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Appeals court boots KIPP case vs. UFT

A federal appeals court on Jan. 30 rejected an attempt by the KIPP charter network to avoid arbitrating a contract dispute with the UFT.

“Court after court has found that KIPP Academy needs to resolve these contract complaints rather than seeking to use the legal system to avoid its obligations,” said UFT General Counsel Adam Ross.

KIPP Academy Charter School in the South Bronx is a former public school that converted to a charter in 1995. Like all conversion schools, the educators are represented by the UFT. They notified the UFT in 2016 when KIPP management violated the teachers’ contract on numerous counts.

Among the most egregious KIPP violations: teachers were not paid the appropriate base salary, yearly increases, differentials and salary steps; teachers received no summer vacation pay; teachers were not provided a daily, 50-minute duty-free lunch; and teachers were not provided the appropriate number of sick days per school year.

The UFT applied for independent arbitration in November 2016, but KIPP operators sued in state Supreme Court, claiming the union does not represent KIPP teachers. The state court rejected KIPP’s argument and ordered the charter network to arbitrate the union’s grievances.

In 2017, the UFT filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board charging that KIPP was actively encouraging employees to decertify the UFT as their collective bargaining agent. The complaint said several teachers were in danger of losing their jobs if they failed to sign a decertification petition. A previous effort to decertify in 2009 failed.

On the contract dispute, KIPP officials next went to the U.S. District Court to plead their case; that court ruled against them in May 2017. In a last-ditch attempt, KIPP went to the U.S. Court of Appeals, which upheld the district court ruling.

“We expect KIPP to continue to fight having a union represent its staff,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew. “The UFT will be equally persistent to make sure the law and the rights of KIPP teachers are upheld.”

The arbitration hearing is scheduled to continue on April 19.

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