Local union officials claim MNPS director wants to limit service workers' rights

Friday, January 13, 2012 at 1:30pm

Local union leaders are upset after a decision by Director of Schools Dr. Jesse Register to discontinue memoranda of understanding with the Service Employees International Union Local 205 and the United Steelworkers union.

SEIU Local 205 president Doug Collier and USW president Jim Buckley sent official complaints to the Metro Nashville School Board on Monday, claiming that Register is unlawfully attempting to limit the rights of school system service employees.

Collier accuses Register of telling service employees that last year’s state legislature-enacted law that eliminated teachers’ collective bargaining rights applied to the SEIU.

“Dr. Register is now trying to use those laws — which do not apply to school support employees — as an excuse to overreach his authority and silence the voices of thousands of loyal city employees who voted to form a union,” Collier said in a press release.

In a letter to employees, Register said the memoranda of understanding aren’t legally binding but rather “reflected our intention to work with the unions for our schools and our students.”

“It is still important to have a positive working relationship with support employees and their representatives, but we will no longer have MOU with unions,” Register wrote.

Register also wrote a letter to Collier and Buckley on Dec. 21, informing them that “executive staff” met and voted to rescind the school system’s Labor Negotiations Policy.

“The unlawful negotiation of the foregoing conduct by Dr. Register is nothing short of breathtaking,” the SEIU complaint reads. “Dr. Register … has no authority to ‘rescind’ a policy adopted by the Board of Education, to withdraw recognition of employees’ exclusive representative as certified by the Board, or to unilaterally terminate an MOU.”

A MNPS spokeswoman said Register does have the authority to change district policies based on a Board decision in 2003.

Buckley said the USW and SEIU are on the same page with their complaints.

“I think (Register) took a gargantuan leap to silence the voices of people who work for him,” Buckley said.

Metro Nashville Public School officials declined to comment on the complaint and directed questions toward the school board. Messages left for board Chair Gracie Porter were unanswered as of Friday morning.

The SEIU asked the board of education to revoke Register’s letter, inform employees that SEIU continues to operate and instruct Register to stop “distributions or communications to employees wrongly claiming that SEIU … is no longer employees’ exclusive representative.”

The SEIU said problems started last year after the school system’s grievance policy was changed without employee input. Collier called the move a “flagrant violation of our standing agreement with MNPS and the district’s labor policy.”

According to the SEIU complaint, Register or his “designees” have also been encouraging employees to withdraw union membership. An MNPS official declined knowledge of those allegations.

But in Register’s letter to employees, he states that the steelworkers and SEIU will still be recognized as “a representative” of employees. Collier said he took that phrase to mean the SEIU was no longer the “exclusive representative” of employees.

“It is my sincere hope all employees will continue to work together to provide the best possible services to the children enrolled in our schools,” Register said. “I value the hard working and dedicated support staff in our district and recognize that our successful operation depends on your efforts.”

9 Comments on this post:

By: JeffF on 1/13/12 at 2:28

"Collier accuses Register of telling service employees that last year’s state legislature-enacted anti-teacher union law applied to the SEIU."

You really need to put some quotes in there in order to make this article more neutral. I do not remember the legislation including the word "anti-teacher" in it title or body.

By: shinestx on 1/13/12 at 8:56

Keep up the good fight Jesse. The only hope for our governments' solvency is to eliminate the power of public service unions. So the question: If the government is in charge of setting up workplace laws, then why do their employees need a union?

By: pswindle on 1/14/12 at 11:37

Register is a yes man to the State Senate and House. When all is said and done they will have completely killed education in the state of TN. They want to privatize education, but use public money, and all the money goes to the top. After several years of this, they will come back and say this did not work, but by then public education is gone, and we will go back to only the rich will be educated. Wake up TN and fight this take over. This is what the GOP has wanted for years. He wants to stop teachers' raises, unions and have larger class sizes to make sure that public education fails. The Union brought smaller class size, better teaching and children safaety rules. Before unions, I know of a second grade class that had forty-two students. All of this was George Bush's idea and sometning that the GOP has been planning for years when they got control. Well, we Tennesseans will pay dearly for this experience.

By: spooky24 on 1/14/12 at 5:57

And things have been going just fine with the unions as Tennessee has one of the worst educational systems in America. High School is no longer fun like it should be-or it was for me-now it's nothing but survival. The insane logic of political correctness have turned grammar schools into federal daycare and kindergarten federal babysitting.
Come November all of this is going to change.


By: govskeptic on 1/16/12 at 7:46

We can always count on "pswindle" getting the story totally wrong in his
comments on any political story. The Union should get braced for more
sad stories for their sorry actions over the last very many yrs. Still provides
protestors posing as parents and other distinguishable persons at rally's
and other public gatherings. Most dues paying members have long
known the interest is only in the Union Leadership and little to members!

By: girliegirl on 1/16/12 at 11:54

Actually, it's nearly impossible to get a "bad" teacher removed once they've been with Metro long enough, and that's even if the teacher is neglectful and non-caring. Case in point: the coach at one middle school who continually "looked the other way" while his students were being brutalized during school hours...and not even during PE, but while the boys were merely changing clothes in the locker room. When approached by parents, the principals told us all that there was nothing that could be done to that coach. Most of us were forced to take our children to private schools at that point.

By: girliegirl on 1/16/12 at 11:56

Once you remove those "protective barriers" that allow these teachers to remain, you allow for other options, like younger teachers and more sympathetic coaches. The bullying will then cease.

By: localboy on 1/17/12 at 10:29

I wonder if the next to last paragraph in the story isn't the real crux of the matter for SEIU.

By: Moonglow1 on 1/17/12 at 11:11

Moonglow1: The bottom line is that Haslam is following in lockstep with the preset national agenda of the Tea Nuts financed by the Koch's and others. Their agenda is to restrict workers rights and restrict education. They want "the people" to be dumbed down so that they can work for slave wages for the multinational corporations whose executives already are running our elections and political process.

Can't you all see that your right to vote, to collectively bargain, to have a voice is being restricted.

I heard someone in South Carolina say that the Tea Nuts are frighted of an educated public. Education is freedom, and they want yours restricted.

Wake up!!! How is Romney who lives in an 11,000 sq. foot house which is one of many planning to help you.

The middle class in America grew due to unions.Your wages, your 40-hour week, and overtime is all due to unions. This is why you are not working 24/7. If the multinational corporations have their way, you will be working like they do in Asia, in sweatshops. Yes unions have done some things wrong, but not as wrong as the politicians of today.

Look at Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, and other states where little by little your voice, the public voice is being silenced. I do not know why the national media is giving Haslam a pass. Perhaps because this state is a lost cause. People acquiesce, they are not educated as they are in Wisconsin and other states where people get up off their derrieres and make their voice heard. They are agents of change.


Why is the educational system so poor in Tennessee. Well a number of factors are involved. You cannot improve student scores unless you lift the entire society out of poverty. That takes guts and thoughtful public policy decisions. Not more guns and prayers. What a joke. Also, look at the caliber and cost of MBA and other private schools in Nashville. What is left in the public school system are the poorest students, the ones that need more help. In insurance parlance, it is called cherry picking. Place the richest and most privileged students in private schools, leaving the poorest in public schools. Then don't fund the public schools, leaving students dead-ended. But all is not lost, the multinationals are thrilled to get a steady stream of low wage labor and unions out of the way.