PHILADELPHIA - A lawsuit filed Feb. 25 in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas against the Philadelphia School District and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT) challenges a provision in the collective bargaining agreement that allows teachers to perform union work on school time.
The complaint, filed by the Fairness Center on behalf of Americans for Fair Treatment, claims that the school district has permitted the PFT’s longstanding practice of taking school teachers and other school employees out of Philadelphia’s schools to perform full-time work for the union.
According to the claim, the district and PFT agreed in the collective bargaining agreement signed in January 2010 that employees must be allowed to be “elected or appointed to full time positions” with PFT and placed on “leaves of absences” by the district while holding those full-time PFT positions.
The complaint says that under the terms of the CBA, these employees continue to receive a district salary, retain district-provided insurance and benefits, accrue seniority as if they were employed by the district, and receive credit toward their pensions. PFT is not required under the CBA to reimburse the district for its expenses.
Currently, the complaint says, up to 63 district employees may perform union work on school time, and most of those employees working for PFT have been out of the classroom for at least 15 years. According to the claim, the leaves are broken up by the following:
- Union leave for Teachers and School Based Employees: No more than 35 teachers, four paraprofessionals, four secretaries and three non-teaching assistants.
- Union leaves for Comprehensive Early Learning Center Employees: No more than four employees shall be granted such leaves of absence for any school year.
- Union leaves for Food Service Managers: No more than three employees.
- Union leaves for Head Start Employees: No more than three employees.
- Union leaves for Per Diem Teachers: No more than two substitute teachers who are assured consecutive run assignment on days during which negotiations respecting this are mutually scheduled by the parties during work hours will be released to attend such negotiations with no loss in pay.
- Union leaves for Professional-Technical Employees: No more than five employees.
The Fairness Center seeks a permanent injunction against the provision of the CBA that authorizes the pay for union work. The complaint says that the district lacks the capacity to grant the paid leave because a teacher no longer becomes a public employee when it begins working for the union.
"The PFT and the District have no authority to bargain for terms of union work on school time and no authority to provide union workers on school time with incidences of public employment, including seniority over district employees working within the schools," the complaint says.
The complaint also argues that union work on school time takes teachers out of the classroom, decreases the number of teachers interacting with students, and obligates the district and the commonwealth to spend funds on activities not advancing public policy of obtaining a better education for the children and providing a thorough and efficient system of public education.
"Allowing employees performing union work on school time to accrue seniority, potentially keeping their positions over less senior employees, who have spent that time honing their skills, is contrary to public policy," says the claim.
The plaintiffs are represented by Nathan Bohlander and David Osborne of the Fairness Center in King of Prussia.
The case ID is 150202928.