Organizing Committee, March 26, 2014
Q: What are we trying to gain by having a union?
A: We are unionizing to make sure CAVA educators have a stronger voice in decisions that impact our school, our students and our livelihood. Some important issues many of our colleagues have discussed include: job security, job definition, and job compensation. Under job security: we seek to change the “at-will” employment status and implement a proper grievance and evaluation procedure. Under job definition: we seek a concrete job description that enables us to teach, better-defined homeroom responsibilities and caseloads, reasonable workloads, and duties within the scope of a teacher. Under compensation: we seek a competitive pay and benefits package warranted for credentialed teachers. All CAVA educators will have opportunities to help define our priorities before contract negotiations.
Q: Aren’t all unions the same? The union at my old school was not effective/did not support me.
A: The “union” as an entity is the staff at CAVA. We can make it what we need it to be. People who are concerned about how things are run should get involved. It is always helpful to learn from people who understand the “wrong way” to do things.
Q: How will students benefit from us unionizing?
A: Right now there are many decisions that are made and policies and procedures that are implemented that do not help improve instruction for our students. By unionizing, we will have a much greater ability to influence our working conditions and have a say in school policies. Also, as a union, we will be able to speak up to advocate for our students without fear of reprisal. The bottom line is that teachers’ working conditions are students’ learning conditions. By fixing one we improve the other.
Q. Are any other K12 schools unionized?
A. Not at this time, but Agora (in PA) is working on their second attempt now. Their first attempt was lost by a mere 8 votes after a 4-month campaign (every single vote counts!). It is important to note that the regulations in PA require an election rather than a show of majority support via petition as we can do here. It is also important to note that no staff in PA lost their jobs as a result of their campaign, and the same people who were involved in the first effort are working on the current one. You can see their website here: http://www.agoraea.psealocals.org/Home.aspx
Q: Does administration want us to organize the union?
A: No. Administration would rather that we not organize a union. Once we are union, administration will no longer be able to make unilateral decisions without negotiating with the educators who are on the frontlines doing the work.
Q. How much will we pay in union dues?
A. We expect it will be between $80-$100 a month during the school year. Our local association will set our own dues, depending on our own needs, and then a certain amount of our dues will go to CTA and NEA, our state and national organizations. We will only need to start paying dues after our CAVA colleagues have ratified our union contract by majority vote. That way we can make sure improvements in our contract outweigh the dues we contribute to our organization. Our intention is certainly to negotiate a raise in our salaries that more than covers the union dues. We will spend more time discussing our bargaining priorities in the months to come.
Q. I heard that CTA does not support charter schools.
A. CTA is an organization of educators, including thousands of members who teach at charter schools throughout California. CTA is not against charter schools but feels that “all charter school employees should be organized to ensure both quality education for students and professional rights for school employees.” In fact, some of the best performing charter schools in the state are union. Please see the link below to further explore CTA’s position on charter schools:
Q. Can I opt out of having my dues used for political causes?
A. Yes, anyone has the option of opting out so their money does not go to CTA’s political fund. Just check the box when you sign up.
Q. Will we lose flexibility as a result of organizing the union? If we organize will CAVA be able to dictate our hours? Will they be able to tell us we can’t have kids at home while we work?
A. No, we will not lose flexibility. Our current conditions will be our starting point when we negotiate our contract once we are union. We will ask for what we want, they ask for what they want – we meet somewhere in the middle and try to come up with solutions that meet everyone’s needs. As it stands now CAVA does dictate our hours, and the flexibility we once had has been greatly reduced over the years, particularly as workloads grow and new responsibilities are added every year. We are unionizing to change this.
Q: Will I be forced to join the union?
A: No one can be forced to join the union or pay dues. If you choose not to join, under California law you will pay a “fair share” fee to the union to cover the costs of negotiating the contract and representing employees in grievances – this money can only be used for those costs.
Q: I’ve heard you can get fired for trying to unionize.
A: False. We all have a legally protected right to unionize and disciplining us for doing so is illegal. In the event that CAVA tries to break the law, we will take legal action to protect our rights. The reality is, many of us are organizing now precisely because CAVA can currently let us go for no reason due to our at will status. By unionizing, we look forward to changing that. Finally, we are aware of 3-4 union attempts in the past. All people who attempted are still with CAVA with the exception of one. She left CAVA on her own accord for a better paying job.
Q. I heard that contracts will be delayed this year because of the union effort. I heard that we were supposed to get raises, but now we won’t because of the union effort.
A. There is no reason that our organizing process should effect either the timing of contracts or any previously planned raises. Contracts normally come out over the summer, so they are not later than usual now. Furthermore, one of the reasons why many of us support unionizing is to create more predictability around wages and employment. We believe raises we can count on and increased job security would help reduce teacher turnover thereby providing better learning conditions for our students. Finally, if you do hear of managers (admin) claiming that we won’t get scheduled raises or contracts due to our decision to unionize, let an organizing committee member know. It is illegal for them to make threats of that nature.
Q: How can I get more involved in helping this process along?
A: The first step is to sign the union support petition. The second is to talk to your organizing committee member about how to best help build support. Finally, there will be many opportunities to contribute your time, energy, and educational expertise with bargaining in the future!