Paul Mayers, the custodian turned school board member, has become a rallying point for the Michigan Education Association.
Mayers, who had his job privatized at Durand Area Schools, was a featured speaker this month at the MEA rally in Lansing that drew about 3,500 people.
The MEA made a big issue out of privatization at its rally.
Mayers was a school custodian for Durand Area Schools. His job was privatized. He kept the job at the same wage for one year, but took a cut in health benefits, according to school officials. Then, Mayers ran for school board and — with a big hand from the MEA — was elected. He takes office July 1.
Mayers told a cheering crowd the union "won" its dispute with the Durand administration over privatization because the school paid out $60,000 in a settlement.
"We won," Mayer said.
Durand Area Schools Superintendent Cindy Weber disputes that assertion.
Weber said the administration was approached about a settlement while at a Michigan Employment Relations hearing.
Both sides agreed to a settlement — $60,000 that would go to the privatized employees for the sick days that were lost to them during the transition.
"I don't think anyone was a winner," Weber said. "I don't believe the union was a winner. No one wins in these things. ... We solely did it for financial reasons."
Weber said the move to privatize 22 custodian and food service employees saved about $190,000 over half a year. Those savings would be less after the settlement.
After he spoke at the rally, Mayers was asked if he would move to reinstate his job, in effect putting his own job over the district's savings.
Mayers declined to comment on the record.