Union fights for fired Merrick teachers

In what UFT officials have described as a brazen attempt at union-busting, the board of the embattled Merrick Academy charter school on July 20 abruptly fired 11 teachers and teaching assistants.

The fired educators, who included UFT chapter leader Jonathan Carrington, comprise one-third of the school’s staff. Also, besides Carrington, two other members of the five-member negotiating team were also fired.

The UFT has filed for an injunction with the Public Employment Relations Board to stop the firings.

Teachers and teaching assistants at the school organized to form a union almost two-and-a-half years ago, but have yet to settle a first contract due to management intransigence. Negotiations began more than two years ago

UFT President Michael Mulgrew did not mince words in a press conference responding to the mass firings, which he described as retaliation for the teachers’ union activity.

“The right of workers to organize and bargain collectively is a basic human right,” Mulgrew said at a July 22 press conference. “But it is not honored at Merrick Academy.”

Mulgrew added, “It is our belief these teachers were targeted not only for forming a union but fighting for a contract.”

Struggling to hold back tears, 10-year Merrick veteran Marjorie Berry spoke of her love of the school and its students and the pain her abrupt dismissal has caused her.

“It feels horrible,” Berry said. “We’re teachers, but we’re human beings first. I loved the children, the families. I wouldn’t have come back for 10 years if I didn’t love the school.”

None of the teachers, Berry noted, were given an explanation of the board’s decision to fire them, communicated via overnight mail.

“We got a FedEx, and four sentences wrapped up my 10 years of service there,” Berry said. “No explanation, nothing.”

Visit UFT.org for a video of the press conference.