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Union hits Aspira Olney Charter High School with a third unfair-labor-practice charge

The American Federation of Teachers claims a new policy issued by administrators restricts employees’ rights by prohibiting distribution of materials or visiting work areas without authorization.

IMAGINE A SCHOOL where teachers could be suspended, even terminated, for talking to one another.

That school exists and it's called Aspira Olney Charter High School, according to an unfair labor-practice charge filed against the school and its operator, Aspira of Pennsylvania.

The American Federation of Teachers filed the charge Dec. 4 with the regional office of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The school already has two pending charges filed by the union that the NLRB found to have merit.

Aspira Olney officials issued a new discipline policy early this month that also covers five other schools run by Aspira. It aims "to correct the undesirable or inappropriate behavior of employees."

Staffers were required to sign the document, which listed minor, major and critical offenses.

Employees could find themselves in hot water if they are "loitering and loafing" during school, visiting "work areas without a work-related purpose or authorization," or distributing or posting material - even sending emails in the school system, said Sam Lieberman, associate director of the union's legal department.

Discipline could result in a verbal or written warning or termination.

The policy violates the employees' rights under the National Labor Relations Act, Lieberman said, because it "restricts their right to communicate . . . about unionization and any activity engaged in by workers."

Aspira Olney staff voted in April to form a union with the Alliance of Charter School Employees. According to records released under a right-to-know request, the school hired the law firm Eckert Seamans to advise on the organizing efforts. The firm billed the charter school $28,858 for its services in the two months after the union vote.