After striking faculty and staff caused the Brooklyn Friends School to close for three days this week, the administration at the Quaker private school finally ceded to the BFS union’s demands Wednesday evening. Head of School Crissy Cáceres and the school’s Board of Trustees promised to withdraw the petition they had filed with the National Labor Relations Board in August seeking to get the BFS union disbanded on religious grounds.
In turn, school employees unionized with UAW Local 2110 said they would call off their strike.
“At the moment, all that matters is reopening our doors (virtual and physical) for our students,” Cáceres said in a statement on the decision. “They need school and the care that it offers. They need closure and an opportunity for a renewed beginning.”
She added, “We will continue working towards a Collective Bargaining Agreement contract with the UAW that will allow us to open the lines of communication with the purposes of providing better care for our colleagues. That was always our aim and is consistent with our Quaker practices.”
When Cáceres and the school’s board filed the petition to decertify the union in August, they argued that negotiating with a “third party” would go against the school’s Quaker values—a statement members of the school and broader Quaker community have spoken out against in recent months.
In the three days that teachers and staff rallied outside the school, they have been joined by parents, students, and other community members. A GoFundMe started by parents at the school to support the strike fund raised more than $58,000 and some parents even said that if classes did continue during the strike, they would keep their children from attending in solidarity.
“I think this speaks to our solidarity and our strength and I’m just very happy they’ve done the right thing,” Sarah Gordon, a third grade teacher at the school and member of the union negotiating committee, told Gothamist Wednesday night.
Efforts to reach a resolution earlier Wednesday evening were touch-and-go, teachers at BFS told Gothamist. At first, the administration offered to rescind the petition only if the union signed a contract that included several provisions that were “no-go’s” for union members. One teacher said the contract that was presented had no guarantee of basic benefits such as retirement and sick days.
After the union rejected that offer, the administration agreed to withdraw the petition and start contract negotiations anew.
“Now, at least, there is a more level playing field and there’s not this existential threat hanging over our heads,” Gordon said. Still, she said, “We’re going to have to rebuild this relationship.”
In an email sent out to families Wednesday night, Cáceres and the Board of Trustees maintained that filing the petition questioning employees’ collective bargaining rights was the right thing to do.
“We do not regret pursuing this option, which we believe was in the best interest of the entire BFS community,” Caceres and the board wrote, “and while the convictions of our actions remain true and whole, in order to cease the negative impact on our students, families and all colleagues who have been longing to return to our beloved school, we commit to withdrawing our petition filed with the NLRB asking for clarification of jurisdiction of the BFS Union, UAW Local 2110.”
Under the Trump administration, the NLRB has ruled that it doesn’t have jurisdiction over the employees of a private religious college, which seeded doubt about whether the agency would protect the collective bargaining rights of BFS union members.
“We felt we had no choice but to fight back,” said Maida Rosenstein, president of the UAW Local 2110. “I hope there will be a reset here.”
She added that the fight to get the petition withdrawn demonstrates how committed BFS employees are to being unionized. “Certainly, our union membership has proven and shown that they truly want a union,” Rosenstein said. “I hope that decision will be respected and I think they’re very inspiring to a lot of other workers.”
Students are back in school on Thursday.