That was the message from teachers of the KIPP Academy Charter School in the Bronx and the KIPP Infinity Charter School in Manhattan to the United Federation of Teachers union, announced today. Both schools' faculties on March 18th (Wed.) submitted petitions signed by every teacher to the state Public Employment Relations Board to decertify the UFT as its negotiating representative.
"Decertification" of a union is the legal process for take-a-hike.
Of course, the teachers' joint statement issued this morning was more measured and did not castigate unions, nor should they. Rather, the statement included a recognition of unions by citing their "historical value."
The statement also mentioned, however, that UFT was acting on its own rather than in the interests of KIPP teachers it purports represent by failing to consult them before taking actions on their behalf. For example, the statement said that "UFT neither consulted nor informed the [KIPP Infinity] staff of its request" to begin collective bargaining negotiations with Infinity's managment. In addition, regarding KIPP Academy, the statement claimed: "a union-initiated grievance has been filed against [the school] without solicitation or support of the staff."
In other words, the UFT was serving its own ends, and not the teachers. So the teachers, by beginning the process of decertification with PERB, are saying "no thanks."
The question now is, will the UFT take "no" for an answer?
One of the selling points of unionization is that it facilitates proper communication between labor and management. Evidently, this was not the case at these two KIPP schools.
This decertification request comes on the heels of UFT's organizing the teachers at KIPP AMP in Brooklyn. The KIPP organization has challenged this organizing effort at the Brooklyn school, which also will be weighed by PERB. With these decertification petitions from the teachers in the Manhattan and Bronx KIPP schools, will the KIPP AMP faculty reconsider their decision to sign cards to join the UFT?
The critical matter in all of this is to respect and maintain the choice of teachers to organize, not to organize or change their mind about organizing (decertify). It should be their choice as mature adults, not a legal mandate one way or the other. In addition, when teachers make decisions like this, it is important they have all the facts about their decision, pro and con, so they are fully informed.
Arguably, New York law stacks the deck against management in this regard under the legal requirement of "employer neutrality"; that is, school management cannot make a contrary case against unionization while the union uses campaign-like literature and promises to get teachers to sign up.
The Public Employee Relations Board just got its in-basket raised higher with all the goings-on at KIPP schools in New York City, and will have to sort through it all in the coming months.
Hopefully, the teachers and students come out the winners.
for The Chalkboard
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