Bricolage Academy occupies John McDonogh High School on Esplanade Avenue. (Marta Jewson/The Lens)

Bricolage Academy Educators United, a group of Bricolage educators seeking union recognition from the Esplanade Avenue charter school’s board, has filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board after the charter’s nonprofit board failed to respond to the group’s February request for voluntary union recognition.

Since receiving the group’s Feb. 24 letter, the board has only met once. At that meeting, on March 10, the board met in a closed door session with its lawyers for advice on the union drive. After the private discussion, board president Yvette Jones said the board must do its “due diligence” before it would take a vote on whether to recognize the union. She could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

Bricolage Academy Educators United proponents say that a union will allow teachers to be involved in decision-making at the elementary school.

“We love Bricolage and its leaders. As a school that built out one grade at a time, we are playing catch up with some formalized systems. We believe that teacher and staff voice should be a foregone conclusion in school decision making, not an afterthought,” Leigh Topp, a reading intervention teacher at the school, said in a statement issued by the United Teachers of New Orleans, the citywide teachers union. “A union is the only path to true equity for ourselves and our students. We had hoped that the Board of Directors would do the right thing and voluntarily recognize our union.”

It’s not the first time educators in New Orleans have sought the help of the National Labor Relations Board, an independent federal agency that oversees U.S. labor law. In 2017, the board ruled that charter schools are subject to federal law on unionization after International High School and Lusher Charter School argued they were not subject to the board’s oversight. 

Two other schools — Benjamin Franklin High School and Morris Jeff Community School — have educators’ unions that were voluntarily recognized by their nonprofit boards.

“The overwhelming majority of Bricolage employees have already expressed their intent to form a Union with the United Teachers of New Orleans, and this election will give staff the opportunity to finalize that decision,” an UTNO statement released Tuesday stated.
It’s not clear when an election date might be set, but an election involves a vote of all eligible employees supervised by National Labor Relations Board officials.

Marta Jewson

Marta Jewson covers education in New Orleans for The Lens. She began her reporting career covering charter schools for The Lens and helped found the hyperlocal news site Mid-City Messenger. Jewson returned...