Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Florida Virtual School leaders oppose teacher union initiative

The movement to organize Florida Virtual School's teachers has met strong pushback from the the school's administration, which calls the effort a "serious" matter.

In an email to staff, FLVS CEO Jodi Marshall said unionization would interfere with the school's individual recognition and respect of teachers.

"We believe that a union is not needed here at FLVS and that bringing a union into our school can drastically affect our relationship with you," Marshall wrote. "That is why we intend to oppose the union by every legal means available to us."

She suggested that the union drive will not bring any benefits to the faculty, and offered a lengthy list of "Promises vs. Reality" for teachers to consider. Among them:

"Union's Promise:  8-hour work day and/or 40-hour work week
"Reality:  One of the great aspects of being a teacher for FLVS is the flexibility to choose the 8-hours you wish to work, with the expectation that full-time employees may need to adjust their schedules to accommodate mandatory meetings or events.  A union cannot guarantee you anything different.

"Union's Promise:  Overtime pay
"Reality:  FLVS provides a compensation plan that is intended to be competitive in attracting, retaining, and motivating teachers to succeed. Under 29 C.F.R. section 541.301, teachers are professional employees exempt from the overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act.     

"Union's Promise:  Ability to challenge wrongful terminations
"Reality:  We are fortunate at FLVS to have relatively few terminations considering the large size of our teacher workforce.  Nonetheless, FLVS has policies in place so that all terminated employees have the right to challenge a termination decision.  Specifically, an FLVS teacher who has a complaint concerning disciplinary action, denial of promotion, discrimination, or wrongful termination, already has the right to file a grievance to challenge the employment action.  FLVS does not need a union to come in and negotiate a grievance procedure."

Marshall expressed a hope that teachers would not sign petition cards asking for a union vote. If they do sign, though, she told them it's not required that they support the union drive.

"Having a union at FLVS could fundamentally change who we are, and who we strive to be by negatively impacting the speed with which we can get things done, and the way in which we wish to communicate (with no third party)," she wrote. "Although we always seek continuous improvement, I believe in FLVS and what we are building here, and hope you support me in not bringing a union into our school."

Separately, Marshall also has announced raises for all staff of 1.0 percent to 3.7 percent, depending on hire dates and performance ratings.

Lauren Masino, who has been organizing the union effort, said she is not deterred by Marshall's actions. She said she planned to continue the push.

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