The Association of Clovis Educators is appealing a recent Public Employment Relations Board decision and urging the board to order the disestablishment of the Clovis Unified Faculty Senate because of concerns that illegal activities could continue.
ACE, which has been trying to organize as the union representing the district’s teachers for several years, had filed a series of unfair labor complaints with PERB. The chief complaint was that the district illegally designated the Faculty Senate as the teachers’ labor representative and provided financial and other support to Faculty Senate leaders and members, including stipends and paid time off.
PERB upheld the union’s complaint in the Dec. 7 proposed decision. ACE’s appeal on Wednesday comes within the 20-day window set by PERB for challenges to the proposed decision, which ruled on several complaints that were rolled together.
The district is not appealing the decision, spokeswoman Kelly Avants said Thursday, releasing the following statement:
“The district’s review of the PERB ruling affirmed that Faculty Senate can continue to exist (without further financial support by the district), that many items raised in the complaint against the district were either dismissed or have already been resolved, and that there was no need to appeal the ruling. We are pleased to move forward in continued collegial relationship with our employee groups.”
PERB’s proposed decision found in favor of ACE’s complaint that Clovis Unified illegally supported the Faculty Senate for decades after an earlier PERB decision ordered it to desist.
Dismantling the Faculty Senate is necessary, ACE spokeswoman Kristin Heimerdinger said Thursday.
“We do believe that the Faculty Senate would continue their work in some way unless they’re completely disestablished and because of the 40 years of support by the district and access by the district and 40 years of history,” she said. “It is unreasonable to think that some of those behaviors just wouldn’t continue.”
District’s Anti-Union History
The district’s opposition to teachers unionizing is spelled out in “Doc’s Charge,” a guidance for employees written by the district’s founding superintendent, Dr. Floyd “Doc” Buchanan, that includes the following: “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?”
Clovis Unified is one of the largest school districts in California whose teachers are not represented by a union. However, several unions represent other Clovis Unified employee groups in labor talks.
The proposed decision by the PERB administrative law judge marked a victory for ACE, but that victory will be hollow if the Faculty Senate and district continue to work hand-in-hand, Heimerdinger said.
ACE would be forced to continue to police both the district and the Faculty Senate to ensure no further violations occur, she said.
The idea of dismantling the Faculty Senate was already floated by PERB in a court filing in August 2021 that sought injunctive relief, Heimerdinger said. The Fresno County Superior Court did not grant the injunction, however, she said.
PERB Board Will Decide
The decision by the administrative law judge as well as ACE’s appeal are now subject to a review by the full PERB board, Heimerdinger said.
Given the voluminous hearing record — the hearing took 33 days, one of the longest in PERB history — it could be as long as a year before the PERB board issues its final decision, she said.
Meanwhile, the Faculty Senate members will represent teachers on a volunteer basis under the requirements set out in the proposed decision, Heimerdinger said.
“I will tell you that doing it all on your own time and for free, it’s an incredible amount of work,” she said. “And I’m not sure that they really realize the amount of work that it is to do it well, and to do a good job at it.”