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Ionia Education Association v. Ionia Public Schools

Court of Appeals of Michigan

July 28, 2015

IONIA EDUCATION ASSOCIATION, Charging Party-Appellant,
v.
IONIA PUBLIC SCHOOLS, Respondent-Appellee

MERC. LC No. 00-000136.

Before: SERVITTO, P.J., and BECKERING and BOONSTRA, JJ.

OPINION

Page 757

[311 Mich.App. 480] Per Curiam.

The Ionia Education Association (IEA) appeals as of right the order of the Michigan Employment Relations Commission (MERC) dismissing the unfair-labor-practice charge that the IEA brought [311 Mich.App. 481] against respondent, Ionia Public Schools (the school district). We affirm.

I. PERTINENT FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

A. THE " BID-BUMP" PROCEDURE

This case primarily involves a matter of statutory interpretation and the pertinent facts are undisputed. The IEA and the school district are parties to a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) that expired on or about August 25, 2011. The expired CBA contained sections that described, among other matters, a procedure for the assignment of vacant teaching positions. The CBA called for a meeting, referred to by the parties as a " bid-bump" meeting, or " teacher assignment meeting," that was to take place near the end of the school year, in either April, May, or June. For the sake of simplicity, the purpose of the " bid-bump" meeting, as set forth in the now-expired CBA, was to permit teachers to bid on open positions, on the basis of a number of criteria. According to the IEA, it had used the bid-bump procedure for approximately 27 years.

B. MCL 423.215(3)(j)

The Public Employee Relations Act (PERA), MCL 423.201 et seq., establishes, among other matters, the duties of public employers and public employees with regard to collective bargaining. MCL 423.215(3) sets forth prohibited subjects of

Page 758

bargaining between a public school employer and the bargaining representative of its employees. The matters described as prohibited subjects of bargaining " are within the sole authority of the public school employer to decide." MCL 423.215(4). Historically, PERA did not include decisions regarding the placement of teachers among the prohibited subjects [311 Mich.App. 482] of bargaining. In 2011, the Legislature enacted a series of amendments to PERA and expanded the list of prohibited subjects of bargaining between public school employers and employees. 2011 PA 103, which became effective July 19, 2011, added several prohibited subjects, including those set forth in MCL 423.215(3)(j). MCL 423.215(3)(j) prohibits bargaining with regard to " [a]ny decision made by the public school employer regarding teacher placement, or the impact of that decision on an individual employee or the bargaining unit." [1]

C. UNFAIR-LABOR-PRACTICE CHARGE

In the spring of 2012, the school district did not hold the bid-bump meeting, despite three requests by the IEA. The IEA filed an unfair-labor-practice charge in July 2012, citing the failure to hold a bid-bump meeting as set forth in the CBA.[2] In response, the school district argued that the enactment of MCL 423.215(3)(j) removed any duty to bargain over teacher-placement decisions and gave it unilateral authority to make decisions relating to teacher placement. According to the school district, it was no longer required to employ the bid-bump procedure described [311 Mich.App. 483] in the now-expired CBA. Following oral argument, the administrative law judge (ALJ) agreed with the school district and issued a recommended decision and order dismissing the unfair-labor-practice charge. Accepting as true the facts alleged by the IEA, the ALJ denied the IEA's request for an evidentiary hearing after finding that there were no disputed issues of fact. The ALJ also found that the language of § 15(3)(j) was clear and that it prohibited bargaining over any decision pertaining to teacher placement, including the bid-bump procedure.

The IEA filed exceptions to the ALJ's recommended decision and order and requested oral argument and an evidentiary hearing. In a written opinion and order, MERC denied the request for oral argument and an evidentiary hearing, finding that neither would aid in its decision. MERC adopted the ALJ's factual summary. As to the interpretation of § 15(3)(j), MERC rejected the IEA's exceptions and concluded that the ALJ had not erred in his interpretation of the statute. MERC dismissed the unfair-labor-practice charge in its entirety. This appeal followed.

II. INTERPRETATION OF MCL 423.215(3)(j)

A. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Our review of MERC's interpretation of MCL ...


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