Ohio teachers say district violated state labor laws

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — A union representing teachers in Columbus City schools says the district’s decision to strip a group of educators of their union status violates Ohio labor laws.

The Columbus Education Association, which represents nearly 4,500 educators in Columbus schools, filed an unfair labor practice charge with the State Employment Relations Board on Thursday. He is challenging the district’s decision to reclassify seven Project Connect educators — whose primary role is working with homeless students — and two other roles from full-time hourly positions to public service positions.

In doing so, Project Connect educator Amy Bradley told the Columbus Board of Education that she and her colleagues could face pay cuts of up to 30% and lose their union contracts with CEA. In addition to the Project Connect jobs, the other two positions without union status are a youth justice coordinator and a foster care liaison, according to the CEA’s unfair labor practice charge.

“Losing our union status would make Project Connect a less desirable career and weaken our community relationships that help feed, clothe and educate our most vulnerable young people,” Bradley said.

Through a federally funded program, Project Connect staff provide services to Columbus youth experiencing homelessness – such as transportation, wellness checks and financial assistance – to ensure that they still have access to public education, according to the district’s website.

Jacqueline Bryant, a spokesperson for the district, said it reclassified Project Connect educators to the non-teaching public service titles of Young Academics Support Advocate and Student Services Program Coordinator in June.

“All of our students, including our homeless students, receive instruction from our dedicated, licensed teachers,” Bryant said in an email. “Non-teaching support for our homeless students can be appropriately provided by non-teaching staff in the district.”

No student will receive lesser services due to the reclassification of Project Connect educators, Bryant said.

“Change, even when difficult, is sometimes necessary,” Bryant said. “But the bottom line is that we will always keep our students as our top priority.”

But Bradley said that by “deprofessionalizing” her and her colleagues, the district sends a message to homeless students that “they deserve less: less professionalism, less stability and less supervision.”

“Why would the District destabilize a department that seeks to stabilize the education of our most vulnerable young people? How is it fair? How does this benefit the whole child? ” she says.

The unfair labor practice charge comes as CEA and the district council continue to negotiate a new employment contract. The current contract, according to the CEA, expires on August 22.

The State Employment Relations Board, responsible for reviewing unfair labor claims in Ohio, will investigate the union’s allegations to determine if a violation has occurred.

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