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Charter School Chain Accused of Union Busting — Lawsuit

In some states, the main purpose of charter schools is to avoid unions and the rights, wages and power they provide for teachers. 

Photo by Ted Eytan.
Photo by Ted Eytan.

By REBEKAH KEARN
A chain of public charter schools is using its charter status to harass and threaten teachers for trying to unionize, California's Public Employment Relations Board claims in court.

The PERB sued Alliance College-Ready Public Charter Schools and its 27 Los Angeles area campuses in Superior Court on Friday.

United Teachers Los Angeles, which represents thousands of public schoolteachers in collective bargaining, is named as real party in interest.

An Alliance spokeswoman called it a "dishonest, malicious and desperate" attempt by the teachers union to "intimidate" Alliance leaders.

It's the latest of dozens of lawsuits over the years to accuse charter schools of using their status as a smokescreen to spend tax dollars without following state and federal laws on public schools.

"The core of the injunctive complaint is the allegation that the charter schools are engaging in a campaign of anti-union activity," the PERB's General Counsel J. Felix De La Torre told Courthouse News.

The status quo injunction is intended to "end this pattern of conduct" so the PERB can investigate four charges already before it and determine if state law has been violated, De La Torres said.

About 70 teachers emailed Alliance's board of directors in March, announcing their intent to unionize with United Teachers and asking Alliance to meet and discuss "a fair and neutral process to organize," the complaint states, citing one of the open letters.

In response, Alliance sent a 4-page letter "that was critical of UTLA, collective bargaining, and unionization and urged employees not to sign authorization cards," the complaint states.

Shortly afterward, the board says, principal Lori Rhodes kicked a union representative off an Alliance campus for discussing unionization with teacher Michelle Buckowski. Rhodes then harassed Buckowski, telling her that supporting the union "was an uneducated position," and that Buckowski should "focus on her upcoming formal performance evaluation."

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