Court rules that Detroit Catholic schoolteachers cannot unionize


On Wednesday, the Michigan Court of Appeals announced their decision that a group of teachers from suburban Detroit’s Brother Rice Catholic High School could not vote to join a state teacher’s union.

The three member panel court said that it would not grant the Michigan Employment Relations Commission jurisdiction over teachers in the state’s parochial schools.

Namely, they noted a 1979 Supreme Court decision which said that government infringement into the labor issues of parochial schools would cause "substantial First Amendment concerns."

Likewise, board members of the all-boys school argued that the school’s religious freedom would be violated by allowing teachers a collective bargaining election.

The Associated Press quoted Patrick Gillen, attorney for the Christian Brothers Institute of Michigan, the school’s parent organization, who said that, "That delicate balance should be struck by the school community without any interference from the state."

He called the ruling a victory for religious liberty, and noted that the school does strive to treat its teachers fairly.

In 2003, some 30 teachers from Brother Rice, angered over teacher’s compensation and budget cuts to certain programs requested a vote on whether or not to join the Michigan Education Association--the state’s largest teacher’s union.

A green light was given by the Michigan Employment Relations Commission, but the vote was put on hold pending the school’s court appeal.

A frustrated Michigan Education Association has not decided whether they will appeal the court’s decision.

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