Judge Rules for Louisiana Union, Layoffs Violate State Law

State district court judge Raymond Steib has ruled in favor of the Jefferson Federation of Teachers, declaring that they are able to take grievances about teacher layoffs into arbitration proceedings, writes Barri Bronston at the Times-Picayune.

The union has been battling with the school board after district officials laid off 54 teachers as part of a package of budget cuts.

The union argued that the layoffs violated the board's contract with the teachers — as well as violating state law — and that the means to resolve contract disputes is arbitration, writes Bronston.

The Jefferson Federation of Teachers filed a lawsuit against the district, claiming that the layoffs violated state law. Arguing that the school system failed to provide written charges of behavior breaches. They also claim that the board should grant hearings letting teachers defend themselves against allegations of poor performance.

And now Steib, of the 24th Judicial District, has ruled that the union has a legitimate right to arbitrate alleged violations of its collective bargaining contract with the School Board, after once denying the union's request for an immediate reversal of the layoffs in August.

School Board officials and attorneys have argued against arbitration, saying that the contract itself deviates from state law and that granting arbitration gives the union an unfair second chance to argue the same point.

In his three-page ruling, Steib wrote that the union has a "contractual right as an entity to arbitrate any potential contractual claims under the collective bargaining agreement."

"The arbitrator's power is limited by state law. Furthermore, the arbitrator cannot add to, subtract from or alter the articles of the agreement.

"The parties have agreed in their contract the ‘the decision of the arbitrator shall be binding upon the parties to the extent permitted by law."

The case is set for trial on Feb. 26.

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