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Labor board says Lusher teachers will vote next week on joining union

Teachers at Lusher Charter School will vote next week on whether they want to unionize, the National Labor Relations Board ruled Tuesday.

The federal agency will hold a secret-ballot election May 17 at the Freret Street and Willow Street campuses.

Regional Director M. Kathleen McKinney concluded that Lusher is subject to the labor board’s jurisdiction, contrary to the school’s argument that it’s not because it’s a local government entity.

In her ruling, McKinney wrote that Lusher is a private, nonprofit corporation that was created by individuals, not the state of Louisiana.

In April, Lusher teachers petitioned its board to recognize United Teachers of New Orleans as their representative and to begin negotiating a collective bargaining agreement. The union would be affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers.

Lusher’s board voted not to recognize the union. So the teachers asked the labor board to hold an election.

Lusher’s board passed a resolution expressing its neutrality in the matter, but the school’s administration sent a letter to the Lusher community outlining why the union would harm the school.

In a labor board hearing last week, the administration challenged the union’s request for an election. Three school board members publicly criticized Lusher CEO Kathy Riedlinger for doing so.

Lusher can challenge the labor board’s decision, but that won’t stop the vote from going forward — unless the labor board says so.

Mag Bickford, who is representing Lusher in the matter, had no comment on the ruling.

Next week, teachers will also vote on whether they will join with paraprofessionals, such as teacher assistants, to negotiate their employment terms. If not, they’ll deal with the school administration separately.

Since Lusher teachers started to organize, some teachers at International High School of New Orleans have said they too want to create a union.

Some of International’s teachers want the labor board to hold an election there, too. Its school board met in executive session for an hour and a half Tuesday night to discuss litigation strategy regarding its Friday hearing before the National Labor Relations Board.

After the meeting, International High School of New Orleans’ attorney Brooke Duncan said he was not surprised by the Lusher ruling.

But, he said, “it doesn’t change our course of action to challenge jurisdiction as well.”

Teachers at Benjamin Franklin High School and Morris Jeff Community School have created unions since 2014. Franklin teachers now have a collective bargaining agreement; Morris Jeff teachers are still negotiating.

Their boards voted to recognize the unions, so the labor relations board didn’t have to get involved.

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