SEIU sues Register, Metro school board over union policy dispute

Monday, July 16, 2012 at 3:33pm

Service Employees International Union Local 205 has sued Director of Schools Jesse Register and the nine-member Metro school board following the superintendent’s recent decision to rescind the district’s labor negotiations policy.

The suit, filed in Davidson County Chancery Court, alleges Register and senior Metro Nashville Public Schools staff “exceeded their legal authority” in undoing the 2000-era school board-adopted policy. In a related move last year, which prompted a complaint from SEIU in January, Register elected to allow “memoranda of understanding” with SEIU and United Steelworkers to expire, though Register has contended it wasn’t a “legally binding” policy in the first place.

“Tennessee law, the Metro Charter and school board policy are very clear about the powers that are to be exercised by a school board, as opposed to the powers of the director of schools,” said attorney Dewey Branstetter, a former Metro school board member himself who is SEIU’s legal counsel.

“As set forth in the complaint, Mr. Register has taken action that appropriately can only be taken by the school board itself,” Branstetter said.

In a sharply worded response, MNPS spokeswoman Meredith Libbey told The City Paper that SEIU “continues to focus on union issues, not employee issues, and not on improving children’s education.”

She added, “This union has time for misinformation campaigns, unsubstantiated complaints against the school board, a push poll and now a legal filing — but no time to speak in support of a pay raise for all support employees at the March 20 public hearing on the schools budget.”

“No wonder their members are voting with their feet and walking away from the union,” Libbey said.

In March, school board chair Gracie Porter rejected claims outlined in SEIU’s initial complaint, arguing that it was “without merit and should proceed no further.” Porter, running for re-election to her District 5 seat, has emerged as a target for SEIU, which sent out a negative mailer on her last week.

SEIU, which represents MNPS support staff employees, also contends in its suit that school officials made a concerted effort to discourage employee participation in SEIU Local 205. The suit further claims Register and executive staff members “met in private” to rescind the labor negotiations policy, an alleged violation of the Tennessee Open Meetings Act.

“Dr. Register’s actions have done nothing but divide this community,” SEIU Local 205 President Doug Collier said in a statement. “Just in the last two years, Dr. Register has sent more Nashvillians to the unemployment line than just about anyone else.”

Collier’s comments are directed at the origin of the bitter relationship between SEIU and Register: The board’s 5-3 vote in 2010 to outsource some 700 school custodians, at the Register’s request, to a private company called GCA Services.

12 Comments on this post:

By: conservarage on 7/17/12 at 6:49

more like the reason people are walking away from the union is that it won't help them keep their jobs - just ask the janitors how union membership helped them.

By: FaceBook:Emmett... on 7/17/12 at 7:28

SEIU is possibly the single most corrupt and worthless gang of thugs operating an open criminal enterprise in the US today. They like to play as though they're "tough" but when people stand up to them, they fold like the sissies they really are. They thought they had an "easy" win set up for Wisconsin which would out fear into the hearts of taxpayers everywhere. Instead, they got a public slap down. Time to break them up and indict the leadership.

By: govskeptic on 7/17/12 at 7:49

So Attorney Branstetter, a former school board member, now represents a client
suing the Board. Was he a Union sympathizer while serving on the board and
now sees a chance to show his support legally? This group has no interest
in the betterment of our schools, the city's budget, nor a director or board
attempting to make positive changes! Status quo and collecting dollars for
the cause is their one and only objective. This case has no merit!

By: pswindle on 7/17/12 at 11:19

The unions work, but it is hard to work when Register and other School Board individuals will not allow it to work. They do not want it to work. They along with the Governor and Legislative Branch's goal was to kill unions. The unions did more for chilcren than they ever did for teachers. The truth needs to get oust there.

By: jsabrown on 7/17/12 at 4:25

Wow, the disinformation is really incredible.

The union fought tooth and nail to save the custodians' jobs. While it's true we lost, it wasn't for lack of trying. Where were you?

As for Emmett's accusations of corruption and thuggishness, I have it on good authority that Emmett is a philanderer of toadfrogs, and I have just as much evidence to support my claim as he has to support his.

As for Wisconsin, remember, the Koch brothers and their friends outspent the opposition 16-1 and still didn't exactly pull off a landslide. (What do you think would have happened if workers had outspent Walker 16-1?) Of course, the Koch brothers have the bucks to outspend most anybody they like, your civil rights be damned.

Yes, Jesse Register is attempting to make "positive" changes, like telling a 60 y/o woman she can't go to the bathroom between lunch and quitting time, even if it's to check her insulin levels. Changes that allow him to fire somebody because they are too far up the payscale and he wants to save money. Yeah, that's real progress, alright.

Ya think unions are evil? Wait till they're gone and you become just another tool to be worn out and thrown away. Wait till the Koch brothers convince Congress that child labor laws are silly and it's well and good that they should be used in coal mines where their size is of some benefit. Wait till your employer holds not only your job and your healthcare, but also your home.

By: Moonglow1 on 7/18/12 at 7:22

Moonglow1: jsabrown has it right.

The Kochs, ALEC, Romney and his Mormon Mafia, the Tea Party, Eric Kantor, Sheldon Adelson, the Republican Party, and the NRA are fascist, corrupt thugs who extort middle class tax money, jobs, benefits for themselves.

These idiots are nothing but a mob. The Mafia was tame in comparison to this disingenuous, greedy, crooked, and slimy group of corrupt thugs.

This is who has blinded the American public. First they came for the unions, then they came for your jobs, then they came for your social security, then they came for your voter ID, then they came for your medical care benefits, then they came to lock you up in a CCA prison. End of you!!!!

By: conservarage on 7/18/12 at 7:29

ah yes, the koch brothers, the boogeymen of the left.

unless the SEIU gets some actual influence in MNPS, it's done for - who will want to pay dues for no real benefits?

By: conservarage on 7/18/12 at 8:13

funny how the left's fails are always blamed on the big money koch brothers. two words in reply to that: george soros. you wouldn't be complaining about his contributing to a win.

By: Specter47 on 7/18/12 at 10:13

Wow! This is like the Nazis vs. the Communists! Not sure who to root for!

By: pswindle on 7/18/12 at 10:46

The GOP needs to forgo all of the benefits that the left and unions have gotten them. Let them see what the unions really do. Before unions, kids did not have P.E., there was over 40 kids per room, no 40 hour work week, no 2 week vacation. Just to name a few of the things that the GOP really love to hate. I would like to know where Register is gettting his instructions.. He is a yes man and we need a leader.

By: NashvilleLaw on 7/18/12 at 12:08

For the curious, the full Complaint is available here:

By: Specter47 on 7/19/12 at 12:12

What a bunch of BS, pswindle...typical liberal/leftist Looney Tune tripe. According to you, God wouldn't have finished Creation without the union. And Register, who you obviously don't like...was Obama's Inaugural Chairman for Nashville. He's one of your own.