Jewish day schools grapple with teacher union problems

Posted: September 04, 2014

Perelman Jewish Day School teachers are appealing a National Labor Relations Board ruling rejecting its claim that the private Jewish school engaged in unfair labor practices.

Meanwhile, another area Jewish day school, Barrack Hebrew Academy in Bryn Mawr, approved a five-year contract with its 56 teachers, providing for raises of 0, 2, 2, 3, and 3 percent.

"The successful conclusion of our negotiations shows that there is no conflict between running a successful Jewish day school and having a unionized workforce," said Barnett Kamen, co-president of the Barrack union.

The new contract maintains the current health-care plans and the school's matching contributions to employee pensions. New teaches will earn tenure after five years instead of three.

At Perelman, the school's 60 teachers, who are being represented by the American Federation of Teachers Pennsylvania, are starting the school year without a contract after the board of directors voted last year no longer to recognize the union. The board maintained that removing tenure and seniority will give administrators greater flexibility in recruiting teachers, making assignments, and retaining excellent teachers.

The school has campuses in Wynnewood and Melrose Park.

The regional NLRB ruled that it lacked jurisdiction over the case because the school's mission is largely religious, said Barbara Goodman, a spokeswoman for the AFT-Pa. The deadline for filing an appeal is Friday.

Aaron J. Freiwald, a Perelman board member and parent, said in a statement, "We believe the NLRB reached the correct result and that any appeal will affirm the agency's decision."

Teachers were given individual work agreements last year. They have argued that the right to belong to a union and for workers to have a voice in their workplaces is a core belief of Conservative Judaism, with which Perelman is affiliated.



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