Unite Summit: First Newsletter, February 2019

Dear Unite Summit members:

Thank you so much for supporting our efforts to unionize Summit Public Schools! A supermajority of SPS teachers have signed a petition to form our union, and we have filed it with the Public Employment Relations Board. We hope this newsletter provides you with helpful information about what comes next. We have also created a website to provide timely updates. You can contact us at unitesummitteachers@gmail.com if you have further questions!

We want to emphasize that the goal of our teachers is to create the best possible learning environment for all students by working in a cooperative manner with Summit’s leadership. In order to do so, we want to engage in a positive and persistent discussion of the issues that students, teachers, support staff, and leaders experience while at Summit’s schools.

Our list of concerns is still in draft form, and we want to solicit as much input as possible from Summit teachers as we move into the bargaining phase. At the top of our current list is adequate staffing for our schools, including mental health services for all students. We believe that Summit can and should prioritize the health and wellness of its students when making budgetary and staffing decisions. We also believe that our students are hurt when high teacher turnover interrupts our mentorship model. We would like to explore the root cause of our retention struggles and propose proactive solutions that respect work-life balance and treat teachers as professional educators.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the unionization process, here’s a brief summary of the steps:

  1. Build a representative organizing or steering committee of educators.
  2. Build supermajority support for unionization by asking colleagues to sign a union support petition.
  3. Submit our union support petitions to the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) and be officially recognized as a union. Go public and let administration know of our decision to unionize.
  4. Negotiate a union contract with administration that improves learning and teaching conditions at our school.

We have completed steps 1-3! We are now waiting for PERB to certify our petition. In the meantime, our next step is to solicit input on bargaining priorities and elect a bargaining team. Stay tuned for information about bargaining input meetings and a bargaining survey.

How do we bargain a union contract?

Once we have followed the steps outlined above, administration is legally obligated to negotiate in good faith. This means they can no longer make unilateral changes to working conditions without negotiating with our union. We will soon elect a diverse group of representatives from different schools and subject areas to be on our union bargaining team. That team will gather input from all our colleagues through meetings and surveys. They will then use that information as they negotiate our union contract. Contract negotiations typically take place during the school day and union bargaining team members will be provided with substitutes for their classes. Union charter educators will have close mentorship and support from experienced union organizers and negotiators during this process.

What about dues?

Charter school educators who are unionizing do not have to start paying dues until they have voted to approve their first union contract. That way you can weigh the improvements we have made in our contract against the cost of the dues.  

What if administration does not support our efforts?

Under California law, it is illegal to discriminate against educators who are participating in unionizing their school. Participating in organizing the union is legally protected activity. Threats, intimidation or retaliation are prohibited. Please report any such activity to unitesummitteachers@gmail.com so we can promptly address the issue.

Are we alone in this?

Absolutely not. There are over 250 union charter schools in California. Over 40 have unionized in the past four years. Educators at Bay Area charter schools such as Envision Education, East Bay Innovation Academy, Foundation for Hispanic Education, and Community Learning Center Schools have recently won strong union contracts that have addressed workload issues, improved pay and helped retain quality teachers.

Stay tuned to www.unitesummitteachers.wordpress.com for further updates. Thank you for joining us in these exciting efforts to improve our schools in the service of students and teachers!