By Rob Callaghan
This summer, the New York Public Employment Relations Board (PERB), the state agency that covers all public employees, including charter educators, officially certified the union at Opportunity Charter School (OCS) in Harlem. With this announcement, the United Federation of Teachers will serve as the exclusive collective bargaining agent for the educators at OCS.
Christopher Haywood, a Behavior Specialist at the school, eagerly described his and his colleagues’ reaction to their victory in their long fight for union recognition.
“The certification of our union is positive step forward. I’m excited to help engage the entire staff in the collective bargaining process. It’s a chance to be part of the process from the ground floor. Now that we have been certified we can build our voice to speak up for ourselves and the students.”
On May 10 of this year, the vast majority of Opportunity Charter School educators declared their intention to join the United Federation of Teachers. In a letter sent to the Board, the teachers and staff explained that they had decided to join the United Federation of Teachers: “we, the teaching and professional staff, know what’s needed to support the students’ academic and personal goals. Our voices should be heard. Having a union at OCS will allow the entire staff to participate in creating the best academic environment for all.”
The school’s board had 30 days to voluntarily recognize the union. After the deadline passed, the teachers and UFT filed a petition with the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) to certify the union on the basis of union authorization cards signed by the teachers. After reviewing the cards PERB officially acknowledged the union at Opportunity on August 26.
Over the course of the school year, the staff and management will begin the process of negotiating a contract. Educators at the school said they look forward to working with the school’s administration to create a contract which will solidify their mutual commitment to providing the highest quality education for the students and a professional environment for the staff.