More Cleveland Charter School Teachers Choose AFT

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By Michael Rose

May 6 — Teachers at a charter school in Cleveland have chosen representation by an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, according to election results posted May 6 on the website of the National Labor Relations Board.

Workers at Northeast Ohio College Preparatory School voted 21-3 May 5 to be represented by the Cleveland Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff. There are 29 workers in the bargaining unit. Educators at another Cleveland charter school voted for representation by the same union in March.

The vote marks the latest charter school bargaining unit to organize under the National Labor Relations Act, despite the fact that charter schools typically are funded with government dollars (70 DLR C-1, 4/12/16).

Workers at the University of Cleveland Preparatory School voted for AFT representation in March. Both schools are operated by the I CAN SCHOOLS charter network.

Vote Follows ULP Complaints

The bargaining unit at NEO High School includes both teachers and support staff, according to NLRB records. The petition for a representation election originally was filed in 2014.

The NLRB also issued two unfair labor practice complaints against I CAN SCHOOLS related to the AFT's organizing campaigns at both schools. One of the complaints, which was issued after several teachers were terminated, was settled, the union said. The other remains pending, Melissa Cropper, president of the Ohio Federation of Teachers, told Bloomberg BNA in an e-mailed statement.

“A hearing on the complaint is scheduled for June 1st but there are settlement talks in progress between the NLRB, the employer and the union,” Cropper said. “The election win today does not resolve the charges but we hope that a settlement can be reached that protects teachers’ rights and makes them whole before June 1st.”

The complaint alleges that the employer “coercively increased the scrutiny of employees performing their work because of their union sympathies and activities,” among other things.

“The win today at NEO High School shows a growing movement by teachers at charter schools to have a real voice in their students’ education and in their profession,” AFT President Randi Weingarten said in a May 5 statement. “The fight at NEO—like so many others—is driven by educators joining together and raising their voice to have a real say in the workplace to demand better teaching resources and quality in their schools.”

In a statement on the union vote provided to Bloomberg BNA, I CAN SCHOOLS said it “supports the teachers in their decision, and we are committed 100 percent to ensuring they receive the tools necessary to excel in the classroom, develop professionally, and fulfill the mission for the success of the scholars.”

Petition Filed at New Orleans School

Meanwhile, the AFT announced May 6 that teachers at a charter school in New Orleans had submitted a petition for a representation election with the NLRB.

Some 46 workers at International High School of New Orleans asked for an election after the employer didn't respond to their request for voluntary recognition, the union said.

“We now have 76 percent of our staff who have signed our petition to have a union,” Stephanie Jackson, a social studies teacher at the school, said in a statement. “After presenting this petition to our administration, and after parents and teachers contacted the school board to try and start a dialogue about recognition, we didn’t get a response. As a result, we went forward and filed a petition with the NLRB for a secret ballot to take place. We did this to expedite the process of obtaining recognition from the board, and to try and make that process as free from coercion and intimidation as possible.”

Requests for comment from the IHSNO's head of school, principal and chief of staff weren't returned May 6.

The AFT in its announcement of the Cleveland vote said it represents teachers at 226 charter schools in 15 states.

To contact the reporter on this story: Michael Rose in Washington at mrose@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Susan J. McGolrick at smcgolrick@bna.com

For More Information

Text of the pending unfair labor practice complaint is available at http://src.bna.com/d2U.