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NLRB invites briefs regarding charter school jurisdiction

The National Labor Relations Board has granted review in a case that asks whether the Board has jurisdiction over a charter school in Illinois. The Board invites briefs from interested parties on the question.

In the case under review, Chicago Mathematics & Science Academy Charter School, Inc. (13-RM-1768), the Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff sought a representation election for the school’s teachers, social workers and counselors through the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board. The union argued that the state board was the proper authority to conduct the election because the school is a “political subdivision” of the state, and so is exempt from the Board’s jurisdiction. However, the School maintains that it is not a political subdivision of the state, and therefore the NLRB should conduct the election.

Section 2(2) of the National Labor Relations Act exempts government entities or wholly owned government corporations from its coverage.  Following the test described by the Supreme Court in NLRBv. Natural Gas Utility District of Hawkins County, Tenn., 402 U.S. 600 (1971), the Board has determined that entities are political subdivisions exempt from NLRB jurisdiction, if they are “either (1) created directly by the state, so as to constitute departments or administrative arms of the government, or (2) administered by individuals who are responsible to public officials or to the general electorate.”  State charter school laws vary, and NLRB regional directors have both asserted jurisdiction in some charter school cases and declined it in others.  The decision in this case could provide further guidance as to when charter schools fall under NLRB jurisdiction.

The National Labor Relations Board is an independent federal agency vested with the power to safeguard employees’ rights to organize and to determine whether to have unions as their bargaining representative. The agency also acts to prevent and remedy unfair labor practices committed by private sector employers and unions.

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