Memphis teacher unions’ dispute goes to court

A question of whether Shelby County Schools is taking money out of teachers’ paychecks against their will has dragged the school district into an ongoing feud between local and statewide teacher unions, reports the Commercial Appeal.

The Memphis Shelby County Education Association is suing SCS for continuing to collect dues out of teachers’ paychecks for the Tennessee Education Association, even after the two groups disaffiliated last year. According to court documents, that amounts to about $67,000 every pay period and affects about 4,200 employees.

A chancery court judge ruled Monday, however, that SCS can continue making the withdrawals until the court matter is resolved. A hearing date has been set for Feb. 8.

SCS attorney Rodney Moore said no money has been given to TEA against employees’ wishes. He said because of the separation of the two union groups late last year, SCS has been continuing the payroll deductions for TEA union dues, but hasn’t yet transferred that money to TEA pending approval of each employee.

Moore, who noted “we don’t understand the complaint,” said the issue is between MSCEA and TEA — which wasn’t even listed as a party on the lawsuit. TEA is fighting that, and has filed a petition to intervene in the case. Moore also noted the school board voted in November to stay neutral in the fight between the two unions.

MSCEA executive director Keith Williams said the group is suing the school system and not TEA because it is the school system that deducts the money from employees’ paychecks.

Williams said Monday morning’s hearing was the first time he’d heard SCS say they were holding on to the dues and not yet giving the money to TEA. He said he thinks dues have only been collected erroneously for one or two pay periods.

MSCEA attorney Michael Floyd argued in court that SCS violated a memorandum of understanding that outlines payroll deduction procedures.

“My complaint says they stole this money from these people,” Floyd said.