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BUFFALO, N.Y. (March 23, 2010) - Buffalo United Charter School teachers - who twice within the past year have voted overwhelmingly to organize - rallied Tuesday to demand the school's board of directors recognize their right to form a union under New York state law.
"Our teachers and staff are dedicated professionals who care deeply about our students and community," said Barb Coogan, president of the Buffalo United Charter School Education Association. "Our school will be made stronger - and our students' chances to succeed will only be enhanced- in an environment in which management works together with teachers. We are simply asking the board and administration to do what's right by the children and staff by allowing us to have a seat at the table; a seat to which we are entitled."
More than a year ago, 100 percent of the teachers at Buffalo United signed union authorization cards to affiliate with New York State United Teachers. The fledgling BUCS Education Association then filed for certification with the state Public Employment Relations Board.
The school's board, however, has since refused to recognize the union and its right to collective bargaining. It has also - through its for-profit, Michigan-based management company, the National Heritage Academies - hired a high-priced law firm to fight the staff's effort to unionize, arguing certification in this case is outside PERB's jurisdiction and that the authorization cards were illegitimate.
In spite of the board's delay tactics, a second vote was recently taken by teachers, with more than 90 percent showing their continued support to organize.
Charter employees, according to the 1998 Charter School law, are deemed "public employees." The board's refusal to recognize the BUCS teachers union violates the state's Taylor Law, which provides all public employees the right to organize.
"The Buffalo United teachers have spoken out quite clearly that they want a voice in what happens to them on the job," said NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi. "They deserve to be heard on matters including salary and benefits, curriculum and professional development, as well as the conditions under which they work. Their overwhelming response in favor of organizing should not be ignored. It is their legal right."
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