Teachers at a school founded by members of Blue Man group, Blue School, are on strike today in New York City.
Educators voted to form a union, but the Blue School has refused to recognize it and bargain in good faith. The educators are demanding a contract that includes:
- Fair, equitable salaries with guaranteed yearly cost-of-living increases
- Affordable healthcare and retirement benefits for ALL workers
- Enforceable protections from workplace discrimination and fair, transparent grievance procedures
- Job security from year to year and guaranteed severance, fair notice, and recall rights
Blue School is an expensive elementary school in Manhattan where full-time tuition exceeds $55,000 per year. The School has hired an expensive union busting law firm, Littler Mendelson, which is also used by Starbucks and Apple to fight worker organizing.
Blue School’s union election results were certified with the National Labor Relations Board on April 7, but the Blue School has appealed the decision and filed a “request for review,” a costly and time consuming step. In an open letter to the school, educators said,
We are deeply concerned that the School continues to use costly legal maneuvering to delay the counting of our ballots and certification of our union. We love and are committed to our work at Blue School. We ask that the School withdraw its appeal, allow our ballots to be counted without challenges, and respect our choice as employees about unionization.
As the school has refused to recognize the union, 97 percent of educators voted for a one-day strike. “Unionizing is our right as workers and it’s consistent with the School’s educational philosophy,” said Sarah Konowitz, a Fourth Grade Lead Teacher. “In my past four years at Blue School, we’ve been encouraged to create an environment in which students have a voice and learn to be collaborative. Unionization will create a more sustainable, equitable workplace, so that teachers and staff can just focus on our jobs — supporting students.”
“Blue School brands itself as offering a progressive approach to education. The curriculum we use even includes studies of activism and labor union history. It’s hypocritical for them to fight our union this way,” said Ari Bloom, Middle School Math Teacher. “We are striking because we want Blue School to stop abusing the legal process and come to the bargaining table.”
Union busting is not new to the Blue Man Group. As Blue School Union’s press release explains,
The tactics employed by the School to thwart unionization are the same as those used by Blue Man Group when the stagehands union sought to organize the Las Vegas theater where the Blue Man Group was performing in 2005. Matt Goldman, founder of the Blue Man Group and current Vice-Chair of Blue School’s Board of Trustees, originally pledged to honor election results in the stagehands’ vote to unionize, but later refused to recognize the union and continually appealed the results of the election.
Like all major businesses, Blue Man Group fights unions tooth and nail in order to make as much profit as possible from their workers. The educators at Blue School are showing the way forward for workers all over the country. If the bosses don’t recognize the union, then workers need to shut their workplaces down.
Join them on the picket lines today until 3:30 pm.