This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
Arguing that teachers recruited from India to work in the Philadelphia School District deserve the same rights and benefits as other teachers, the teachers’ union has reached an agreement with the District that gives those teachers full union benefits.
The previous situation "was grossly unfair to these teachers and their families," said Barbara Goodman, PFT spokesperson.
Recruited by the New York-based Teachers Placement Group, 27 teachers in 2001 left their homes in India and took jobs teaching in the District.
The teachers, who paid the agency a $7,000 placement fee, anticipated bringing their families to the United States and securing salaries that would reflect their extensive credentials.
They instead found themselves with salaries below that of similarly credentialed teachers and with health benefits that did not cover their family members. Originally, the District paid the teachers’ salaries to the agency, the teachers’ official employer. The agency then passed pay on to the teachers.
"We came for our kids," one teacher told Philadelphia City Paper, which broke the story in 2001. "But now we’re not sure they can come."
Asian Americans United, a community activist organization, also advocated for the teachers with the District and encouraged mediation toward a resolution.
The original contract, negotiated with a prior District administration, expired, and the Federation secured an agreement that provided these teachers "far superior benefits," Goodman said. She added that the teachers she has spoken to are "much relieved to be part of the union and have all the benefits."