Employees at one of the state’s two virtual charter schools voted against unionizing, reversing the outcome of an earlier vote in which several ballots were contested.

In a case before the National Labor Relations Board last fall, Maine Connections Academy, the school’s employees and the state teachers union all contested ballots cast in a November election that resulted in a 9-7 vote to unionize.

As part of an agreement between the school and employees, a new election was held this week, resulting in a 10-9 vote against organizing a unit with the Maine Education Association.

“Connections Academy spent thousands of taxpayer dollars to fight the formation of a union, delayed the process in court and targeted employees with anti-union messages to the point where several employees quit,” Grace Leavitt, president of the association, said in a statement Thursday.

“This type of intimidating behavior is something MEA doesn’t stand for as it continues to advocate for the rights of employees. MEA will stand behind the teachers who spoke up for their right to organize and will continue to review the conduct of Connections Academy during the election.”

Amy Linscott, president of the school’s governing board, defended the schools actions.

“Maine Connections Academy has at all times conducted itself in a manner that would ensure a free and fair election,” Linscott said in an email. “We believe that the re-run election, which the union agreed to, reflects that outcome.”

The MEA represents almost 24,000 teachers, support staff, student teachers and retired educators in 242 chapters statewide.

Of Maine’s nine operating charter schools, only Baxter Academy for Technology and Science in Portland is unionized, having voted to do so on May 14, 2019, the association said.

Employees at Maine Connections Academy originally voted in November to form a union, but four ballots were challenged: two by Connections Academy, one by the labor board and one by the association. The dispute centered around the eligibility of some staff members to vote, according to teachers at the school.

“As with the case of Baxter Academy, the first vote to organize was unsuccessful, but today educators at Baxter are members of MEA and are successfully negotiating a contract that is in the best interest of their profession and their students,” Leavitt said. “MEA hopes a similar outcome will result at Connections in the near future.”

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