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AFSCME union wants ‘in’ on school merger process

Employee and union participation should be an essential component of the process to merge Memphis City Schools and Shelby County Schools.

Employee and union participation should be an essential component of the process to merge Memphis City Schools and Shelby County Schools.

 
 AFSCME Local 1733 President Chad Johnson and union representatives say the process of merging city and county schools should include wider public participation and more diverse points of view. (Photo by Tyrone P. Easley)

That conclusion and amplifications of that theme are key elements in a position paper released last Monday (Feb. 27) by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), Local 1733. Union leaders said their “white paper” drew upon lessons learned from school mergers around the country.

Declaring its union’s members ready to contribute to the success of the unified schools, Local 1733 asserts that, “Our union offers unique capabilities that can bring valuable ideas and perspectives to the merger process. For these reasons, we recommend that the School Board include AFSCME and represented employees at all levels during the implementation process.”

Union President Chad Johnson and other union members and representatives presented the position paper during a press conference at the union’s headquarters at 485 Beale St. They used the session, in part, to humanize the union, introducing members who work in myriad capacities in MCS.

AFSCME members have a holistic stake in the merger process, according to the Local 1733.

“Not only will our livelihoods be impacted, but most of us have children in the school system, and the success of this merger will affect our children’s education and future,” the union says in its released document. “We are committed to the merger’s success. We need it to succeed, as do the students, families, and the community of which we are a part.”

Pressing the case for union participation, union officials called upon the transition team charged with moving the merger forward to involve AFSCME at all levels. One area specifically identified was the School Nutrition Program Integration plan.

“Union and front-line worker involvement is critical to this process, as we can provide key details and ‘straight scoop’ on how MCS’s nutrition program operates in a way that complements management’s big-picture view,” the union writes.

While Memphis and Shelby County have put in a place an “organized process, demonstrating their concern for a successful merger,” the union says, some stakeholders – notably school support employees – remain locked out.

“More can be done to make the process inclusive,” according to union representatives.


 

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