ISHPEMING - Spurred by the privatization of custodial services, the Michigan Education Association plans to file unfair labor practice and state Open Meetings Act violation charges against the Ishpeming Public Schools Board of Education.
According to Stu Skauge, area MEA UniServ director, the charges will be filed this week.
Three charges will be filed with the Michigan Employee Relations Commission for unfair labor practices, Skauge said. The first alleges the board did not bargain in good faith with the support union, the Ishpeming Education Support Personnel.
The second charge accuses the district of being a "joint employer." According to Skauge, the district is required to remain totally separate from a contractor -such as Hi-Tec, the company currently providing some custodial services for the district. MERC has a test to determine whether or not this is occurring, Skauge said.
The third charge alleges a violation of Public Act 112, which prohibits the use of contracting out as a bargaining tool. Skauge said the district used the possible privatization of services as a bargaining tool with the union.
Charges will also be filed against all seven board members with the Marquette County Prosecutor's office for violations of the Open Meetings Act, Skauge said. He alleges that the district's Employee Relations Committee has been holding meetings without the knowledge of the public for purposes other than to look at information.
"They have been having meetings where they don't post the meetings, they don't publish their minutes and they don't have public comments," Skauge said.
By law, committees are required to operate under the same open meetings rules as the entire body, Skauge said.
Robert Nadeau, Ishpeming's school board president, disputed the allegations regarding the Employee Relations Committee, of which he is a member.
"There have been public comment periods at the beginning and the end and the meetings have been posted and he (Skauge) has been at several of those meetings."
Skauge said there may have been other violations, like using closed sessions to discuss things other than negotiations or discipline.
"You can't go into closed session except for a very limited number of reasons," he said. "They probably went into closed session under the guise of negotiations."
Superintendent Stephen Piereson said that he could not yet comment on the charges until he could review them in more detail.
Claire Abent can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.