The Fairness Center represented Americans for Fair Treatment in a suit challenging “union work on school time”—Philadelphia Federation of Teachers’s (“PFT’s”) longstanding practice of taking school teachers and other school employees out of Philadelphia’s schools to perform full-time work for PFT.
The School District of Philadelphia (“District”) and PFT agreed, in their collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”), that the District must allow its employees to be “elected or appointed to full-time positions” with PFT and placed on “leaves of absences” by the District while holding those full-time PFT positions. Under the terms of the CBA, these employees continue to receive a District salary, retain District-provided insurance and benefits, accrue seniority as if they were employed by the District, and receive credit toward their pensions. PFT was not required under the CBA to reimburse the District for its expenses.
Currently, up to 63 District employees may perform union work on school time, and most of those employees working for PFT have been out of the classroom for at least 15 years.
Surprisingly, these full-time union work arrangements, sometimes called “release time” or “official time” provisions, are not uncommon among public-sector CBAs. Public employees on leave are used to staff public-sector union offices, to lobby for unions’ political causes and candidates, and to promote union membership at the workplace. But just because these arrangements are common does not mean that they are legal. The Fairness Center filed suit to expose Philadelphia’s union leave practices and to have this CBA provision declared illegal under Pennsylvania law.