In wake of SRC news, charter school teachers deliver union petition to ASPIRA president
Teachers from ASPIRA charter schools delivered a petition yesterday and demanded neutrality from the association's chief executive Alfredo Calderon. The delivery came just hours after the Commonwealth Court ruled to restore health-care cuts, denying the School Reform Commission’s right to cancel union contracts.
Before confronting Calderon, the teachers spoke outside of the ASPIRA headquarters on North 5th Street. Union advocates from ACSE, AFT-PA, PCAPS, and PFT came to show their support for ASPIRA teachers and of the court’s ruling from earlier in the day.
“We’ve said from the beginning that SRC must return to bargaining table,” PFT President Jerry Jordan told AL DÍA. “But because they chose not to litigate, and not to spend money on teachers and textbooks, they’ve chosen to spend the money on lawyers instead.”
The teachers then confronted President Calderon outside the school, asking him if he would remain neutral in their efforts to unionize the charter school teachers. Calderon and the group of about a dozen ASPIRA teachers went back and forth on the issues.
Over the past two years, ASPIRA charter school teachers have signed seven affidavits regarding unfair labor practices and anti-union sentiment from the school administration. Two of the seven, Calderon countered, pertained to individual leaders at the school who were appropriately instructed and reprimanded as a result.
“Neutrality is what we’re already doing,” he said. “We’re staying out of the process, letting you meet with union reps, and letting you do what you have to do.”
Calderon said repeatedly he has never campaigned against the union. He said his platform has always been that he would respect the vote of the majority, but ASPIRA teachers insisted he had not made it clear to them. They cited several instances of Calderon implicitly and explicitly discouraging union presence at ASPIRA charter schools. They said that he had allowed anti-union flyers to be posted in the school. Moreover, they said, the last time he spoke to the entire ASPIRA staff at Olney Charter, he had advised teachers to “start committees, get organized, but do not form a union.”
Calderon’s response: “Well you said negative things, too.” Since that staff meeting, he claims he has not spoken out against the union.
“We want to sit down and work with you, Mr. Calderon,” one of the teachers said. “We love our students and we know that you love our students, but working together we will be stronger.”
Calderon eventually accepted the petition, and agreed to continue the dialogue between ASPIRA’s teachers and the school leaders throughout the coming union process.