Victory for MEA members in privatization case
District, private company pay to settle dispute
A Shiawassee County school district and a private company will pay 22 school employees whose jobs were outsourced to the private firm to settle a dispute over the employees’ bargaining rights.
Durand Area Schools and PCMI agreed to pay custodians and food service workers – employees who worked for the school district until December 2009 when their jobs were handed over to a private company – after the MEA filed multiple complaints against the district with the Michigan Employment Relations Commission. The union charged the district with unfair labor practices, including one that the district failed to bargain in good faith. The union also planned to argue that the district and private company were joint employers.
The district will pay 22 employees about $60,000 total to settle the case.
The case dates to a November 2009 decision by the district to privatize custodial and food service jobs. The decision was made at a meeting when the school board was expected to vote on a contract with the Durand Educational Support Personnel Association (DESPA).
Instead, board members voted to hire PCMI to do their work. PCMI subsequently rehired nearly all of the employees to perform the same jobs as when they worked directly for the district. While PCMI handled payroll functions, the district maintained most other employer responsibilities.
The workers earned the same hourly rate with PCMI. But, they lost their accumulated sick leave, overtime, district contributions toward retirement, and paid holidays.
“They did all this to get rid of the union,” said Paul Mayers, the long-time DESPA president who was elected in May to serve on the Durand school board.