April 11, 2019Charter News
They join three others that filed for union recognition last school year
‘Collectively, we plan on making Alliance a place where we can build our careers. Our students deserve nothing less’
Above, educators at Morgan McKinzie High School from left to right: Tony To (Biology), Joel Gariepy-Saper (English), Gary Carter (Filmmaking), Daisy Jauregui (Math)
Los Angeles – On Tuesday, April 9, 2019, an overwhelming majority of the educators at two Alliance College-Ready Public Schools filed cards with the California Public Employment Relations Board (PERB), authorizing United Teachers Los Angeles as their union. Since a majority of the teachers at Alliance Leichtman-Levine Family Foundation Environmental Science High School (ESAT) and Alliance Morgan McKinzie High School signed union authorization cards, an election is not necessary under state law. These two schools are joining with over 100 colleagues who filed for union recognition last year at three other Alliance schools: Alliance College-Ready Middle Academy 5, Alliance Judy Ivie Burton Technology Academy High School, and Alliance Gertz-Ressler Richard Merkin 6-12 Complex.
“Educators are our schools most valuable resource,” said Gary Carter, a filmmaking teacher at Alliance Morgan McKinzie High School. “By organizing our union, we can have a real seat at the table and a guaranteed voice in our livelihoods and the welfare of our students.”
Common issues for union supporters at Alliance schools include the lack of decision-making authority teachers possess when it comes to having a say in professional issues affecting their classrooms and their students.
“By unionizing, we want to ensure that teachers have a stake in decisions that are now being made solely by admin,” said Daisy Jauregui, math teacher at Alliance Morgan McKinzie High School. “We want to ensure teachers are validated for our expertise and our experience ‘in the trenches’ we share every day with students. And we want to ensure there is due diligence and due process for all educators.”
In addition to the need for a real voice in decisions affecting their schools, students, and profession, other key issues that sparked teachers’ efforts to organize include high turnover, as well as a compensation system where much of a teacher’s income is based on an evaluation process that is seen by many as not objective or fair.
From Alliance’s beginning in 2004, teacher turnover at the schools has been high, exceeding 25 percent of the teaching force per year across the network of schools in some years, and as high as a 40 percent churn rate at individual Alliance schools. Many teachers, frustrated by a top-down approach to delivering education, opt to leave after only a year or two, often seeking positions in schools where teachers already have a voice through collective bargaining.
“A revolving roster of teachers does not build a student-centered culture,” Gary Carter said. “Collectively, we plan on making Alliance a place where we can build school stability and our careers. Our students deserve nothing less.”
Interest in union organizing at Alliance schools has grown as teachers in Los Angeles have taken collective action to successfully advocate for funding, fair wages, and better learning conditions for students.
Teachers at Alliance first began organizing a union in 2015. Initially, Alliance’s school leadership said in its first memo to employees on March 13, 2015, that it would not “endorse or denounce any particular union or unions generally.” However, Alliance’s educators have been barraged by an employer-funded, and often illegal, anti-union campaign. The California State Auditor in a report found that the charter chain had spent over $3 million in campaign costs and legal fees fighting its own teachers and trying to pit parents against pro-union teachers. Alliance school’s behavior was so egregious that PERB issued numerous legal complaints against Alliance and Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant issued an injunction to stop the violations of educator rights. In addition, PERB has found Alliance management guilty of violating teachers’ rights on numerous issues.
“As a former UTLA-represented teacher and member, I have seen the day-to-day benefit of having a negotiated contract that both parties can accept,” said Bill Neal, art teacher at Leichtman-Levine Family Foundation Environmental Science High School (ESAT). “This frees everyone up to focus on the task at hand—providing the best possible education for our students. It would also make millions of dollars available that could fund student success instead of how it is being used right now—to fight against us having a voice and our union.”
Above, educators at ESAT from left to right: Nathan Green (History), Bill Neal (Art), Quinn Riddle-Ortiz (Government & Economics).
Since educators at three Alliance schools filed for union recognition last year, Alliance has refused to recognize their union, claiming that the only appropriate bargaining unit is all of the schools together. However, for three years, Alliance has consistently taken the position at PERB and L.A. Superior Court that each school is an individual employer and the home office is a vendor of certain services for each individual school. Each school is separately incorporated, issues its own paychecks, and has its own board of directors—the only body open to public meetings.
In spite of Alliance’s stance, educators are determined to organize and are ready to bargain with their employer.
“I sincerely hope and expect that Alliance, for the good for the entire Alliance community, will respect, rather than resist their [educators] wishes,” Congresswoman Maxine Waters said in a statement directed at Alliance. “We in California are and should be proud of our educators using their voices through collective bargaining to advocate for their students and to protect and advance quality public education for our communities.”