Clovis · Education

Clovis teachers execute end-run around Calif. teachers union, file to launch “Clovis Teachers Organization”

In a surprising move aimed at severing the influence of California’s largest statewide teacher union, Clovis Unified School District’s Faculty Senate near-unanimously voted Monday to seek recognition from California labor regulators as the sole labor representative for teachers.

Clovis Unified, by far California’s largest non-union school district, has operated for decades under the Faculty Senate model of labor representation.

The system enables teachers to elect school representatives who, in turn, elect officers to consult on a wide array of topics with Clovis Unified administrators.

Now, that model is shifting – if slightly – to crush a union organizing effort heavily-backed by the California Teachers Association, named the Association of Clovis Educators.

Monday, 96.9 percent of Faculty Senate members voted to petition California’s Public Employee Relations Board (PERB) to become a new employee organization representing workers’ interests.

The Faculty Senate offshoot will be dubbed the “Clovis Teachers Organization” or CTO.

In a release, the CTO is described as a “non-union” organization that holds similar bargaining powers as the Faculty Senate did, albeit with the hopeful imprimatur of state labor regulators.

Seeking state approval for the entity, however, opens the door to the CTO eventually transforming into a union.

In a memo circulated to Clovis Unified faculty, the new entity admits as much.

“The only way that can happen is if the CTO, (the teachers) vote to have dues,” the memo reads. “We are against this and will put it in the bylaws, but it could be changed by future members.”

The same goes for the potential of a strike.

“We are against [having to strike] and will put it in the bylaws, but it could be changed by future members,” the memo ads.

Other topics that are open to potential change in the future is the system in which officers and representatives are selected – with CTO continuing the Senate’s model of elections.

“CTO will not be tied to the CTA, [National Education Association], or any other association,” the memo reads. “It would be run by the teachers just as the Faculty Senate is.”

“As a result, CTO is not beholden to any political ideology and is free to advocate and negotiate on behalf of our fellow teachers of CUSD while still upholding the rich traditions of excellence that the families and communities of Clovis Unified School District expect and enjoy,” the Faculty Senate said in a statement.

Speaking to The Sun on Tuesday, Faculty Senate Vice President Bill Buettner said that the proposal for CTO was an attempt to strike the right balance between teachers favoring unionization efforts and those that want to preserve the status quo.

“We wanted to see if there was a way that we the teachers can represent ourselves and be officially recognized by the State of California as representatives without outside entities involved,” Buettner said. “So we researched and found this as the route to give teachers the opportunity to say, ‘This is what we want.'”

The path forward for CTO is similar to ACE, as both groups need signatures from at least 30 percent of teachers to trigger an election of a PERB-recognized labor representative.

While the Faculty Senate, an entity that has never received state recognition as a bargaining representative for teachers, could be on the way out, the goal for a state-certified Clovis Teachers Organization remains the same, Buettner said.

“It’s a unique flavor,” Buettner said of decision-making and consultation between administrators and teachers. “And we want to keep that going.”

The goal of maintaining local control over labor representation, eschewing affiliation with powerful national and state union organizations, is perhaps the most core value reflected in Clovis Unified governance.

“We’re doing our best to do things right both legally and ethically,” Buettner said of the new path.

Reid Stone is a contributing reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun.