August 21, 2020
Dear Brooklyn Friends Board of Trustees and Head of School Crissy Cárceres,
I attended Brooklyn Friends from 2001 to 2012. I was a merit scholar in high school, and in my senior year I served as student body president. I’m forever thankful for what I learned at BFS—it was our wonderful English department that set me on the path to becoming a writer. I also learned to speak truth to power, and to wait until I had enough information before doing so. It’s for this reason that I waited until I had the chance to read a statement from you on the matter of the BFS Union before reaching out.
Now that I’ve heard from both sides, I want to express my unequivocal support for the BFS Union.
I admire that as a Board you are able to make decisions through the Quaker process. I’ve never forgotten the lesson that one dissenting voice in a thousand might be correct and just. It’s how I know that your message speaks for all of you—you could not have filed this petition if a single member among you didn’t agree to it.
The beauty of this form of decision-making is that it treats all members of the community as equal, following the Quaker principle that there is Light and that of God within all of us. The problem with applying this decision-making process in labor negotiations with the faculty and staff at Brooklyn Friends is that you do not operate as equals; you are in a position of power over the faculty and staff as their employers. Certainly decisions are made that adversely affect staff members without their full agreement in consensus—I highly doubt that “workforce reduction” for example, was unanimously agreed to by the entire Brooklyn Friends community.
Your decision to file a petition to dissolve the Union is a transparent effort to maintain this power relationship. Our teachers taught us too well to believe your disingenuous claim that this is an effort to preserve the Quaker decision-making process, or that this decision serves to amplify individual voices.
Moreover, I found your message to be vague. What limitations, specifically, do you believe NLRB regulation places on your ability to deal with employees? And on what specific topics? You need to be more clear and honest if you want to convince us that this decision is motivated by anything other than your desire to maintain the power relationship you enjoy with your employees.
The same goes for your promise to “do better.” This is vague language that promises nothing. Again, if you want us to agree that this decision is going to benefit the community, you need to specify how, especially considering the fact that by negotiating with the Union in “good faith” only to pursue this avenue of dissolution, you’ve lost trust and the benefit of the doubt.
I’m open to changing my mind—it was BFS that taught me that to shut my ears in certainty is arrogant. But if you hope to convince me, you need to try again. You cannot teach us to read and write and think critically and still believe that the message you sent today will come through as anything but insubstantial and tone-deaf. It doesn’t matter how many times you use the word “inimical.” Your students and alumni side with labor. I’m trusting the educators who devote so much time and energy to students, and who helped me to become the person I am today — if the communication and decision-making process in place was viable, they wouldn’t have needed to unionize in the first place.
I urge you to reconsider your decision, and to withdraw your petition to the National Labor Relations Board.
Jacob Ginsberg ‘12