DPS unions: Include labor contracts in Snyder overhaul

Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News

Detroit — A group of school unions Friday called on Gov. Rick Snyder to include teachers and their collective bargaining agreements in his plan to overhaul Detroit Public Schools, though the governor’s office says it does just that.

“As far was we know, the governor’s plan does not include the collective bargaining agreements for employees of Detroit Public Schools,” said Keith January, president of AFSCME Local 345, which represents food service workers, special education teacher assistants and bus aides in the district. “We’re calling on the governor to put us in the plan and honor our collective bargaining agreements.”

January made the remarks during a news conference held at the Michigan AFSCME Council 25 offices in downtown Detroit. He was joined by State Rep. Fred Durhal III, D-Detroit, and officials from the Detroit Federation of Teachers, the American Federation of Teachers and Operating Engineers Local 324.

“The state took over in 2003 and since then we’ve had two CEOs, one superintendent and four emergency managers,” said Ruby Newbold, president of the Detroit Association of Educational Employees, AFT Local 4168 and chairwoman of the Coalition of DPS Unions. “ At some point, the emergency becomes a catastrophe. We feel we’re at that point now.”

Newbold also announced the group will hold a rally at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday in front of the DPS offices in the Fisher Building, 3011 West Grand Blvd. She asked the public to attend and show support for the children in Detroit Public Schools as well as the district’s staff and unions.

David Murray, a spokesman for Snyder, said the governor this month offered more details about a proposal calling for the existing DPS district to remain in place to address its challenging debt. It also calls for creating a new district — the Detroit Community School District — to teach students.

Murray said under the plan, existing collective bargaining agreements and terms and conditions will transfer to the new district.

“The governor knows that Detroit needs solid public schools — traditional and charter — for the city’s revitalization to spread through the neighborhoods,” Murray said. “His plan addresses academic as well as financial struggles and includes some concepts from a community coalition that included union representation. We’re hoping bills will be introduced in the Legislature in the near future.”

Snyder is asking the Legislature for a 10-year, $715 million aid package to create a new, debt-free school district and pay off operating debts owed by DPS for everything from unpaid pension bills to past-due vendor invoices and loans dating back a decade.

Durhal said Friday the governor’s DPS plan doesn’t address staffing, which he finds troubling. He also said the Detroit Caucus in the state lLegislature has been working on improving the plan.