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Teachers union files labor complaint against Lusher and International High

A New Orleans teachers union has filed unfair-labor practice claims against the boards of Lusher Charter School and International High School after divisive union drives this spring.

An attorney for the United Teachers of New Orleans said faculty members at the two charter schools did not have their annual employment renewed, and the union said it’s because of those teachers’ union-promoting activity.

In campus-based elections overseen by the National Labor Relations Board, Lusher teachers voted against union representation, while a smaller group of teachers aides voted in favor. Both teachers and aides approved the union at International.

Union attorney Julie Spencer said five International High teachers who were pro-union received non-renewal notices; 45 employees voted in the election. At Lusher, one teacher was not offered a position again, out of the 131 teachers who voted. The charge against Lusher also alleges “concerted activities” by school officials, such as retaliation against union supporters.

Organizers at the schools said the issue of job insecurity was central to the union drives. At charter schools in New Orleans, most teachers accept year-to-year offers from the schools. They generally find out in the spring semester if they will have a job the next school year.

Hurricane Katrina nearly wiped out the union, which wielded power before the storm. With no students bringing in state per-pupil funding, the School Board was forced to layoff its teaching staff. Then the state seized a majority of the city’s schools and eventually handed them out to nonprofit groups as charter schools. While some rehired teachers remained union members, the union’s collective-bargaining contract with the district was no more.

Since the storm, just two teachers unions have formed and negotiated collective-bargaining agreements with charter boards here. It took Benjamin Franklin High School teachers a year to negotiate an agreement. Morris Jeff Community School teachers signed a deal after three years.

The local union is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers. The national union poured a lot of money into recent Jefferson Parish School Board elections. It’s unclear if they’ll do the same in this fall’s Orleans Parish School Board elections.

The Lens has requested the complaints filed with the labor board, under the Freedom of Information Act, and also from the union. The federal request is pending; the union would not provide them.

International High School attorney Brooke Duncan and Lusher attorney Mag Bickford did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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