A news service for the people of Michigan from the Mackinac Center for Public Policy

Super-Seniority

Prop 2 Would Protect Union Bosses at the Expense of Qualified Teachers

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For most school districts, value is placed highest on teacher seniority. In fact, nearly all teacher union contracts require that layoff, recall and placement decisions be made strictly by seniority. But oddly, several districts appear to value union bosses the most.

The Hamtramck school district is a good example. Its union contract specifies that the local union president "shall have district-wide super seniority." Essentially, the union boss gets first dibs at any available job in the district he or she wants and will be the last person ever pink-slipped. The Warren Woods school district grants the same perk to its local union boss.

Ypsilanti’s teacher union contract has a similar provision as well. It guarantees union presidents their current position for the duration of their term. If the position has to be eliminated, the union boss is assured a position for which he or she is qualified (potentially "bumping" another teacher out of their job). The contract also allows the president to skip out on 50 percent of his or her teaching responsibilities to devote more time to union business.

The Farmington and Muskegon school districts take the super-seniority even further. Farmington’s contract automatically grants the union president, vice-president, secretary and treasurer the highest level of seniority in the district. The Muskegon teacher contract states that the union president, president-elect, secretary, grievance chairs (two of them) and negotiations chair "shall be exempt from layoff or displacement procedures."

Reforms passed last year attempted to eventually end these "last in/first out" and "dance of the lemons" policies that weaken the overall quality of Michigan's teacher corps.

If Proposal 2 passes, however, it's expected that most school districts will revert back to the pre-reform status quo. And for all the talk about how collective bargaining serves all teachers' best interest, these super-seniority provisions are clear examples of how the process can be easily hijacked for the exclusive benefit of self-serving union bosses.

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Star International Academy is the highest ranked high school in Michigan on the Mackinac Center for Public Policy's Contest and Performance report card for both 2014 and 2012. The study and a database of every school in the state can be found at www.Mackinac.org/CAP.

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