Charter Schools

International High School argues that feds can’t oversee union effort by teachers

Following the recent path of Lusher Charter School, officials with International High School of New Orleans charter are resisting a faculty effort to unionize, and a federal labor hearing officer heard arguments on the matter today.

The hearing comes after the school’s board of directors took no action on a request from some teachers for the board’s voluntary recognition of the union for collective bargaining purposes.

Like Lusher’s administration, the directors of Voices for International Business Education are challenging the authority of the National Labor Relations Board to oversee a secret-ballot election set for later this month. The school contends that it is a political subdivision of the state, and therefore not subject to the board’s oversight.

Lusher lodged the same objection, but the regional office of the Labor Relations Board ruled this week against the administration.

Despite that decision, International High went forward with its jurisdictional challenge. The school’s attorney, Brooke Duncan, said he wasn’t surprised by the Tuesday ruling.

He and United Teachers of New Orleans attorney Louis Robein made their cases in a representation hearing in New Orleans today.

Despite the outstanding jurisdiction issue, both sides said they have agreed on when and where the school will hold its election and who will vote.

Labor board agent Robin Edwards Price spent the majority of the hearing entering documents into the record with little disagreement between the two parties.

Robein argued International is a private nonprofit.

“It was created by private individuals and has been maintained by private individuals,” he said.

Duncan countered, saying state law paved the way for the creation and recognition of the board, which has a contract with the state to operate the high school.

“It exists because the state legislature allows it to exist,” Duncan said. “Like all charter schools, we are a creation of the state legislature.”

Neither side called witnesses but Price had a few questions for Duncan.

She asked how the board was created and populated, as accountability to the public is one factor in determining whether the entity is a political subdivision.

“The board populates itself,” Duncan said, after explaining it was created by its articles of incorporation. He said the board is not comprised of publicly elected members.

The Lusher ruling came about a week after arguments were made in a similar labor hearing. Teachers at International are scheduled to vote May 27.

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