Harlem bilingual charter educators choose UFT

Essence Jaime, Beatrice Yode, Soukeyna Diop, and Affoussata Boyndy (left to right)

TThe New York State Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) on March 12 officially certified the UFT as the bargaining agent for educators at the New York French American Charter School in Harlem. Most of the school’s staff indicated their support for the union by signing union authorization cards last fall.

In the letter that they delivered to both the principal and the school’s board announcing their decision to form a union, the teachers outlined their desire to work collaboratively with the administration to create a school-based contract that fulfills the school’s mission and best supports teachers and students.

The board had the opportunity to voluntarily recognize the union. After the deadline passed, the teachers and the UFT filed a petition with PERB asking it to certify the union on the basis of the union authorization cards signed by the teachers. After reviewing the cards, PERB officially acknowledged the union at the school.

Since then a new principal and board chair have expressed a willingness to work with the union to negotiate a contract at the school.

“Being a member of a union will make me feel safe and secure to fulfill my mission as a teacher,” said Awa Diop, a founding teacher at the two-year-old school. “The union allows me to express myself in a productive way to help the success of our school.”

Maya Wojcik, a teacher’s assistant at the school, noted the important role that the union has played in her brief career as an educator. “The union has provided me guidance, showed me respect as a professional and empowered me as an educator,” she said.

The New York French American Charter School offers bilingual and bicultural instruction in French and English. It serves about 150 students in kindergarten through 2nd grade with plans to expand to eventually serve students in kindergarten through grade 12.

“Charter school teachers want representation and a voice to help do what is best for their students,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew. “We are happy to welcome the New York French American Charter School teachers and staff into the UFT family.”