AEA files unfair labor charge

ALPENA – The Alpena Education Association filed an unfair labor practice charge against Alpena Public Schools in response to what it believes were illegal actions by the board of education in its negotiations with the AEA Friday.

“The board preconditioned their 10 percent wage cut proposal on the deficit elimination plan, or DEP, they filed with the state,” Deb Larson, MEA UniServ director said. “The Alpena board of education sought no input from the Alpena Education Association, or any other employee unit for that matter, in developing or finalizing the DEP. They unilaterally conceived and adopted the plan prior to bargaining with the teachers, and are using the plan to justify rejecting any of the teachers’ proposals.”

Superintendent Brent Holcomb said the board has yet to review the charge, and had no comment on the issue.

The AEA has presented seven financial proposals to the board, each with a different amount of savings ranging from $1.8 million to $2.8 million, and participated in a state fact-finding hearing in which the fact finder recommended some of the suggestions from the AEA bargaining unit.

“The board has not exhausted its obligation to bargain with the teachers, and is using the DEP as an excuse to not consider other options for reducing its deficit,” Larson said. “That is not bargaining in good faith, as required by law.”

School districts and their employees use bargaining rules outlined in the Public Employment Relation Act, which requires school districts to bargain “in good faith” over wages, hours and other terms and conditions of employment.

“The board gave us no choice but to file in court and expose their failure to bargain in the best interests of its employees, its students and its community,” Larson said.

The school board has requested a 10 percent wage reduction of employee groups since bargaining began, and continues to propose the reduction.

“We feel the board unilaterally adopted the plan during the course of bargaining,” AEA President Erin Kieliszewski said. “We believe they used the plan to objectify proposals.”

Kieliszewski said all of this has been created from Lansing “starving” schools, and that it is very unfortunate. She also said the AEA heard Monday that it should anticipate imposition of the contract, including the 10 percent wage reduction, and that the school board will be discussing dates of implementation.

The charge from the AEA comes just before the end of a 60-day waiting period, starting from the date when the fact finding results were released, and after which the school board can implement its decision going forward.

Nicole Grulke can be reached via email at ngrulke@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5687. Follow Nicole on Twitter @ng_alpenanews.