PPS technology workers petition to unionize public schools

December, 2023
Jessica ChenShumona Bhattacharjya


On December 11, PPS Technology Workers filed a petition to create a union to the New Jersey Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC) with OPEIU Local 32 following the Board of Education’s refusal to voluntarily recognize their union.

The ten members of PPS’ Technology department and union organizer Max Bienstock initially sought voluntary recognition from the Board on October 23.

The PPS technology workers primarily seek to unionize as Princeton Public Schools Technology Association (PPSTA) because of their struggles to service PPS students and staff. The petition cited budgetary constraints, low staffing levels, and workplace conditions, specifically citing how there is only one technician for 1550 students and 300 staff members at PHS.

“There just weren't enough of them to be able to do as good a job as they wanted to, especially now that technology has become such an important part of education,” said Bienstock. “They wanted to have more people in the tech department so that it wasn't each one of them having to work insane hours all the time.”

Although Bienstock said that the technology workers have been disputing these issues for years, BOE President Dafna Kendal claimed otherwise.

“We had not heard the concerns from this group of employees before,” Kendal said. “They brought up the idea of creating the union and then provided the reasons, but it was the first time the board was aware.”

PPS Technology workers could not be contacted for an interview.

Despite this discrepancy, the biggest reason the Board could not approve the union was a concern that both supervisors and non-supervisors were present in the union, as different types of employees are not able to collectively negotiate.

“We believe that the Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC) —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,” stated a Board press release on December 11.

The press release also acknowledged that the Board values and strives to treat all their employees fairly, whether or not they’re part of a union.

If the PPSTA succeeds in being recognized under PERC, the technology workers can negotiate a contract with the BOE.

“This is an issue that personally [affects] these workers; it has nothing to do with interpersonal griping,” said Bienstock. “It's really all about wanting to better serve the students. We wanted to show that this affects more than just the 10 people.”

The ten members of PPS’ Technology department and union organizer Max Bienstock initially sought voluntary recognition from the Board on October 23.

Board Statement:

"The Princeton Public Schools Board of Education received notice today that the newly-formed Princeton Public Schools Technology Association (PPSTA) filed a petition for certification with the Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC), although we have yet to receive a copy of the petition itself.

“As the Board had previously advised the PPSTA several weeks ago, we believe that PERC —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. That is particularly important when there are questions about the makeup of the union, since the Employer-Employee Relations Act generally prohibits supervisors and non-supervisors from being represented in the same collective negotiations unit.

“We value the collaborative working relationships we have with all three unions that already exist in the Princeton Public Schools and we look forward to PERC resolving and deciding this issue. We know that the employment of caring, dedicated, and skilled employees is critical to the Board’s mission of preparing all students to lead lives of joy and purpose as knowledgeable, creative, and compassionate citizens of a global society. We value all our employees, whether they are in a union or not, and we always strive to treat our employees fairly."