Philly unions go to court to defend their indefensible seniority system

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PHILADELPHIA – The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers claims Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court doesn’t have jurisdiction to clarify the law as it applies to the city’s school system, and is applying maximum political pressure press on with failed contract negotiations.

Philadelphia school officials recently asked the Supreme Court confirm that the district’s right, under the state’s school takeover law, to change work rules without the union’s permission.

The PFT filed a legal brief in response this week arguing that the high court doesn’t have jurisdiction in the case, and that there’s only one way to resolve the disagreement, The Notebook reports.

“The union’s attorneys argue that the ‘grievance and arbitration dispute resolution mechanism’ established by state labor laws ‘is the only method for resolving these issues,’” according to the news site.

The issues at the heart of the debate are union seniority rules that inhibit district officials from retaining the best teachers during layoffs, and from utilizing educators based on student needs and education priorities.

The district’s state-appointed School Reform Commission is vested with special powers to override certain union contract provisions, and the decision to ask the Supreme Court to confirm those powers is a clear sign the SRC intends to use them, if necessary.

The PFT has steadfastly rejected all contract concessions, so it appears it might be necessary.

But 22 union-loyal state lawmakers and a league of 14 unions all filed separate legal briefs in support of the PFT, because they recognize that if the SRC successfully strips provisions from the PFT contract it will set a strong legal precedent.

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