10/8/08

Illegal teacher strike hits union-dues

Related: "The 28 labor-states" • "Illegal teacher strike plagues Michigan"
More strike stories: hereunion-dues stories: here

Typical gov't union confrontation in labor-state

Striking teachers will be disciplined and the Wayne-Westland Board of Education will no longer withhold dues from their paychecks, the board unanimously voted Tuesday during an emergency school board meeting.

The move came hours after an administrative law judge ruled that Wayne-Westland Community Schools violated state law in how it has negotiated with striking teachers. The judge also ordered the district to turn over records to the teachers' union.

Judge Doyle Conner of the Michigan Employment Relations Commission ordered Wayne-Westland to provide more complete information about the district's financial status and the cost of the insurance it wants the union to accept, according to Art Przybylowicz, Michigan Education Association's general counsel.

However, schools are still expected to be closed and teachers are expected to be back on the picket lines again today. No resolution is in sight for Michigan's first teachers strike outside of Detroit since at least 1994.

Negotiations are scheduled to resume at 4 p.m. today and both sides could be in Wayne County Circuit Court on Thursday as the district seeks an injunction to force the teachers back to work.

Wayne Mayor Al Haidous pleaded for a settlement.

"I'm hear asking you both to take one step back tonight to make a step forward tomorrow," he said during the meeting.

Teacher strikes are illegal, and state law allows for teachers to be fined a day's pay for each day they are on strike and possibly be fired.

Przybylowicz said the union will argue that the district must prove irreparable harm in order to force the teachers back into the classroom. He said such harm would be difficult to prove for a walkout that's no longer than school closings for inclement weather or vacations.

The 13,500-student district and its teachers have not made any progress in their labor negotiations since the contract expired in August. The chief sticking points remain the number of students per classroom and insurance.

According to Superintendent Gregory Baracy, recent talks have focused on insurance issues, but Michigan Education Association representatives say class size remains the primary objective.

"Our teachers are doing what's best for the students in Wayne-Westland. It's proven that reducing class size helps educate children," said Melissa Sortman, an MEA representative working with the district.

(freep.com)

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