ALBANY, N.Y. May 7, 2012 - In a ruling that could finally clear the way for teachers to unionize at the for-profit Buffalo United Charter School, a state Supreme Court judge has affirmed that charter school teachers are public employees under the Taylor Law and the state Public Employment Relations Board has jurisdiction over employees' unionization efforts.
Teachers at the Buffalo United Charter School plan this week to again sign union authorization cards for a fourth time, expressing their will to form a union and be represented by New York State United Teachers.
The National Heritage Academies, a privately held, for-profit charter management company, claimed since it managed the Buffalo United Charter School under a contract, the National Labor Relations Board, which referees private-sector labor-management disputes, should have control over the unionization process.
In a rebuke to NHA, however, Supreme Court Judge John Curran ruled that since charter schools receive public funding and the law subjects charter schools to the Taylor Law, which governs public-sector labor-management relations, the state PERB is the proper forum for Buffalo United Charter School teachers to seek unionization - even though the school is managed by a for-profit private contractor.
"The caring and dedicated teachers at this charter school have clearly expressed their will to do what is protected by the Constitution and New York state law - to form a union and bargain collectively for better pay and working conditions, and a voice in the operation of their school," said NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi. "Instead of wasting money that could be used to help students on high-priced, anti-union attorneys, it's time for National Heritage Academies to stop stalling and recognize their employees' legal rights."
Nearly every teacher at the Buffalo United Charter School signed union authorization cards and filed for certification at PERB on March 14, 2009. A similar case involving NHA was also filed in New York City by supervisory personnel at the Brooklyn Excelsior Charter School, which also sought union representation.
A PERB administrative law judge in Buffalo initially ruled for NHA. However, a PERB administrative law judge in New York City ruled in favor of the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, which was seeking to organize administrators at Brooklyn Excelsior. Although the full PERB board ruled in favor of NYSUT and the Buffalo United teachers, the conflicting Administrative Law Judge rulings set the stage for the state Supreme Court to decide the matter.
NYSUT, the state's largest union, represents more than 600,000 teachers, school-related professionals, academic and professional faculty in higher education, professionals in education and health care and retirees. NYSUT is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association and the AFL-CIO.