MEMPHIS, Tenn.– Memphis’ largest teachers union and the school district are at odds over a new contract, and now it has landed in court with one teacher’s union saying what they are being asked to do is unheard of.
“How do you sign a contract with no consideration? No job description of duties? Who does that,” said Jesse Jeff, a teacher advocate with the Memphis Shelby County Education Association.
That has been at the middle of a contract negotiation stalemate between the Memphis Shelby County Teacher’s Association and Memphis Shelby County Schools.
The union says they’ve been negotiating for two years and got down to one item they can’t agree on — teacher salaries.
“Teachers don’t know where they really are. By not receiving a raise and receiving a stipend…well the stipend evaporated every year depending on your ability or your progress and it doesn’t go toward retirement,” Jeff said.
The union filed suit, pointing to state law requiring teachers to know their pay before signing a contract and beginning work.
“Follow the law. At least you are to do what the law requires you to do and that is salary, duty, responsibility on every teacher’s contract,” said Keith Williams, Executive Director of the Teacher’s Union.
Williams, who is also a new Memphis Shelby County School Board member, says the lawsuit against the school district doesn’t conflict with his position on the school board.
“I could ethically recuse myself, but why should I? I do represent teachers and parents and students,” Williams said.
He said he plans to vote unless he is legally told otherwise.
But the School Board does have final approval of the teacher’s contract. School Board President Michelle McKissack says when the contract comes to the board, it should be a done deal and they just vote it up or down.
She says she is looking to the administration to work through everything with the union.
Union leaders say negotiations with the district usually would go well, and teachers knew where they stood, especially salary-wise until a recent change in administration.
We asked the Memphis Shelby County School District about the salary issue. They said they are working on getting us answers.
Union leaders want the school system to take action, and they say the new interim Superintendent has agreed to revisit the issue.
“If she works it out, the teachers will be happy to sign it. If she works out a salary schedule that returns teachers to a known and published salary schedule, where they know what their salaries are, their steps are, it’s resolved,” Keith Williams said.
There is also another teachers union in Shelby County, the United Education Association.
Leaders told us they have no problem with the contract and it’s not unusual to have no salary or job description on what teachers are asked to sign.