Union-backed proposal in Michigan city looks to protect teachers caught with drugs, alcohol

Published October 03, 2012

| FoxNews.com

A contract covering teachers in a Michigan city gives union members several strikes before they are fired when it comes to drug and alcohol use, and backers are trying to overturn a state law that so far has made the lax approach unenforceable.

The current contract for teachers in the Bay City, Mich., school district provides a progression of sanctions for educators who show up drunk to work or get caught using or selling drugs to students.

According to the pact, teachers in possession or under the influence of illegal drugs could be caught three times before they are fired. When it comes to alcohol use, only on the fifth infraction can teachers be let go from their job, the contract states.

District officials say their hands are not really tied by the contract language because Public Act 103 of the state Constitution bars unions from being able to negotiate over disciplinary matters.

But the unions are backing a wide-ranging Nov. 6 ballot measure dubbed "Protect Our Jobs," or "Proposal 2," that critics say seeks to overturn the state law, bringing the language in the contract into effect.

Citizens Protecting Michigan’s Constitution, which is backed by several business organizations, claims that an internal memo circulated by union officials says that the power of local districts to mete out disciplinary action would be one of many state laws that would be overturned by the "Protect Our Jobs" measure.

State Attorney General Bill Schuette has said that about 170 state laws would be affected by the measure.

"This is insane," said Patrick Wright, a senior legal analyst at the Mackinac Center. "It's wrong on so many levels."

"Union members would get to essentially set their own laws on certain subjects," Wright told FoxNews.com.

"You have a grownup versus someone who is still developing and who are you giving the third and fourth chance to? The grownup. That just doesn’t make any sense," he said.

Bay City Public Schools Superintendent Douglas Newcombe declined to comment on the matter when contacted Tuesday by FoxNews.com. In an interview with Michigan Capitol Confidential, Newcombe said the school district has never had a situation arise with a teacher that involves illegal drugs or alcohol.

According to the contract, teachers caught drunk for the first time would receive a "written reprimand with counseling required." On the second offense, teachers would be suspended for three days "without pay with mandatory counseling (or discharge if does not participate in counseling)." On the third time, the teacher is suspended five days without pay and must undergo mandatory counseling or be dismissed. On the fourth instance, the teacher's suspension is increased to 10 days. A teacher caught drunk at school a fifth time is dismissed.

When it comes to drugs, a teacher could be caught high on drugs three times at school before being fired, the contract states. If an educator is seen selling tobacco, alcohol or illegal drugs on the first offense, the teacher received three days unpaid suspension and mandatory counseling.

Proposal 2, if passed on Nov. 6, would override current state law and allow for the language in the contract to take effect.

"It's really a scary thing that Michigan families are looking at here with this proposal," said Nick De Leeuw, a spokesman for Citizens Protecting Michigan’s Constitution.

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http://www.foxnews.com/us/2012/10/03/union-backed-proposal-in-michigan-city-looks-to-protect-teachers-caught-with/