Are we legally allowed to start bargaining?
Yes! Since we “sunshined” (presented our initial proposals) at the January 16, 2020 Summit Board meeting, we can begin negotiating with Summit on those issues. Summit does not have to sunshine before we begin negotiations; they just can’t bring any of their proposals to the bargaining table until they’ve sunshined them. In other words, there is nothing preventing us from starting to bargain about our proposals today!
Here’s the legal info:
The Educational Employment Relations Act (“EERA”) states that:
All initial proposals of exclusive representatives [union] and of public school employers, which relate to matters within the scope of representation, shall be presented at a public meeting of the public school employer and thereafter shall be public records. Meeting and negotiating shall not take place on any proposal until a reasonable time has elapsed after the submission of the proposal to enable the public to become informed and the public has the opportunity to express itself regarding the proposal at a meeting of the public school employer.
There is no requirement in the law that says negotiations about the union’s proposal can’t take place until the employer has sunshined their proposal. Since Unite Summit’s proposal was presented at a public school board meeting on January 16, 2020, the parties have been legally allowed to bargain. [See also Sacramento City Unified School District (1982) PERB Decision No. 205, which states that counterproposals need not be publicly noticed prior to the commencement of negotiations).
Charter School Unionization FAQ
What Does it Mean to Organize a Union of Charter School Educators?
Charter school educators unionize in order to make sure that educators have a strong voice in decisions that impact their students, schools and professions. By forming a union at their schools or network, charter educators have been able to negotiate union contracts that can improve pay and benefits, cut down on teacher turnover, address work/life balance, establish job security and ensure that teachers have a meaningful say in decisions that impact their classrooms.
Have Other Charter Educators Unionized?
Yes. There are over 250 union charter schools in California. Over 40 have unionized in the past 4 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.
How Do We Bargain a Union Contract?
Administration is legally obligated to negotiate with us in good faith. This means they can no longer make unilateral changes to working conditions without negotiating with us and our co-workers first.
Our democratically selected bargaining team will use all of the input and information we have gathered during the past year to write our contract proposals and will continue to gather input throughout the bargaining process. Contract negotiations typically take place during the school day and union bargaining team members will be provided with substitutes for their classes. Our bargaining team will have close mentorship and support from experienced union organizers and negotiators during this process.
Does Administration Want Us to Unionize?
Most charter school administrators would prefer that educators not unionize. Without a union, administration can make all decisions unilaterally. When charter educators unionize, educators have to be part of that process. They have the power to improve conditions for their students and their colleagues. However, some school site administrators understand that when educators unionize, they can help bring more resources to the classroom–which is a good thing.
Can We Get in Trouble for Unionizing?
It is not legal to discriminate against educators who are participating in unionizing their school. Participating in our union (including talking with coworkers and parents, wearing buttons or stickers, handing out flyers, and signing petitions) is legally protected activity. Most administrators understand this, and know that administration would get in trouble if they violate the law. It is of course important that we don’t interrupt our teaching responsibilities and are thoughtful about our strategies when we are engaged in union activities.
What Will Be Our Relationship to the California Teachers Association (CTA) and the National Education Association (NEA)?
Most charter schools form their own local unions, as we have done with Unite Summit. That local union is comprised of educators from their school or network and is led by educators elected by their colleagues at their schools. These local unions are affiliated with CTA (the largest statewide education union in CA; represents hundreds of charter schools) and NEA (the largest national education union in the US). CTA and NEA provide support for local unions and also help support educators and students by fighting for school funding and supporting legislation that supports teachers and students. For instance, charter school educators at Green Dot Public Schools (a large charter school network in Los Angeles) are members of the Asociación De Maestros Unidos, or AMU. AMU is affiliated with both CTA and NEA. CTA and NEA are also very supportive of charter school educators having a strong voice in decisions that impact their schools.
Do We Pay Dues?
Yes. Education union members pay dues to support their local, statewide and national unions. In fact, dues from existing traditional district and charter school unions help support non-union charter educators when they decide to unionize. Union dues are typically between $80 to $90 a month. However, 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 they are able to weigh the improvements they have made in their contract against the cost of the dues.
How Can I Help?
There are three roles for people who want to be more involved in building our union.
- Organizing Committee (OC). Representatives from each school who help form and build our union. The OC will be replaced by elected leadership after bylaws are put in place.
- Bargaining Team. Elected teachers from each school site who bargain our union contract. The Bargaining Team writes contract proposals based on input from teachers and communicates with their sites throughout the bargaining process.
- Contract Action Team (CAT). Volunteers from each school site who help the Bargaining Team communicate with teachers at their school site and solicit input and feedback throughout the bargaining process.
Union supporters who are not members of the OC, Bargaining Team, or CAT can best help by giving input about desired improvements at their school, and supporting the bargaining team.