The Merced Union High School District Teachers Association announced it has filed an unfair labor practice complaint against the school district.
The announcement was made at Wednesday's district board meeting by MUHSD Teachers Association president Sheila Whitley. The complaint was filed with the State Public Employment Relations Board.
Issues arose after all district employees were sent e-mails on Feb. 3 from district Superintendent Scott Scambray urging them to consider pay cuts, rather than risking future layoffs because of necessary budget cuts.
"March 15 is the deadline for initiating the layoff process for certificated employees," Scambray said in the e-mail obtained by the Sun-Star. "While layoffs can be called off or reduced, it would be most positive if we could negotiate these changes ASAP! If you are interested in getting this done, I urge you to contact your union leadership!"
According to the Education Employees Relations Act, district officials can't negotiate with individual teachers. They are only allowed to discuss salaries with the Teachers Association's bargaining unit.
"My letter was simply informational by nature, so there were no rules broken," Scambray said.
The MUHSD teachers union had an open relationship with the district, but since fall 2008, when Scambray was hired, that relationship has been impaired, according to a press statement issued by Whitley.
Although it is illegal to directly bargain with teachers -- and that's what MUHSD teachers have alleged -- that doesn't mean that any communication is unlawful, said Les Chisholm, a representative of PERB.
The high school district's classified employees union representative Lori Mitchell said she was also looking into filing a complaint with PERB.
MUHSD Assistant Superintendent Raynee Daley said she couldn't comment on the Teachers Association's accusations.
"It has been the district's intent to solve problems together," Daley said.
Investigators at PERB will first look at the claim to see if any violations occurred, and if that's the case, the complaint could go to a hearing, Chisholm said.
The investigation could take 30 to 60 days, he added.
Reporter Jamie Oppenheim can be reached at (209)385-2407 or firstname.lastname@example.org.