PERB seeks to protect Merrick teachers fired Via FedEx

The State Public Employment Relations Board of New York will petition the State Supreme Court for an injunction to prevent last month’s mass-firing of 11 Merrick Academy Charter School staff members, counsel to PERB notified the UFT and the school today.

After being petitioned by the UFT in July, PERB has reached the conclusion that “there is reasonable cause to believe that an improper practice has occurred and it appears that immediate and irreparable injury, loss or damage will result.” PERB will seek an injunction prohibiting Merrick from implementing its decision to discontinue the Merrick Teachers pending a full hearing and final disposition.

Last month the Queens charter school delivered termination notices to eight teachers and three teaching assistants, representing approximately one-third of the professional staff, via FedEx. Employees received no prior notice.

“The State Public Employment Relations Board’s decision to seek an injunction against the mass-firing of Merrick’s staff is an important step in vindicating the right of these educators to organize a union and bargain collectively without fear of retaliation,” said United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew.

Merrick’s employees voted to join the UFT in 2007. The Public Employment Relations Board certified the UFT as the teachers’ bargaining agent in March 2008. After repeated fruitless attempts to negotiate a contract, the UFT filed for impasse with PERB December 2009 and five mediation sessions have taken place.

“After two years of obstruction, harassment and intimidation it is time for the Merrick board to follow the law, rehire all of the staff and negotiate a contract in good faith,” said Mulgrew.

Parents and teachers at the 500 student school have raised questions about heating and plumbing problems, textbook shortages, a leaky roof and unchecked financial mismanagement. Some teachers still earn the 2006 wage for New York City public school teachers.

Merrick Academy is administered by Victory Schools, a for-profit operator, which charges $1.36 million in fees per year, more than 21 percent of the school’s total budget, on management fees. Victory Management operates a total of six schools in New York City earning $4.41 million in fees per year.