UFT reaches settlement with Merrick Charter School

The UFT and Merrick Charter School have reached an agreement in the case of 11 staff members dismissed this summer by the school.

The UFT charged that Merrick had fired the workers — who make up approximately one-third of the professional staff of the school — for union activity. The union had asked the state’s Public Employment Relations Board to order Merrick to rehire the fired staffers.

Under the terms of the agreement the UFT obtained the reinstatement of the teachers who wished to return to Merrick this fall. They will be reinstated at their old salaries. Other teachers and staff have had their cases resolved to their satisfaction. Further details of the settlement remain confidential.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew said: “Teachers have a right to organize and bargain collectively, and we are happy to have confirmed that right for Merrick’s staff.”

The case began this summer when the 11 staffers were fired — with no warning — by FedEx letter to their homes. The UFT asked PERB to seek a preliminary injunction requiring the reinstatement of the fired staffers. PERB then sought a court order requiring their reinstatement.

PERB’s request for an injunction was being heard in Albany County Supreme Court by Judge Eugene Devine. As part of the settlement, PERB has withdrawn its court action against Merrick.

Merrick’s employees voted to join the UFT in 2007. PERB certified the UFT as the teachers’ bargaining agent in March 2008.

After repeated fruitless attempts to negotiate a contract, the UFT filed for a declaration of impasse with PERB in December 2009 and five mediation sessions have taken place.

Merrick Academy is administered by Victory Schools, a for-profit operator, which charges $1.36 million 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.

“I’m excited about going back to work and seeing my students again,” said Christine Celli, a 4th-grade teacher at Merrick Academy for six years and one of the dismissed educators who will return to the school under the terms of the agreement. “I want to be a part of Merrick.”

This article originally appeared in the New York Teacher on September 9th, 2010, visit UFT.org for the full article.