The new year will bring with it new members to NYSUT, as charter school teachers, college adjuncts and part-time staff, and lifeguards have all succeeded in their efforts to affiliate with the statewide union.
The Buffalo United Charter School Education Association, which has been fighting to be recognized as a bargaining unit since 2009, was recently granted certification by the state Public Employment Relations Board. PERB, in handing down its decision, also ordered the for-profit National Heritage Academies, which manages the charter school, to immediately begin bargaining with the fledgling unit.
NHA has been aggressively fighting the unit's organizing attempts since teachers first signed union authorization cards three years ago.NHA claims teachers at the school are not public employees, and the management company argues jurisdiction in the case should rest with the National Labor Relations Board.
Though a state Supreme Court judge confirmed PERB's decision and ruled earlier this year that PERB is the proper forum since charter-school teachers are considered public employees under the state Taylor Law, NHA appealed that ruling. The appeal is scheduled to be heard in April.
In all, teachers at the charter school have signed union authorization cards four times in the last three years, expressing their desire to organize and affiliate with NYSUT. Though NYSUT now intends to begin the bargaining process, the union anticipates NHA will not cooperate.
"The teachers at Buffalo United Charter School are caring professionals who want a voice in the education their students receive and the operation of the school in which they work," said NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi. "Each time they have attempted to exercise their rights under New York state law and its constitution, they have been met with intimidation and resistance. Instead of wasting money on high-priced, anti-union attorneys, it is time the National Heritage Academies begin doing right by its students and honor the legal rights of its dedicated staff."
PERB, meanwhile, also certified the newly created Mohawk Valley Community College Adjunct & Part-time Association.
The 380-member unit comprised of adjuncts and part-time staff organized earlier this year, with the hope of making its voice heard at the college on issues such as job security, opportunities for professional development and advancement, wages, and having the opportunity to teach additional courses.
The MVCC Professional Association, which represents more than 200 full-time faculty at the school, is already affiliated with NYSUT. A president for the new local is now being decided upon, and negotiations between the unit and the college are expected to begin soon.
Negotiations are also expected to begin for 66 seasonal "Grade III" lifeguards in the Town of Oyster Bay.
Lifeguards approached NYSUT's regional office in Nassau County this past summer and requested assistance in organizing. Soon afterward, the union collected a near unanimous petition and then formally requested voluntary recognition from the town.
The town indicated in October it would recognize the unit if NYSUT included language regarding the requirement of Grade III certification issued from the Nassau County Department of Health. With no objection from the lifeguards, NYSUT accepted the town's request and a "consent agreement" was written and signed by the union and town.
By affiliating with NYSUT, locals receive a variety of professional support and services that go beyond negotiations and contract agreements.