PERB Rules that Union May Organize a Unit of Employees in a Group of Virtual Charter Schools

In California Virtual Academies, http://www.perb.ca.gov/decisionbank/pdfs/2484.pdf, the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) determined that 11 online charter schools, called the California Virtual Academies or CAVA, constituted a single employer for the purpose of collective bargaining. A union sought to represent the 700 teachers in one bargaining unit, and it achieved majority support in that proposed unit. CAVA opposed, contending that each of the charter schools was a separate employer.

“Single employer” status exists for the purpose of collective bargaining where nominally separate entities are actually part of a single integrated enterprise, considering: (1) functional integration of operations; (2) centralized control of labor relations; (3) common management; and (4) common ownership or financial control.

PERB determined that the facts demonstrated single employer status. A CAVA teacher typically taught students who were enrolled in CAVA schools other than the school named in the teacher’s employment contract. The teachers’ supervisors and managers operated on a regional level, and they reported up the chain of command to one statewide Head of Schools. The Head of Schools and her administrative team determined the placement of students with teachers and the placement of teachers with regional supervisors and managers. Common CAVA management determined policies regarding terms and conditions of employment, such as pay and hours, which were the same throughout the CAVA schools. Personnel decisions (such as evaluation, discipline and termination) were made at a regional level, not by the individual school boards.

Given that PERB found the 11 schools were a single employer, and the teachers had community of interest, PERB approved the proposed bargaining unit. As a result, the union is the certified representative of the teachers, and if the parties agree on a contract, it will apply across the 11 schools.

If you have any questions, please contact your labor counsel.

By Anne Yen | August 23, 2016

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