ASPIRA: We respect the rights of our employees to vote to unionize
by thenotebook on Sep 19 2013 Posted in Commentary
This is a response to the commentary "ASPIRA teachers must be free to speak out," which was published here on Sept. 6.
by Fred Ramirez
The Olney Charter School Board received the right to operate Olney Charter High School two years ago. Before that, the school was failing. The facilities had significantly deteriorated. Students were not being prepared for their future and, many times, they felt unsafe walking in the halls of their own school.
Upon being awarded the right to operate Olney, the board made significant investments in the school.
- Fully air-conditioned classrooms;
- Conversion from oil to gas heat in order not only to save money but, more important, to improve what had been an uneven distribution of heat throughout the building;
- New furniture and equipment for students and staff;
- Increased facility security;
- Improved quality of the food served to our students and staff.
The goal of these investments was to provide our students a safe environment where they could receive a quality education, which would prepare them for the future.
Over the last two academic years, these investments have clearly resulted in positive changes, and Olney Charter High School has been a great turnaround story in Philadelphia. Reading and mathematics proficiency have risen significantly, enrollment has increased, and the board has, and continues to, acknowledge the substantial role that our teachers have played in this transformation. Good teachers clearly make a difference.
Numerous statements have been made in the Notebook and elsewhere alleging that the school is attempting to prevent its teachers, or anyone else, from forming a union. We support the rights of all employees, and we have never attempted to block our employees from voting in a representation election, nor will we. At no point has it been demonstrated that a valid, uncoerced majority of the school’s employees share that desire. This is commonly established through an election, overseen by the National Labor Relations Board, after the filing of a representation petition. However, no representation petition has been filed regarding the school’s employees. If such a petition is filed, then each side can present the relevant information and all covered school employees can determine what will be best for them. Thus, everyone’s voice can be heard on this important issue.
The board’s position has remained consistent that, if our employees vote to be represented by a union, the board will obviously honor its obligations under the law.
The board will continue to make Olney a school where students can focus on learning and preparing themselves for a brighter future.
Fred Ramirez is chairperson of the ASPIRA of PA School Board.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author.