A Quaker school in NYC has become the center of a heated labor struggle for teachers looking to unionize.
“Last spring, Dan Magaziner’s 8-year-old son learned about ‘changemakers’ in his social-studies class at Brooklyn Friends, a private Quaker school in Brooklyn known for its progressive teachings and emphasis on social justice.
The second-grader studied civil rights activists like Bayard Rustin, and, for his final project, he wrote about Cesar Chavez and the organizing of farm workers in California.
So Mr. Magaziner was shocked when, months later, he and the other parents at Brooklyn Friends received a Friday night email that said the school was seeking to dissolve the faculty and staff members’ union in order to ‘fully practice our Quaker values of respecting others and celebrating every individual’s inner light.’
The Aug. 14 email drew a swift backlash from many parents of children at the school over what they said was hypocritical union-busting by a liberal institution.
‘My son learned that organizing was a laudable thing to do,’ Mr. Magaziner said. ‘Now I have to tell him that the school apparently didn’t mean it, and that its ideas about changemakers apparently stop at the schoolhouse door.’
The administration has defended its decision as an effort to ‘amplify’ voices, not ‘quiet’ them. But the conflict at the school, where tuition starts at $46,400 and many students come from wealthy families, shows how progressive institutions like Brooklyn Friends can get caught up in fierce debates over whether they are upholding their core beliefs.
Brooklyn Friends, located in Downtown Brooklyn, has about 900 students, and it was difficult to identify parents who would publicly support the administration’s decision.
More than 1,000 parents and alumni have signed a petition urging the school to stop its efforts to decertify the union, and some 130 teachers and staff members have signed a petition of their own.
‘People keep saying, “This isn’t the school I thought I was sending my children to,”‘ said Sabrina Rodriguez, a Brooklyn Friends parent.
In the spring of last year, over 80 percent of faculty and staff members voted to unionize, with no objection from the school. Union representatives were at the table as contract talks began at the end of 2019 and in July of this year to negotiate the layoffs of approximately 30 teachers because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Two weeks after those negotiations ended, teachers and staff members received notice on Aug. 14 that the school was moving to dismantle the union. The administration said a union went against Quaker values, which emphasize direct communication and consensus.
Crissy Cáceres, the head of school, wrote in an email to the faculty and staff: ‘Working through a third party to communicate with all of you hinders us in hearing from you, in your words, about issues you may want to raise directly with the school concerning your working conditions and professional experiences.’
Her motion with the school’s board of trustees to disband the union cited a June decision by the National Labor Relations Board to reverse an Obama-era ruling that gave religiously affiliated institutions the right to organize.”
For the rest of the story, visit The New York Times here.