The Michigan Employment Relations Commission (MERC) has denied and dismissed a Detroit Federation of Teachers’ claim that a school district’s refusal to process grievances concerning teacher discipline/discharge constitutes an unfair labor practice. Stated otherwise, the MERC has confirmed the right of a public school district to refuse to process teacher discipline grievances. Detroit Public Schools, Case No. C15 C-045.
After receiving four grievances challenging the discipline of four teachers, the Detroit Public Schools advised the teachers’ union that it would not process the grievances because such pertained to a prohibited subject of bargaining and thus no related contracted provision(s) were valid or enforceable via the contract’s grievance procedure. In response, the teachers’ union filed an unfair labor practice against the school district, asserting that the refusal to process the discipline grievances constituted a breach of the duty to bargain in good faith.
In rejecting the union unfair labor practice charge, the MERC stated that a school district has no duty to bargain regarding a prohibited subject of bargaining, including the processing of any grievance by which a union seeks to enforce language within a collective bargaining agreement pertaining to a prohibited subject.
This decision is consistent with, and further articulates, the MERC’s prior ruling within Pontiac School District, 28 MPER 34 (2014) that a teacher union attempt to arbitrate a contractual grievance pertaining to a prohibited subject of bargaining constitutes a breach of the union’s duty to bargain in good faith, and thus an unfair labor practice.