The Association of Clovis Educators claimed victory in a ruling announced Thursday by the California Public Employment Relations Board that found Clovis Unified has illegally supported the Faculty Senate to keep ACE from organizing a teachers union and that the district and Faculty Senate illegally stymied the union’s organizing efforts.
The ruling upholds a nearly 40-year-old PERB decision that ordered the district to stop providing preferential treatment and financial support to the Faculty Senate, which has served as the de facto representative of teachers in discussions with the district about pay, benefits, and other issues.
The ruling in 1984 came during an earlier effort by Clovis teachers to organize that was unsuccessful. Clovis Unified is one of the state’s largest school districts in which teachers are not represented by a labor union.
In a news release Thursday ACE organizer Kristin Heimerdinger said the union was “very pleased that PERB recognized and denounced both CUSD’s and Faculty Senate’s illegal behavior. Both parties should be ashamed that they’ve been knowingly breaking the law for 40 years. It’s regrettable that we had to take legal action to compel the district to follow the law, but we are thankful that the ruling makes clear their illegal behavior must stop.”
Clovis Unified is analyzing the lengthy but noted that some of the issues raised in the complaint had already been addressed while other allegations were dismissed.
In a statement, Superintendent Corrine Folmer recognized the Faculty Senate’s longtime role in representing the interests of the district’s teachers but did not mention ACE by name.
“Moving forward, we will continue to seek ways to involve our teachers in decision-making, value their voice, and put a priority on our teachers and their direct impact on our students and classroom learning,” Folmer said.
The PERB ruling, which rolled together four separate complaints against the district and Faculty Senate, found that both had violated the Education Employment Relations Act when the district gave stipends and time off to teachers serving as Faculty Senate members, and when the Faculty Senate gathered signatures for the Clovis Teachers Organization, another labor organizing group created to rival ACE.
The PERB decision also requires the district to delete language in emails from former Superintendent Eimear O’Brien in support of the Faculty Senate as the teachers’ representative and the portions of “Doc’s Charge” that clearly advocates against teachers joining a labor union.
“Doc’s Charge” is the guidance for employees that was created by Floyd “Doc” Buchanan, the district’s founding superintendent. The guidance also emphasizes the importance of maintaining high standards and teaching students to be competitive and successful.
“Doc’s Charge is the most blatant,” the PERB ruling says. “It specifically sets forth a historical viewpoint of the District being proud that it is non-union.”
Although the district removed the language from its website and stopped handing it out to newly hired employees during orientation, it is still on display in the trustees’ boardroom, superintendent’s office, and other district locations, the PERB ruling observed.
As of Friday, the version of “Doc’s Charge” on the Clovis High School website still contained this paragraph: “The professionals who work in our district are proud that we do not have collective bargaining. We are the only large school district in the state where the teachers and the administrators can still publicly say they like each other. I say that tongue in cheek, but my goodness, it’s amazing how often you read in the paper of adults fighting over the rights and benefits of adults. Does anybody remember children anymore?”
ACE successfully organized a subgroup of the district’s credentialed employees, the school psychologists and mental health specialists, and now represents them at the bargaining table. The union began representing those employees in February 2022.
While teachers are unrepresented by a union, other Clovis Unified staffers are represented by several different unions.
But ACE’s efforts to collect enough signatures to represent the teaching force have not been successful, and ACE argues that the district’s support of the Faculty Senate has hampered those efforts.
More Time for Signature Gathering
ACE began its signature-gathering in April 2021. Typically signatures are valid for one year.
The PERB decision, which has not been finalized pending appeals, would give ACE a year to complete its signature-gathering from the date the ruling is final.
Heimerdinger, who teaches at Buchanan High School, said Friday that the PERB judge’s ruling means ACE does not need to continue resigning teachers whose signatures had expired. ACE is continuing to collect signatures, she said.
Once the union collects 50% plus one signature, it would win recognition as the teachers’ labor representative, she said.
“The exact number is harder to know because we’d have to decide if we want to include counselors, speech therapists, etc.,” she said in a text message. “Twelve hundred would be more than required but a safe number accounting for all the possible members.”
ACE does not disclose how many signatures it has already collected, Heimerdinger said.