State labor panel to file injunction in charter school unionization push

California's labor oversight board said it intends to file for an injunction to prohibit one of the state's largest charter organizations from interfering with efforts to unionize teachers.

Leaders of United Teachers Los Angeles had asked the Public Employment Relations Board to seek the injunction, accusing Alliance College-Ready Public Schools, a charter organization, of intimidating employees, denying organizers access to school buildings and blocking emails. In its request, the union said there would be irreparable harm if the courts did not intervene.

The board enforces collective bargaining laws for most of the state's public employees.

Leaders of the charter organization have denied wrongdoing.

The push to unionize educators at Alliance has drawn national attention. Charters are publicly funded, privately managed and traditionally nonunion.

Organizing teachers at Alliance's 27 campuses could alter the path of school reform in Los Angeles. If successful, the move could help the teachers union as it seeks to stem years of membership decline. Alliance charter schools would no longer be able to hire and fire staff without union rules — a factor they say helps retain quality educators.

Union leaders have filed four unfair practice claims against Alliance since announcing a drive to organize teachers at the charter organization in March. Two complaints are scheduled for a hearing in November.

In its request for an injunction, the union said it could not wait for the resolution of those claims because the charter organization's actions had "resulted in a chilling effect on the employees' responsiveness to unionization, which is threatening the effectiveness of organizing efforts."

Alliance spokeswoman Catherine Suitor called the union's request another "bureaucratic legal maneuver."

"We believe everything that we have done is to the letter of the law," Suitor said. "It doesn't help us to create a coercive or hostile environment. It's just not what we're about."

The state labor board declined to comment.

UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl said the board was clear in its decision to pursue an injunction.

"It's an unambiguous message to the Alliance management that they need to stop their anti-union and coercive campaign," Caputo-Pearl said. "Frankly, even the fact that it is just going to Superior Court is a signal that people who know labor law looked at the management's practices and are shocked at what they see."

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