Workers at three Bay Area private schools gain a stronger voice in the workplace

When math teacher Cheryl LaBrecque joined the staff of the French American International School in San Francisco in 1999, the preK-12 school was small and “things worked better.” Staff members “had a closer relationship with administration,” she says. Since then, it has become “more corporate, more top-down, more about money.”

Administrators unilaterally changed work hours, scheduled more mandatory meetings, increased class size, retaliated against people for speaking up and terminated employees with many years of experience. Salaries failed to keep up with the cost of living.

“We belonged to an independent association,” says LaBrecque, “but weren’t taken seriously. We had no clout. We needed to level the playing field with a strong union …better representation, stronger advocacy…the expertise and resources a larger organization like CFT could offer.” On May 19, the educators chose AFT as their bargaining agent because, says LaBrecque, “We wanted more direct support without having to do all the bargaining research ourselves.”

“We needed to level the playing field with a strong union …better representation, stronger advocacy…the expertise and resources a larger organization like CFT could offer.”

— Cheryl LaBrecque, French American International School

An overwhelming majority of the school’s approximately 130 bargaining unit members voted in favor of affiliating with the Federation. After considerable research, LaBrecque says she and her colleagues saw CFT as the “best fit” because they knew their autonomy would be respected. “We want to make our own decisions in consultation with CFT, but not have it take over.” They were impressed by CFT’s accessibility, with offices in the Bay Area. They believed the dues structure was very reasonable.

Since joining CFT, the teachers feel more confident. There is a new head administrator and a “new more positive, upbeat tone. We foresee more collaboration and cooperation,” says LaBrecque.

Two other French immersion schools, K-12 Lycée Français in San Francisco and preK-8 Ecole Bilingüe in Berkeley, learned about CFT from their counterparts at the French American International School and agreed the Federation was a great fit.

The Lycée bargaining unit of 150 certificated, classified and non-management administrative staff voted overwhelmingly to affiliate with AFT on March 6. Math and cinema teacher Miguel Concy said, “We knew we needed a more powerful alliance.”

On May 19, Ecole Bilingüe’s 58 previously unrepresented teachers and assistants voted for AFT. This school year, the educators look forward to having a say in their workplace, said third grade teacher Marion Tobie. 
 — By Mindy Pines, CFT Reporter