Writer Hamilton Nolan reports that the leadership at Cesar Chavez PCS’s Prep Campus is not sitting still while teachers attempt to bring in the American Federation of Teachers at the school. According to Mr. Nolan, “Yesterday [last Monday], a letter from the school’s principal and assistant principal went out to all teachers and staff. They were informed that there will be an ‘important meeting’ today at 3:30 to discuss the union election, because ‘we are now placed in an accelerated process that has huge implications on ‘[sic]’ how we function as a school and a system.'”
The notice then goes on to explain procedures as outlined by the National Labor Relations Board regarding the election of a union and concludes with the statement, “Over the next few days, there will be a series of events and meetings in an effort to inform all stakeholders of the position of our school and engage in discussions around what this election could mean and the effect it will have on not only our scholars and staff, but our entire Chavez community.”
In my last post on this subject I asked what Chavez founder and current board member Irasema Salcido thinks of this effort. Now the answer is clear. According to Mr. Nolan:
“Cesar Chavez Prep’s principal and assistant principal have not responded to a request for comment. But Claudia Andrade, an English Language Arts teacher at the school, told us, ‘Given that our namesake is Cesar Chavez, we expected the Cesar Chavez PCS board would have been more receptive towards our efforts to unionize. Instead, they decided to push back by hiring a law firm and holding a mandatory meeting today. This meeting will take away valuable time that teachers could be spending with scholars in the classroom improving grades.’ And Christian Herr, a science teacher, said ‘Despite our namesake, we never really expected our board to come to the table with us without a fight… Everyone I’ve talked to today has said something along the lines of ‘bring it on.’ We’re ready, and we’ll win.’”
Interestingly, a web search on the subject of efforts to organize at Chavez PCS turned up a Washington CityPaper article from 2010 stating that the charter settled with former Capitol Hill history teacher David Krakow for $15,000 in his claim that he was terminated from the school after he tried to form a union. The school, however, denied that the teacher was fired over the unionizing issue, with then director of human resources Terri Smyth-Riding stating in the CityPaper piece that, “We did not want to incur any further legal expense.”
A vote by teachers at the Prep campus on whether to unionize is expected at the end of this month. Let’s sincerely hope that the staff figures out that the introduction of a union will create a gigantic barrier between the needs of the teachers and students and the ability of the school’s leadership to meet them.