Nearly 75% of Clovis Unified’s school psychologists have signed a petition authorizing union representation for the first time in the district’s history. The petition was being submitted Thursday to the California Public Employment Relations Board for certification, organizer Tamara Soemali said.
If the petition is certified, the school psychologists will be represented by the Association of Clovis Educators, which is seeking to represent all the district’s more than 2,100 certificated employees.
Soemali, a school psychologist and 25-year district employee, said the school psychologists decided to move forward now with their unionizing efforts because of the large amount of state and federal funding that Clovis Unified will be receiving to meet students’ educational and social-emotional needs in the wake of the pandemic.
“It’s critical we have a voice at the table” during discussions of how the funding will be allocated, she said.
Soemali said Thursday’s announcement marks a “rather historic” moment for union organizers. The last time Clovis Unified certificated employees attempted to form a union was in 1983, the year she graduated from Clovis High. Her mother and aunt were among the disappointed employees who had sought a union, and both “are excited and so proud” that the union effort has been successful this time, Soemali said.
Signature Collection Continues
There won’t be separate bargaining units within ACE, she emphasized. Teachers, speech therapists, and other school employees are continuing signature-gathering to be represented by the union, she said.
ACE has one year from April 5 when it was officially formed and organizers began collecting signatures to submit union authorization petitions to PERB. To qualify for certification, the union must collect a majority of signatures from the district’s educators.
Soemali noted that a supermajority of Clovis Unified’s 78 school psychologists signed the petition.
Clovis Unified officials did not have an immediate comment about the announcement from the school psychologists about filing a petition with PERB. Later Thursday, the district released the following statement:
“Today, Clovis Unified was notified by a representative of the California Teachers Association that some of the district’s school psychologists have initiated a process with the California Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) to unionize. The District is evaluating this notice and will respond appropriately when contacted by PERB.”
Last week ACE filed an unfair practice complaint with PERB against the district, alleging that the district continues to violate a longtime PERB order that it not provide financial support to the Faculty Senate and not talk exclusively with the Faculty Senate.
ACE contends that the Faculty Senate, which the district says is the representative body for Clovis teachers, is controlled by and beholden to the administration.