Court: Can't Prove Union Encouraged Sickouts; Union Boasts of Them In Newsletter

Detroit teachers shut down scores of schools in January

An effort by Detroit Public Schools to halt a rash of what it called illegal strikes was shut down this month when a judge refused to stop the district’s teachers union, its president, and some teachers from orchestrating more employee sickouts. Michigan Court of Appeals Judge Cynthia Diane Stephens said that there was no proof that the union or its president encouraged thousands of teachers to call in sick.

ForTheRecord says: Teacher strikes are illegal in Michigan, and while it not may meet the technical standards for labor law cases, the Detroit Federation of Teachers appears to acknowledge the job-related context of the sickouts in its own member newsletter. In the February edition, DFT President Ivy Bailey wrote she is proud of all the teachers who "turned out for our actions." She never specifies which actions, however. The newsletter's cover contains photos of teachers protesting and carrying signs.

Bailey wrote: “DFT members continued to show frustration with their working conditions, lack of respect, and the intentional dismantling of the district. When they started calling sick and snapping photos of their students’ learning conditions, the public woke up and the nation took notice.”

The DFT’s February newsletter also contains a timeline of events with this entry for January 11, which was nine days before the district filed its lawsuit seeking an injunction: “64 out of 100 DPS schools close due to sickouts.” A dictionary definition of a “sickout” is “an organized period of unwarranted sick leave as a form of group protest, usually as a measure to avoid a formal strike.”

Strikes are illegal for government employees in Michigan, including teachers.