Jr., a teacher in­ter­ested in a union, said he was en­cour­aged by the ini­tial re­sponse of ad­min­is­tra­tors but emails sent to teach­ers and par­ents since then have left some em­ploy­ees fear­ing for their jobs.

“The fact that they are push­ing that en­vi­ron­ment — where peo­ple feel un­com­fort­able mak­ing a de­ci­sion that they have a legal right to make — speaks vol­umes about the choices that they are mak­ing and it stands in stark con­trast to what they said on that first day,” Tay­lor said.

Tina Wy­att is among those who op­pose union­iza­tion. The 16-year teacher, who has been at Al­liance for four years, said she does not be­lieve the is­sues raised by her col­leagues are a prob­lem at the 11,000-stu­dent char­ter or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Wy­att said the emails and let­ters from Al­liance of­fered in­for­ma­tion to em­ploy­ees that they were not get­ting from teach­ers who sup­port union­iza­tion.

“I’ve heard teach­ers say this will give us a voice,” Wy­att said. “We have a voice. I went to one of the meet­ings where they talked about union­iz­ing. I never got a straight an­swer on any­thing. I felt like I was talk­ing to a used car sales­man.”

In its un­fair prac­tice al­le­ga­tion against Al­liance, the union points to pro­vi­sions in the law that say em­ployee or­ga­ni­za­tions have the right to rep­re­sent their mem­bers in their em­ploy­ment re­la­tions with public school dis­tricts and that they have the right to com­mu­ni­cate with em­ploy­ees and “use in­sti­tu­tional fa­cil­i­ties at rea­son­able times for the pur­pose of meet­ings con­cerned with the ex­er­cise of the rights.”

UTLA al­leges that the char­ter man­age­ment or­ga­ni­za­tion vi­o­lated the law by twice deny­ing union or­ga­niz­ers ac­cess to school fa­cil­i­ties and by block­ing cor­re­spon­dence sent to em­ploy­ees’ work emails.

The union asks the Public Em­ploy­ment Re­la­tions Board for reme­dies that in­clude mak­ing the char­ter group “ac­knowl­edge in writ­ing its re­spon­si­bil­ity to main­tain an en­vi­ron­ment free of threats of reprisal or re­tal­i­a­tion for ac­tions that oc­cur within the venue and scope of rep­re­sen­ta­tion.”

The com­plaint, filed Tues­day, also seeks an or­der re­quir­ing the char­ter to stop in­ter­fer­ing with em­ploy­ees and the union, re­frain from co­erc­ing em­ploy­ees and deny­ing their ac­cess to fa­cil­i­ties and email ac­counts.

Luis Sinco Los An­ge­les Times

FRANKLIN High teacher Joseph Nguyen joins col­leagues to press con­tract de­mands in Fe­bru­ary.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.