Lawyers representing KIPP Academy Charter School filed a lawsuit this month asking the courts to block the United Federation of Teachers from enforcing its contract at a school in the South Bronx.
“The United Federation of Teachers, AFT NYSUT, AFL-CIO is unlawfully attempting to force KIPP Academy Charter School to arbitrate alleged disputes under a classroom teacher collective bargaining agreement that is not applicable to KIPP, and under circumstances in which the UFT does not represent KIPP teachers,” read the complaint. “The terms of the CBA the UFT seeks to impose have never been and may not lawfully be applied to KIPP Academy. Further, KIPP teachers have never assented to representation by the UFT, and have objected to application of the UFT CBA to them.”
KIPP (The Knowledge is Power Program) said the teachers never voted to organize and UFT hasn’t helped them in any way outside of collecting dues. KIPP has spent months battling the UFT.
In February, the UFT filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board stating that several teachers were in danger of losing jobs if they didn’t sign a decertification petition. The UFT also accused KIPP Academy management of trying to get members to sign a decertification petition at a mandatory staff meeting.
According to federal law, employers aren’t
allowed to interfere with employees’ right to organize and take part in union activities. Employers aren’t allowed to discourage membership in labor organizations of any kind.
But KIPP isn’t hearing any of that.
“For 16 years after KIPP Academy was chartered, and dating back five more years to the establishment of the Knowledge is Power Program, the UFT played no role in negotiating or setting the wages, hours or working conditions of KIPP Academy teachers and staff,” read KIPP’s complaint. “Prior to the 2016 arbitration demand which led to this suit, the UFT never objected to KIPP Academy terms and conditions of employment for teachers and staff and it has never challenged the KIPP Academy dispute resolution procedure.
“It did not engage with KIPP on any issue related to the wages, hours or work conditions of KIPP teachers or staff when it was chartered in 2000, after any of the successive UFT classroom teacher CBAs since 2000 were implemented or in connection with any renewal or amendment of the KIPP Academy charter,” continued the complaint. “For 16 years, from 2000 until 2016, the UFT never brought a grievance or sought arbitration under the UFT classroom teacher CBA or any other UFT CBA.”
Most charter schools aren’t unionized, which opponents say allow them to skirt certain rules to the detriment of both teachers and students.