We recently received a “Welcome Back” email from our head of schools. Have you had a chance to read it? If not, you should, as it clearly indicates administration’s game plan for how they hope to delay our efforts to improve our schools during the 2014/2015 school year.
We are encouraged by some parts of the letter and disappointed by others. We are encouraged that our organizing is having an impact. CAVA administration clearly recognizes changes need to happen to make our schools better. That is why they are now discussing important issues like fixing bad policies, building trust, improving teacher salaries and how much money leaves our classrooms and goes to K-12 corporate headquarters.
At the same time, we are disappointed that CAVA administration is not respecting our democratic decision to unionize. Instead, they have decided to use legal maneuvers to try to delay our efforts to improve our schools. We believe CAVA’s game plan, as described in the “Welcome Back” email, is to suggest they are making the kind of improvements we have been calling for, while trying to delay our unionization process through legal maneuvers. They know once we are union any improvements cannot be undone without the agreement of front line teachers.
To understand what CAVA administration is doing, it is important to review a bit of recent history. As we previously reported, on July 15th the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) verified that teachers at CAVA demonstrated majority support for our union. This represented a big step towards making the improvements our students deserve and validation of our co-workers’ hard work to build a stronger teacher community that is dedicated to changing our schools.
As a result of our organizing and PERB’s verification of majority support for unionization, CAVA administration had two options. Option 1: Recognize our union and sit down with teachers to bargain a union contract that includes improvements to working conditions and the learning environment at CAVA. Option 2: Attempt to delay the process by raising legal objections with PERB.
On July 22, our union organizing committee sent a letter to CAVA administration requesting that they respect our democratic decision to unionize. Though we hoped they would do the right thing and respect our decision, we suspected they might try to delay the process. CAVA/K-12 administration has a lot to lose when teachers have a real voice in how the school operates. Once we are union they will no longer be able to make unilateral decisions without negotiating with us.
On July 29, CAVA administration confirmed our suspicions and chose Option 2. They sent a letter to PERB indicating they are seeking to delay the process. Though not a surprise, we are disappointed in their decision. Their goal is to delay the start of bargaining so they can postpone making the changes we all know are needed.
Delay Tactics: Legal Maneuvers 101
In the “Welcome Back” email we received yesterday, the head of schools references the two legal maneuvers they will use to try to create a delay. The first is that CAVA/K12 administration is suggesting that CAVA is comprised of 11 different, totally independent schools that have no common relationship, as opposed to the statewide managed organization we know they are. Those of us who have been here a while know that the 11 charters that make up CAVA operate as a single organization. We all teach the same students, have the same managers, and share the same curriculum. We even receive the same emails from the same head of schools!
The second maneuver is a strange assertion by CAVA/K12 administration that there is another union involved. This is not true and frankly doesn’t even make sense. The source of their claim is that we have referred to ourselves as unionizing with the California Teachers Association (CTA), and as unionizing with California Virtual Educators United/CTA/NEA. These both refer to the same organization (CTA) a fact of which they are well aware.
CAVA/K12 administration has asked PERB for a hearing to discuss both of these issues. Their game plan is delay. If there is a hearing, we are confident we will prevail. However, we believe that CAVA/K12 should stop wasting precious school funds on baseless legal maneuvers. Instead they should respect our democratic decision to unionize and start bargaining a union contract with us.
What to Expect Next
As we start the 2014/2015 school year, we will continue to prepare for contract bargaining, continue to build our union, and continue to push for improvements at CAVA. We look forward to working with all of the new teachers this year and supporting them as they begin their CAVA careers. Over the next few months we will also continue our work with school boards and legislators throughout California, as we push through various avenues to make sure public resources are used in our classrooms to help us provide the best possible education for our students.
If you have any more questions about where we are in the process, or want to know the best ways you can help, please contact us at CAVA.firstname.lastname@example.org.