GR union slams school board on audiotape

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - The Grand Rapids school board says that comments made by union leaders during a Michigan Education Association conference show a lack of civility and may constitute bargaining in bad faith on the part of the Grand Rapids Education Association, The Grand Rapids Press reported.

The comments were recorded by an MEA member and provided anonymously to the Education Action Group, a non-profit school board advocacy group, which posted the recording on line, The Press reported. On the tape, Grand Rapids Education Association President Paul Helder says that only two or three members of the Grand Rapids board "are capable of some kind of independent thought" and that the union plans on "taking out another two" during May elections, according to the Press.

Buz Graeber, an MEA representative for Grand Rapids, also is heard on the tape saying that the union plans to delay the current fact-finding process in an effort to stop the board from imposing a contract on teachers, The Press reported. The groups have been in negotiations for 18 months.

The board has asked its attorney for an opinion on whether the comments constitute bad-faith bargaining, according to The Press, but Helder responded that the board reaction is overblown.

In the audiotape, the men pointed out they're uncertain whether teachers will be willing to strike, The Press reported. Teachers are prohibited by law from striking.

Kyle Olson, EAG vice president, told The Press that the tape demonstrates that the teachers union is not interested in reaching a contract agreement.

The Grand Rapids Press, "Grand Rapids school board says secretly recorded audiotape shows teachers' union is bargaining 'in bad faith'," Feb. 23, 2009

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Make unions accountable for illegal strikes," Dec. 22, 2008