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UFT files NLRB complaint after charter employee firings

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Teachers (from left) Kelly Diaz, Steven Campbell and Matt Schuman, members of th
Jonathan Fickies

Teachers (from left) Kelly Diaz, Steven Campbell and Matt Schuman, members of the UFT’s bargaining committee, were among those fired by the Charter HS for Law and Social Justice in the Bronx in the middle of contract negotiations. They met at the UFT Bronx borough office in late June to discuss the situation.

The UFT is seeking an injunction from the National Labor Relations Board against the Charter HS for Law and Social Justice in the Bronx after the school fired 11 of its 15 UFT-represented employees, including the entire UFT bargaining committee, in the middle of negotiations for a first contract.

“The administration’s actions are a lesson in hypocrisy,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew. “A school that claims to teach law and social justice summarily fires most of its teachers because they had the nerve to advocate for their kids and for their own rights as employees.”

The firings began in mid-June, following complaints by employees about health and safety issues in the building and the school’s failure to provide appropriate services to special education students. The employees also cited unprofessional conduct and poor treatment by school administrators.

The complaint, which was filed on June 26 by New York State United Teachers, the UFT’s state affiliate, on behalf of the UFT, says the firings violate NLRB protections and asks the labor board to restore the employees to their former positions at the Morris Heights school.

English teacher Matt Schuman, one of those fired, taught in traditional public schools for nearly 10 years but thought the mission of this charter school was tailor-made for him. He was on staff when the charter, authorized by the New York State Board of Regents, opened in 2015.

In the school’s first year, Schuman said he and his colleagues thought the school was fulfilling the promise of its name — creating a place of learning about law and social justice. But that was short-lived.

“The second year, there was a regime change without much communication with students, parents or staff,” Schuman said.

When he heard colleagues were being fired, Schuman told school officials he wanted to consult with the union. He was immediately locked out of his school email account; that’s how he learned he was fired.

“We hope our students will look at this and say, ‘We would behave in a more humane way. We wouldn’t behave this way even if we had similar power,’” Schuman said.

Social worker Terisha Young also came to the school with high hopes. The school never evaluated her, and she began to think administrators didn’t understand the role of a social worker in a school. When she was fired, Young was told the school was “going in a different direction.”

“I don’t know what that means, but they should have planned it better,” Young said. The students “are at the age when they have had adults who have left. They are already struggling with adults leaving. This did not help.”