The Lusher Charter School governing board endorsed a resolution Thursday morning promising to remain neutral in the upcoming election over a proposed teachers’ union at the school and prohibiting any coercion of the teachers prior to the vote.
“The consensus opinion of the board is to allow all of the Lusher teachers an opportunity to be heard, consider all relevant information reasonably available, and to vote in a fair election,” the resolution reads. “The board desires to ensure that all of the teachers at Lusher can and should have an open, civil, rational discourse on the matter, free from any hostility, intimidation or undue pressure from anyone.
“Therefore, be it resolved that the board does not take a position either for or against a union at Lusher, and that all Lusher employees are strictly prohibited from interfering with, restraining or coercing employees in the exercise of rights guaranteed by federal and state laws,” the resolution concludes.
The resolution follows the lengthy back-and-forth discourse on the union question last Saturday (April 23) that ended with the board rejecting voluntary recognition of the United Teachers of Lusher’s petition for collective bargaining on a 6-5 vote. The board members in favor of voluntary recognition said they wanted to avoid a divisive battle within the school over the issue leading up to the election, while those who voted against it said an election would determine conclusively whether a majority of the faculty supported a union, given questions about the intent of the 60 percent of teachers who signed the petition.
The board’s rejection of voluntary recognition places the process in the hands of the National Labor Relations Board, and the Lusher teachers formally requested the NLRB election by secret ballot on Monday. A hearing to set the details of the election is tentatively scheduled for Monday (May 2), and Lusher board chair Blaine LeCesne said that while he does not know the exact timeline for the election, it will likely be before the end of the school year.
Board member Chunlin Leonhard had offered Saturday’s motion in favor of voluntary recognition, arguing that she worried about the toll of the election process on the Lusher faculty and community. Thursday’s resolution, Leonhard said, is consistent with her desire to keep the battle over the union from creating wounds too deep to heal.
“It’s important for all teachers to be able to vote their conscience free of any coercion whatsoever,” agreed LeCesne, who had also favored voluntary recognition.
Board member Rachel Wisdom, who had argued and voted against voluntary recognition, said that she supported the neutrality in the resolution as a way of respecting the diverse views on the union issue within the Lusher community while the faculty votes.
“I also respect the teachers and their varying views,” Wisdom said.
The board discussed the issue for about 20 minutes Thursday morning in a special-called meeting held at the Loyola University College of Law. Six board members attended in person, and one remotely via video, and only one administrator, CEO Kathy Riedlinger. Nearly a dozen people sat in the audience, including parents and activists on either side of the issue.
Audra George of the American Federation of Teachers said the resolution generally seems to endorse the existing labor laws governing how management should conduct themselves during a union election. An administrator who sought to speak privately with an employee about the union might be perceived as intimidating him or her, especially if any sort of weighted promises or implied threats were included in the conversation. On the other hand, an administrator could potentially offer his or her individual opinion in a public or general setting on the merits or drawbacks of collective bargaining without running afoul of the law, George said.
“They can’t intimidate, they can’t threaten, they can’t make promises — there’s some protected actions that they can’t do. Those would be unfair labor practices,” George said. “I think it’s the board saying, we called for a fair election. It’s going to be a fair election.”
To read our live coverage of the meeting, see below.