FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, April 23, 2018
Contact: Vishakha Mathur, 617-890-9165, vishakha@617MediaGroup.com
On behalf of the Boston Teachers Union
Workers at Third “City on a Hill” Charter School Join Boston Teachers Union
New Bedford teachers join Roxbury colleagues in forming union
NEW BEDFORD, MA / BOSTON, MA – Teachers and staff working at City on a Hill New Bedford, a charter school, have organized to join the Boston Teachers Union (BTU), an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers.
“We are thrilled to join our sister schools in Boston as we celebrate this win for staff, students, and parents in the COAH community. Today, we made one large step toward education equality. Today, we celebrate together as a family. Tomorrow we make change together as a union,” said Amanda Miller, an English as a Second Language (ESL) Teacher and English Language Learner (ELL) Case Manager at CoaH New Bedford.
“We overcame a lot to achieve this victory for workers, students, and parents,” said Katie Vaudrain, a Learning Network History Teacher at CoaH New Bedford. “Despite the school’s openly anti-union stance, we are looking forward to a productive collaboration. We’re very proud to join our colleagues in Roxbury who previously joined the union for the same reasons we did including to have a voice at work and more input from teachers and staff in decision making.”
“I am a teacher, but I am also a parent,” said Marco Pedulli, an ESL/Science Teacher at CoaH New Bedford. “We are confident that by forming our union, we can help ensure management does what’s best for students moving forward. We’re excited to begin negotiating a contract that will improve teacher retention for the benefit of students, parents, and the community.”
The successful New Bedford organizing comes on the heels of workers at the two other schools operated by City on a Hill, both in Roxbury, announcing they had joined the BTU earlier this year on February 14, 2018. Teachers and staff from all three CoaH schools – CoaH Circuit Street, CoaH Dudley, and CoaH New Bedford – all cited common goals in choosing to organize:
- Opportunities for teacher leadership
- Improved teacher retention
- More input from teachers and staff in decision-making
- Increased budget transparency
- Equitable pay
“All educators deserve the support of an organization that will support them and the work they do. We are proud to welcome the teachers and staff from City on a Hill New Bedford into our union,” said Boston Teacher Union President Jessica Tang. “Our priority is creating exceptional and successful learning experiences for all students. That means improving the working conditions of all educators, including those working at charter schools funded by public taxpayer dollars, to reduce turnover and sustain stable learning environments for students. It means advocating for full investment in public education and ensuring that all schools, including charter schools, stay true to the interests of the public good. A common bond among all teachers, whether we work in district or charter schools, is that we all want to see our students thrive.”
Civil rights leader Mel King had sent the workers a special message supporting their organizing efforts. It read: “We sing ‘Lift Every Voice’ so we are inclusive in getting all participants views. I think in education it must include the Teachers voices. To that extent, I would encourage teachers at charter schools to join the teachers union. They are working in the highest way to support and work for the best interests of the students.”
All three CoaH schools are considered “Commonwealth” charter schools whose charters are granted by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. The schools are not operated by the Boston Public School system or the New Bedford Public School system. The Boston Teachers Union, with more than 10,000 members including teachers, paraprofessionals, guidance counselors, social workers, school psychologists, and nurses, advocates for the interests of students, parents, and education staff, including those employed by in-district charter schools.
Workers at the CoaH New Bedford school who joined the union include teachers, paraprofessionals, office staff, facilities staff, and more.
CoaH officials have campaigned aggressively against the unionization efforts of the underpaid workers across all three schools. The workers are primarily women and people of color. The educators joined the union despite potentially illegal tactics used against workers at the school as part of a coordinated management campaign of intimidation and misinformation. In a failed effort to dissuade the workers from exercising their American right to join a union, CoaH officials are believed to have spent significant public tax dollars to hire the Massachusetts-based union-busting firm The Wentworth Group which boasts of running “aggressive” union avoidance campaigns with an alleged “success rate of over 94%” on its Facebook Business Page. CoaH is also believed to have retained national PR firm Larson Communications as part of their efforts to dissuade workers from organizing.
According to their website, the corporate CoaH Board of Directors and City on a Hill Board of Trustees who oversee the CoaH facilities that attempted to crush the organizing efforts of underpaid teachers include current executives, former executives, and retirees at MFS Investment Management, PricewaterhouseCoopers, the Pioneer Institute, Ernst and Young, Liberty Mutual, The Baupast Group, Foley Hoag LLP, and Hyde Park Ventures LLC which owns Five Guys and Dunkin’ Donuts restaurants in Massachusetts, Vermont, and Arkansas. Specifically, the City on a Hill Foundation Board of Directors includes multiple executives from MFS Investment Management, which had $448.7 billion in assets under management as of April 30, 2017, according to MFS.com.
“I have taught at City on a Hill Dudley Square since the school opened in 2013, and for a year at City on a Hill Circuit Street before that. We need a union at CoaH Dudley Square to help us improve teacher retention,” said Neysha Gonzalez, a Head Spanish Teacher at the Dudley Square School when she and her colleagues joined the union in February. “Reduced turnover will help to maintain a supportive environment for both teachers and students.”
CoaH workers at the Roxbury schools had hoped management would begin negotiations immediately after the workers organized in February. However, management engaged in a series of stall through the state Department of Labor Relations (DLR). Despite those tactics, workers at all three facilities have now affirmed their commitment to forming a union and have once again called on CoaH officials to begin collective bargaining negotiations.
In what some believe may constitute a conflict of interest, CoaH is believed to have hired the chair of the DLR advisory board, Nicholas Anastasopoulos, to serve as its attorney-on-record for matters pertaining to the organizing efforts. CoaH has not disclosed what it may have paid Anastasopoulos during the process. Anastasopoulos was appointed by Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker (R).
The original CoaH school was founded in 1995 at the YMCA on Huntington Avenue in downtown Boston. CoaH was among the first charter schools to open in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Teacher leadership was a founding principal of the CoaH mission and original charter. Many parents in New Bedford had signed a petition in support of the workers.
“Through their unity, these teachers have shown tremendous courage and perseverance in seeking to ensure a better future for their students and to have a say in decisions that impact both their profession and the students in their care,” added BTU President Jessica Tang. “This is a victory for students, parents, and educators at the City on a Hill schools. It is disappointing that CoaH officials wasted precious education resources on union-busting tactics and campaigning. We hope the management of the school will take a new, respectful approach to their treatment of these valuable and talented educators moving forward.”
# # #
The Boston Teachers Union proudly represents more than 10,000 teachers, retirees and other education professionals including nurses, psychologists, guidance counselors, paraprofessionals, and related service providers. Together, we advocate for the interests of students, parents and education professionals. We support investment in public education to ensure a stronger future for our students and our city. As a union of educators, we are part of a movement that seeks to improve the quality of life for all working people and their children.