MEA will appeal state ruling that claims school secretaries not protected from outsourcing

Attorneys for MEA and the Reese Professional Support Personnel Association will appeal a recent ruling by a state commission that claims school secretaries are non-instructional employees and thus do not have the right to bargain over decisions to privatize their jobs.

The Reese Public School District in 2011 laid off six secretaries and outsourced their jobs to a private company, without bargaining with the RPSPA, an MEA local affiliate.

The Michigan Public Employment Relations Act only allows school districts to bid out for “non-instructional support services.”

The Michigan Employment Relations Commission ruled that school secretaries do not perform instructional support services as a “substantial part of their duties,” and as such should be considered non-instructional support employees.

MEA and RPSPA disagree, arguing that secretaries perform importantinstructional support services. After all, they assist instructional staff with their duties by tutoring students, overseeing students’ work while they’re in detention, and helping to develop special education plans — among other instructional support tasks.

The key word, according to MEA attorneys, is “support.” MEA argues that MERC’s interpretation of “instructional support services”ignores that key word. The MERC decision simply and wrongly concludes that since secretaries do not a spend a majority of their days providing direct instruction, they should be considered non-instruction support service employees whose jobs can be outsourced without bargaining.

Prior legal decisions have determined that paraprofessionals, occupational therapists and speech therapists are instructional support personnel, so MERC’s ruling does not affect those employees.