Board rules Teach for America members in Detroit can be in teachers unions

National_Labor_Relations_Board_logo_-_colorDETROIT — The National Labor Relations Board ruled Friday that Teach for America teachers in a Detroit charter school have the right to be a part of a union.

According to a statement from the Michigan Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff, the NLRB said Friday 14 Teach for America corps members should have been able to vote in an election last spring. That election was held to determine if teachers at University Prep Schools, a charter school network in Detroit, wanted to form a union.

Detroit 90/90, the private company that operates the schools, argued the Teach for America members, as well as long-term substitutes, were not professional employees.

“We are really pleased to be recognized as professional teachers,” said Patrick Sheehan, a TFA corps member and second grade advisor at the time of the election. “U-Prep hired us to teach just like other teachers. Making the legal argument that we are not professionals means one of two things — either Detroit 90/90 doesn’t respect the work we do with students or they lied to prevent us from organizing a union.”

Voting will not be reopened in the election because the additional 14 Teach for America members who are now allowed to vote would not have swayed the election.

University Yes Academy teachers voted to unionize earlier this year, despite their parent company — New Urban Learning — announcing it was walking away from the school. The announcement of New Urban Learning walking away from University Yes took place days after the school’s teachers announced they planned to hold a vote on unionization.

Teachers at University Prep and University Prep Science & Math voted on unionization in May. That effort to unionize failed.

The Michigan Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff, which is part of the American Federation of Teachers-Michigan, has filed several objections and charges of unfair labor practices against Detroit 90/90. Among them is that Detroit 90/90 retaliated against teachers who were organizing, both before and after the election.

“I was frankly shocked they were willing to make this argument,” said David Hecker, president of AFT-Michigan. “It’s unfortunately more evidence that some of these management companies are willing to do almost anything to prevent teachers from having a voice in making their school a better place.”

Brandon Moss, a social studies teacher and president of Michigan Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff, said the teachers at the University Prep schools deserve a fair election.

“We are confident that the NLRB will find that Detroit 90/90 violated the law during this last election and will likely order a new election be held,” he said in a statement.

A message was left with a Detroit 90/90 representative seeking comment for this story.

Kyle Feldscher is the Capitol education and MSU reporter for MLive Media Group. Reach him via email at kylefeldscher@mlive.com or follow him on Twitter at @Kyle_Feldscher

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