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Board of arts nonprofit SAY Si ‘cannot’ apologize to staff as contract negotiations near

A group of SAY Si workers and supporters stand together for a picture after a press conference held by SAY Si workers to give an update on their union efforts.
Josh Peck
SAY Si workers and supporters stand together for photos after a press conference in March.

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The workers and board of directors of the afterschool arts nonprofit SAY Si are preparing to negotiate on the organization’s first collective bargaining agreement (CBA).

They are using a type of bargaining intended to bring down the temperature between the two parties.

The workers want an apology from the board for using what they said were union-busting tactics. But SAY Si Board President Jason Moran said in a statement that the board “cannot” offer the apology.

Workers organized their union last year with United Professional Organizers (UPO). It was voluntarily recognized by the board of directors in February after Region 16 of the National Labor Relations Board ruled against SAY Si’s argument that workers’ proposed bargaining unit was too large.

Workers criticized their board in the months following their unionization announcement. They claimed the board's anti-union tactics included hiring national law firm Ogletree Deakins, which advertises on its site its ability to help employers “minimize the risk of unionization.”

But Ashley Perez, the visual arts director at SAY Si and a union steward, said the workers’ mood has calmed.

“I would say it’s because there hasn’t been any additional harm done since then," she explained. "It’s just all previous harm done. And the fact is that we have not seen from the board any effort to create a culture of understanding or reaching out to us or anything like that.”

She said she and other workers still hoped for an apology from the board.

Moran’s statement acknowledged how some workers may be feeling, but said he and the rest of the board stood by their actions.

SAY Sí staff members speak to parents, allies, and community members inside a small cafeteria.
Josh Peck
A SAY Sí staff member speaks to parents, community members, and other allies about the union effort in December.

“We understand that our actions may have been perceived in a way that requires an apology, however the Board acted with principles and values that wanted to ensure a proper bargaining unit by involving the NLRB which is the federal agency with specific expertise and authority on this process,” he said. “While we respect that perspective, we stand by our decisions and cannot offer an apology at this time.”

He added that the board specifically stood by their decision to hire Ogletree Deakins, saying it was “a great firm to work with,” in his statement.

Members from the staff, the UPO, and the board joined together on Friday to receive training from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) for upcoming CBA negotiations. The training is part of interest-based bargaining (IBB), which is described in an FMCS manual as “a collaborative approach to resolving labor and management disputes.”

“I think it’s something that’s definitely needed considering how contentious it was during the NLRB hearings where a lot of us felt some strains there,” Perez said. “We were thinking that we’ll get more out of what we need — maybe even faster — and maybe the board will have a better understanding of where we’re coming from, and we can understand where they’re coming from a little bit better.”

Moran’s statement said the board also hoped IBB could get them to a CBA quickly and with reduced conflict.

Perez said workers weren’t yet comfortable sharing their specific demands publicly, but that base pay would be a major sticking point.

“SAY Si is doing the sort of work that’s second to none in the nation, so we’d like to be paid as such,” she said. “So we’re not asking for basic standards, we’re asking for excellence.”

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