by Harold Hinds
Two recent legal decisions on employee relations have the potential to dramatically impact charter schools in New York. One, which is under review and may be overturned, puts the oversight of New York’s Hyde Leadership Charter School’s unionization process under the jurisdiction of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) instead of the state’s Public Employee Relations Board. The other deals with a Chicago charter school, and again found that the school’s employees were to be governed by the NLRB.
The significance of being overseen by the NLRB, the federal agency charged with administering labor relations law, cannot be overstated. It affects such things as whether or not a secret ballot vote to unionize is protected, with the NLRB almost always disallowing a “card check” or signature card collection process for establishing a union. For schools that are already unionized, the Taylor Act would no longer apply to collective bargaining efforts.
Recently, the Atlantic Legal Foundation published a must-read article on this issue that provides details about how the potential changes to the laws and regulations governing charter schools might impact your school.
The article is formatted as a Q&A conversation between Roger Kaplan and Thomas Walsh of the law firm Jackson Lewis P.C. It outlines the possible impact of the aforementioned recent decisions by the NLRB on charter schools and charter school employees.
The article recaps Chicago Mathematics & Science Charter Academy, and Hyde Leadership Charter School Brooklyn. In Chicago Mathematics, the NLRB decided the Illinois charter school is not a “political subdivision,” and therefore is covered by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), rather than the state’s labor relations laws. In Hyde Leadership, an NLRB Regional Director, relying in great part on the Board’s reasoning in Chicago Mathematics, again found that the charter school was not a political subdivision. Accordingly, all employee relations issues are to be governed by the NLRB, not the New York Public Employees Relations Act (Taylor Act).
Although Chicago Mathematics is not binding in New York, and Hyde Leadership is currently under review by the larger Board, both decisions have tremendous implications for charter school employees throughout New York. These decisions could mean that all State regulations governing charter school employee-relations issues in New York could be entirely preempted by federal law.
The authors speculate on what schools might experience if these two decisions were to take effect in New York. For instance, there could be possible benefits from being governed by the NLRA, like the potential broadened defense of ‘protected concerted activity’, and uniformity with labor relations laws in other states.
The full article, as well as other information about the Atlantic Legal Foundation, can be found at https://atlanticlegal.org/newsarchive.php.
 Chicago Mathematics & Science Charter Academy, 359 NLRB No. 41 (Dec. 14, 2012)
 Hyde Leadership Charter School Brooklyn, NLRB Case No. 29-RM-12644 (May 28, 2014)
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