Princeton school district technology workers seek to unionize

The technology department has been asking for increased staffing since the COVID-19 pandemic

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The ten members of the Princeton Public Schools (PPS) technology department have filed a petition with the state Public Employment Relations Commission to join Local 32 of the Office and Professional Employees International Union.

The petition to unionize follows the Princeton Public Schools Board of Education’s refusal to grant voluntary recognition of the union, according to the members. The fledgling Princeton Public Schools Technology Association (PPSTA) had requested voluntary recognition by school district officials in October.

The school district administration has allegedly declined repeated calls for adding more staff to the technology department, leading to the movement to unionize.

“For some time, we have struggled to effectively service PPS students and staff. We believe we can better address our job responsibilities once our concerns with staffing levels, budgetary constraints and workplace conditions are reviewed and resolved,” according to the PPSTA petition to school district officials.

The technology department has been asking for increased staffing since the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in the district issuing computers to students on a one-to-one basis. The technology department claims that it has been unable to meet the needs and expectations of students and staff.

There is one technician each at Princeton High School and Princeton Middle School. The technician at the high school serves 1,550 students and about 300 staff members. The technician at the middle school serves about 830 students and nearly 175 staff members.

In response, the school board said it had received notice Dec. 11 that the newly-formed PPSTA had filed a petition for certification with the Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC).

The school board stated that it had previously advised the PPSTA that it believes PERC should make the determination, although it had not yet received the petition for certification filed with PERC.

“We believe PERC – which is an independent third party with the experience and authority to determine the composition of negotiations units, conduct representation elections and certify exclusive representatives – should make those determinations,” the school board said.

“It is particularly important when there are questions about the make-up of the union, since the Employer-Employee Relations Act generally prohibits supervisor and non-supervisors from being in the same collective negotiations units (unions),” the school board said.

The PPSTA and Local 32 of the Office and Professional Employees International Union stated that all of the employees included in the bargaining unit in the petition should be considered non-supervisors under law.

Nevertheless, the school board said that it values its relationship with the three existing unions, and it is looking forward to PERC resolving and deciding the issue. It said it values all of the district employees, whether or not they are in a union, and strives to treat them fairly.