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Teachers’ union accuses KIPP of violating federal law

Stephon Johnson | 2/2/2017, 4:46 p.m.
United Federation of Teachers officials called out KIPP Academy Charter School leaders recently for allegedly violating federal labor laws.
Education

United Federation of Teachers officials called out KIPP Academy Charter School leaders recently for allegedly violating federal labor laws. How? By actively encouraging faculty members to decertify from the UFT as their collective bargaining representative.

In a complaint filed with the National Labor Relations Board, the union states that several teachers were in danger of losing jobs if they didn’t sign a decertification petition. The union also accused KIPP Academy management of attempting to get members to sign a decertification petition at a mandatory staff meeting.

“Charter school employees, like other workers, have a right under federal law to organize and bargain collectively, rights that charter schools must respect,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew in a statement.

Federal law prevents employers from interfering with employees’ right to organize and take part in union activities and from discouraging membership in labor organizations of any kind.

“Specifically, on or about Jan. 6, 2016, KIPP Academy Dean Kesete Thompkins [who served as interim acting principal during the beginning of the 2016-2017 school year] informed several teachers at KIPP Academy that employees who did not sign a decertification petition and instead ‘went full union’ would be in danger of losing their jobs,” read the UFT’s complaint. The complaint also states that KIPP Academy violated the National Labor Relations Act by telling employees they would be fired if they didn’t sign a decertification petition seeking to decertify the UFT as their collective bargaining representative.

Most charter schools in New York City aren’t unionized, but the school has been a district-cum-charter for 16 years, and the staff members think they’re affiliated with the UFT. In a letter written to KIPP staff members, KIPP officials say that isn’t the case.

“We believe that the UFT’s unfair labor practice charge filing and the aggressiveness of their press release is a preemptive effort by the UFT to block your individual ability to decide whether or not you want to be represented by the UFT and be subject to the terms of the UFT Department of Education citywide collective bargaining agreement,” read KIPP’s response. “Except for collecting your dues from every paycheck, the union has not ever actively represented you. It did not negotiate with us on your behalf, it did not bring grievances and it did not carry out any other union responsibilities. Nor did the union ever object to the fact that, working with you, we developed teacher compensation, and other policies and practices on our own that were markedly different from what is provided in the UFT contract.”

The NLRB is still currently investigating the complaint.