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Judge grants injunction against big LAUSD charter in battle with UTLA

Craig Clough | December 4, 2015

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UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl

A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge issued a preliminary injunction yesterday against Alliance College-Ready Public Schools, the latest development in the effort by the LA teachers union, UTLA, to unionize Alliance teachers.

The injunction, which was sought by the California’s Public Employment Relations Board (PERB), follows a temporary restraining order the judge issued in late October when he ordered Alliance to cease activities that PERB and UTLA claimed were blocking the unionization effort.

The injunction is another legal blow to Alliance, which is LA Unified’s largest charter organization with 27 schools and around 700 teachers who are currently not represented by any union. After PERB sided with UTLA, the union won the restraining order, and PERB took the rare legal step of going to court itself against Alliance, filing a formal complaint in August.

Alliance officials have made no secret of their opposition to its teachers’ unionizing and have maintained that their actions are legal. Alliance spokesperson Catherine Suitor asserted that PERB and the court based their rulings on inaccurate information provided by UTLA and that UTLA is using delay tactics in court because it has not garnered the support of a majority of Alliance teachers.

“The filing of unfair labor practices is a standard tactic in labor organizing, particularly when efforts are not accelerating at a rate deemed acceptable by union leaders,” Suitor said today in a statement to LA School Report. “Despite an intense year-long unionization campaign, the majority of Alliance teachers have shown no interest in allowing UTLA leadership to speak on their behalf.”

She added, “The recent ruling on UTLA’s request for injunctive relief changed nothing in the earlier decision by the court. We continue to respect the rights of our teachers’ rights to freely and openly discuss unionization.”

In his  ruling, Judge James C. Chalfant said Alliance administrators should be enjoined from:

  • Maintaining or sponsoring petitions on its website soliciting employee signatures that affirm opposition to unionization.
  • Polling certified employees about their positions on unionization.
  • Denying UTLA representatives access to school sites after-hours.
  • Blocking UTLA emails to Alliance employees.

The judge also ruled that Alliance officials must refrain from approaching any UTLA official within 100 feet outdoors or within 40 feet indoors (unless student safety is involved) and that Alliance officials must meet with UTLA officials to discuss implementing the preliminary injunction.

Chalfant’s earlier order invited the parties to argue in court on Nov. 17 why a preliminary injunction of 90 days should not be issued. But he ruled yesterday that his injunction would remain in effect until Alliance complied with the PERB administrative proceedings on all complaints.

“We are very pleased that the court has granted this injunction,” Xochil Johansen, a resource teacher at Alliance’s Stern Mass High School, said in a statement. “Schools are places that should foster the freedom to engage in active learning, creativity, discussion and innovation, not places for coercion, fear and intimidation.”

Suitor said that Alliance met almost all the requirements of the temporary order but did not explain why the judge still ruled against it.

“Alliance complied with every portion of the TRO, except one small administrative error which occurred when one school inadvertently posted the TRO incorrectly on their campus,” she said. “That mistake was rectified as soon as we realized it. We are deeply disappointed, though not surprised, that UTLA continues to cynically place Alliance students and teachers in their political crosshairs.”

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