The Michigan Employment Relations Commission released two decisions in February that involved public school employers, unions, or individuals. In both cases, the administrative law judges (“ALJs”) determined no unfair labor practices (“ULPs”) occurred, and the individuals that filed the ULPs opted not to file “exceptions” to appeal the decisions.
- In Detroit Pub Sch Comm Dist, 32 MPER ¶ 45 (2019) (no exceptions), a special education teacher was placed on administrative leave and subsequently given a five (5) day suspension because of her use of corporal punishment against a special education student. Specifically, after an altercation between the student and another student, the teacher intervened and forced the attacking student into a chair. After she was disciplined, the teacher claimed that her employer had violated her union rights because it placed her in an unsafe environment without a paraprofessional in the classroom, as required by the attacking student’s IEP. However, the ALJ highlighted that the Public Employment Relations Act (“PERA”) only protects concerted activities, and the teacher’s complaint was merely an individual’s claim about allegedly unfair discipline. Because her complaint had nothing to do with concerted activity, the ALJ concluded the PERA was not implicated, and MERC could not entertain the case. The teacher’s ULP charge was dismissed because she failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted under the PERA.
- In Anchor Bay Ed Ass’n, 32 MPER ¶ 46 (2019) (no exceptions), several individuals filed an unfair labor practice charge against their union because the union’s negotiations with the public school employer. Specifically, the union negotiated and ratified a wage reopener provision in a collective bargaining agreement that benefited teachers with more years of service, while doing less to benefit teachers with fewer years of service. The individuals claimed the union breached its duty of fair representation. The ALJ disagreed, emphasizing that unions are granted broad discretion when weighing the interests of various categories of its members. In this case, the union’s reasoning for its decision was reasonable, exercised discretion, and was not illegal. Thus, the ALJ determined the individuals that filed ULP charges failed to offer facts that, if proven true, would state a claim upon which relief could be granted under the PERA.
Stay tuned for more MERC decision round‑ups in the coming months