Groundbreaking fight to unionize two Cleveland charter schools is delayed while the schools and union negotiate

The Ohio Federation of Teachers and the I Can charter school network have put their legal fight on hold over unionization efforts at two schools while the sides try to negotiate a settlement.

The groundbreaking attempt to make the schools the only charter schools in Ohio with a union stalled last spring before employees could take a vote.

The sides were scheduled for a hearing Tuesday on charges that I Can improperly blocked organization efforts last spring and fired teachers active in the push. If an administrative judge for the National Labor Relations Board found I Can guilty of unfair labor practices, teachers could automatically have been unionized.

Such an order would be a major step in Ohio, where only one charter school -- public schools that receive state tax dollars, but are privately run -- has been unionized before. That school has since closed.

Instead, the sides delayed the hearing indefinitely to continue negotiations.

Unionization efforts started last year

I Can operates seven schools in Cleveland, Akron and Canton and has close ties with the Cleveland school district, even receiving some local tax money.

The unionization efforts focused on two of the schools: Northeast Ohio College Preparatory School in Cleveland's Tremont neighborhood and University of Cleveland Preparatory School at East 40th Street and Chester Avenue.

Organizing votes scheduled last year were canceled.

Teachers at the two schools and the Ohio Federation of Teachers, which hopes to unionize several charter schools in Ohio, filed complaints this summer that I Can fired seven organizers and took other steps to intimidate employees against organizing.

Among accusations against I Can were that employees were led to believe they were under surveillance, employees were pressured to reveal who was leading organizing efforts, and that pay and benefit improvements were made just before the scheduled vote to discourage union membership.

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