Judge Orders Temporary Restraining Order to Protect Teachers at LA’s Largest Charter School Chain from Harassment and Intimidation
Alliance College-Ready Public Schools must immediately stop coercive tactics, along with surveilling teachers, blocking emails, and denying access to teacher union organizers
LOS ANGELES – Late Thursday, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant signed a temporary restraining order (TRO) forbidding managers at LA’s largest charter school chain, Alliance College-Ready Public Schools, from continuing harassment of the 27-school chain’s 700 teachers.
“It’s very rare for the courts to find it necessary to issue a TRO to protect teachers from abusive behavior by charter school managers,” said United Teachers of Los Angeles President Alex Caputo-Pearl. “Alliance employs hard-working, dedicated educators who only want to improve their schools and advocate for their students. Instead of respecting their rights and treating them as professionals and valued employees, they’ve faced an onslaught of unfair and illegal actions. This behavior would be wrong in any workplace but is totally unacceptable in a publicly funded school setting.”
Last week, the California Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) had asked the court for a TRO and also had filed for “injunctive relief” to stop illegal anti-teacher coercive activity by the charter school chain’s board and managers. PERB made the decision to take Alliance to court and seek an injunction after more than six months of an unlawful anti-union campaign by the Alliance against its own teachers and numerous unfair practice complaints. A decision on injunctive relief will not be determined until after the parties meet in court on November 17. In the meantime, through the TRO, the court has ordered Alliance to immediately:
- Stop coercing teachers;
- Stop polling teachers on their support for or against the unionization effort;
- Allow union organizers access to teachers at the worksite — after school;
- Forbid managers from coming within 100 feet of a conversation between union representatives and teachers;
- Not block union generated emails to teachers sent via the employer’s email system.
Alliance has a very high teacher turnover rate, with 25 percent of the chain’s teachers quitting every year. Some schools lose 40 percent of their faculty members annually. Motivated by a desire to improve student learning conditions and educators’ working conditions, Alliance teachers began exploring unionization last year so that they could address professional issues with the charter chain’s board and executives and better advocate for their students.
In May 2015, roughly a quarter of Alliance’s teachers (146 out of the then 600 teachers) publicly signed their names to a petition and called on the charter school chain’s management to remain neutral as teachers considered forming a union. Earlier, last spring, 70 teachers had announced their intention to form a union with UTLA. Since that time, according to legal documents, Alliance and its managers have engaged in an unrelenting and illegal anti-union campaign. Among other actions, Alliance management:
- Sent principals, assistant principals, and other administrators to illegally surveil teachers during discussions with union organizers;
- Directed Alliance employees not to sign union authorization cards;
- Interrogated employees about their views on union organizing, and pressured employees to take a position against the union;
- Interfered with the right of Alliance workers to communicate with one another about workplace issues during non-work times in non-work area;
- Refused to meet with Alliance employees and union representatives despite state labor law requirements.
The Alliance board of directors, composed primarily of business leaders such as Atlanta Hawks owner Tony Ressler, investment banker Frank Baxter and former Northrop Grumman Chairman and CEO Ron Sugar, has brought some of the worst private-sector anti-union tactics to these publicly funded charter schools. Alliance’s CEO and President is Dan Katzir, who previously served as the Managing Director for the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, became Alliance’s top manager earlier this year.