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Olney HS staff seeks to unionize

A group of employees at Olney Charter High School filed a petition yesterday with the National Labor Relations Board requesting a representational election.

A GROUP OF TEACHERS and staffers at Olney Charter High School yesterday filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board requesting the federal agency conduct an election that would allow employees to become unionized.

The filing included signed union authorization cards from Olney employees and stated that the new union would be part of the Alliance of Charter School Employees, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, according to the petition.

More than 70 percent of the 150-person staff signed on to the effort, which may face a challenge from Olney's charter operator, ASPIRA Inc. of Pennsylvania.

The federal filing came one day after ASPIRA officials met, for the first time, with Olney teachers who began the organizing effort three years ago, organizers and teachers said. The ASPIRA officials - CEO Alfredo Calderon, COO Thomas Darden and newly-hired superintendent Andrea Gonzalez-Kerwin - told the teachers that they would not voluntarily recognize the union, but would respect the results of an election, participants said.

Darden did not respond to an email seeking comment.

An election could be held as soon as 30 days if no challenges are made by ASPIRA.

Calderon "said he would respect the wishes of the majority and I asked him to recognize the union and he said no, he would respect the outcome of an election," said Hanako Franz, a freshman history teacher who has been at Olney for four years.

English as a Second Language teacher Hannah Myers, who has been at Olney for four years, said she believes Calderon and the others want to drag out the process.

"It's very hard for me to believe that he's willing to work with us," she said. "If he really wanted to allocate resources to support our community, they would voluntarily recognize the union, which has been the majority for three years."

The petition requests that a future union include "all full-time and regular part-time professional and non-professional instructional and student service support employees, including teachers, co-teachers, psychologists" and other employees, according to the filing.