Sunday, October 15, 2006

Not your grandfather's union anymore

Gail Kerr provides some important information about the teacher union's status in her column this morning.

The MNEA has been the official bargaining agent of teachers since the 1960s. By state law, the salaries and benefits of all teachers are determined through a bargaining process with the union.

A 1978 state law said that teachers unions can be decertified by the school board if their membership falls below 50%. But the MNEA is exempt from that law — it was grandfathered in.

But that doesn't mean the MNEA is invincible. It can be challenged by a majority of its members, which is highly unlikely. Or the school board can decline the next contract.

That's right. All the school board has to do, after negotiating in good faith, is decline the contract if the union won't budge on issues like the bonus incentives. That would trigger the 1978 state law, and other unions or bargaining groups would compete for the power to lead the teachers (granted, that could also trigger the teachers to take action).

Taking this tack the BOE will, at the very least, give teachers the opportunity to affirm that MNEA is the representation they want instead of the one they have to live with because it worked for their grandfathers. It's past time for a vote of confidence for this union. If the vote for MNEA--great, they've got what they want and we'll work with them. But once every 40 years is not too often for this union to be held accountable to its membership for its actions.

I've cruised through the code and it looks like Gail is referring to TCA 49-5-604
49-5-604. Rights preserved.
(a) Those rights and responsibilities of boards of education, directors of schools and professional employees as contained in this title are not statutorily modified or repealed by this part.

(b) This part shall not operate so as to annul, modify or preclude the renewal or continuation of any recognition heretofore entered into between a board of education and a professional employees' organization. Upon the termination of an existing agreement, subsequent professional employee organization recognition shall be governed under the provisions of this part; provided, that the time schedule established in § 49-5-605 shall not be applicable and recognition with all accompanying rights shall become available immediately upon the completion of the other required recognition procedures.

[Acts 1978, ch. 570, §§ 8, 17; T.C.A., §§ 49-5507, 49-5516.]

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