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Lusher teachers reject union

Theater teacher Terry Marek and other members of United Teacher of Lusher speak to reporters after walking out of the ballot counting.

Steve Myers / The Lens

Theater teacher Terry Marek and other members of United Teacher of Lusher speak to reporters after walking out of the ballot counting.

Lusher teachers voted against joining a union by a vote of 54 to 77, according to a tally by the National Labor Relations Board Tuesday evening.

Teacher Terry Marek walked out of the gate of the Freret Street campus after the votes were tallied. Wearing a United Teachers of Lusher button, he thanked the labor board for conducting a fair and safe election and said the teachers weren’t ready to comment further.

“It’s been an extraordinary day for all of us,” Marek said.

Lusher CEO Kathy Riedlinger said in a written statement that the school “looks forward to again focusing all of our united attention” on Lusher students and “maintaining an excellent working environment for our teachers and staff.”

The National Labor Relations Board organized the election at the union’s request after the charter school’s board declined to voluntarily recognize it.

The school board voted to remain neutral in the matter, but Lusher’s administration went before the labor board to challenge the request for an election. The labor board sided with the union and set Tuesday’s election.

Employees voted at both campuses, and the secret ballots were tallied at the middle and high school campus on Freret Street.

Teachers and paraprofessionals voted separately. Teachers had the option of allowing paraprofessionals (mostly teachers’ aides) to join their bargaining unit, but they voted against it.

The vote among paraprofessionals was 8-5 in favor of union representation, with three challenged ballots.

Because the challenged ballots could affect the outcome of the paraprofessionals’ election, the NLRB will ask the two sides to argue why each employee was or wasn’t eligible to vote.

If the paraprofessionals’ vote ends up an 8-8 tie, UTNO President Larry Carter said that would be a loss for the union.

High school English teacher and union organizer Larisa Gray said she’s not sure if teachers would challenge their results.

Lusher would have been the third New Orleans charter school with a union in the post-Katrina era.

Teachers are unionized at Morris Jeff Community School and Benjamin Franklin High School. Their boards voluntarily recognized them, so the labor board didn’t have to get involved.

Earlier Tuesday, Lusher announced that the public, including parents and media, would not be allowed to witness the count. The day before, the labor board and the NLRB said media could observe the count.

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