COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Teachers and staff at a Columbus charter school have voted to unionize after the administration challenged and delayed their efforts.

Educators at KIPP Columbus voted to form their union, KIPP Columbus Alliance for Charter Teachers and Staff, in a ballot election by the National Labor Relations Board. The vote follows pushback from the school’s administration who claimed employees were unable to organize under the NLRB, a federal agency responsible for enforcing U.S. labor law in the private sector.

“I am confident that we will now be able to address high turnover, large class sizes, unsustainable coverage practices and equitable treatment for our amazing staff members,” said Stephanie Holiday, an intervention specialist at KIPP Middle School. “All of this will lead to a healthier workplace environment and better outcomes for our students.”

The new union also filed charges against KIPP Columbus with the NLRB for four Unfair Labor Practices pertaining to illegal harassment and retaliation of union supporters. The NLRB has already determined that two of the charges have merit, a release stated.

About 130 teachers, intervention specialists, social workers, teacher fellows, student life coordinators and paraprofessionals who work at the four schools on the KIPP campus make up the union.

KIPP teachers and staff first filed a petition for a union in November of 2022 with support from 78% of eligible employees. However, the school’s administration filed a legal motion that effectively delayed educators from holding a secret-ballot union election to kick off the official organizing process, according to filings with the NLRB.

In its motion before the NLRB, an attorney representing KIPP Columbus argued the State Employment Relations Board, as opposed to the NLRB, should have jurisdiction over the case. However, NBC4’s Jamie Ostroff found the argument has not held up in recent years. The NLRB rejected a similar argument by administrators at the Cleveland-based charter school Menlo Park Academy, whose educators sought to unionize in 2021.

In April, the NLRB rejected KIPP’s challenge, clearing the way for employees to decide whether they’d like to join the Ohio Federation of Teachers and the American Federation of Teachers. With the addition of the four KIPP Columbus schools, OFT now represents teachers and staff at 13 Ohio charter schools. AFT represents charter teachers and staff at schools across the country.

“We are extremely disappointed by KIPP Columbus’s tactics of harassment and intimidation, which included mandatory anti-union meetings, out-of-state consultants who failed to follow federal compliance rules, and a barrage of emails — 16 over a span of 14 workdays — meant to confuse, dissuade, and demoralize,” said Melissa Cropper, president of the OFT.

Next, KIPP Columbus will need to negotiate a fair contract with the union, a release states. The union’s top priorities for negotiating include a lack of substitute teachers, class size, staff turnover and unprotected planning periods.

“I am grateful that we were able to have a vote and that we are moving forward with bringing a voice to the people,” said Andrew Mensah, a math teacher at KIPP Columbus High School. “I am excited that our staff now has a seat at the table to make decisions.”