Unhappy with Director of Schools Jesse Register’s unwavering stance on unions, the Nashville chapter of the Service Employees International Union has planned a protest prior to Tuesday’s Metro school board meeting.
The rally, which SEIU Local 205 says will feature elected officials, parents and local clergy, kicks off at 4:15 p.m. Tuesday outside the central office on Bransford Avenue.
Register infuriated leaders of SEIU, which represents school custodians, when the superintendent this winter did away with the district’s 12-year-old “memoranda of understanding” policy in conferring with support staff unions. The change seemingly curbed union influence.
“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 said in a January e-mail.
Taking aim at Register, the Metro Council voted 29-5 last Tuesday to urge the schools director to comply with the district’s 2000-era labor negotiation policy with unions, which had established a MOU precedent.
Register tweaked the union policy by adopting a new Support Staff Handbook, a move the district claims is authorized. Some council members disagreed.
“He should not unilaterally change existing policy without bringing it to the [school] board,” said Councilwoman Karen Johnson, who served on the school board that hired Register in 2009.
Councilwoman Emily Evans accused the district of waging a “gratuitous political fight” that “doesn’t deliver any results,” adding there doesn’t appear to be a budgetary argument for making the policy change.
“This is needless controversy from MNPS,” Evans said.
Less than an hour after the council’s vote, MNPS issued a statement that alleged council members based their vote on “misinformation.”
“We are concerned about misinformation around this issue,” the MNPS statement reads. “We have informed our employees that, contrary to rumor, we have no plans to outsource food service or transportation, and employees will not have to reapply for their positions after June 30, 2012.”
The district showed no willingness to retreat, and argued the MOU guidelines “led to policies that made it difficult to manage employees.” The district’s statement provided three examples:
• School officials say a clerical employee left her job, but did not contact the district. As a result, it took months to terminate her position even though this employee moved out of state.
• School officials say the MOU policy required the district to hire employees for summer work based on seniority, which led to warehouse employees who were unable to move boxes and data workers who were unfamiliar with the district’s software.
• School officials contend the MOU policy limited the district’s ability to schedule maintenance workers after hours, when they are least disruptive to classroom activity.