Lake Mich. Col. Fed. of Teach. v. Lake Mich. Com. Col., Civ. A. No. K-49-73.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court (Western District Michigan)
Citation390 F. Supp. 103
Docket NumberCiv. A. No. K-49-73.
PartiesLAKE MICHIGAN COLLEGE FEDERATION OF TEACHERS and Edward Shaffer, Individually and as representative of other Individuals similarly situated and too numerous to conveniently be here set forth, Plaintiffs, v. LAKE MICHIGAN COMMUNITY COLLEGE, a public education institution established under the laws of the State of Michigan, et al., Defendants.
Decision Date27 September 1974

390 F. Supp. 103

LAKE MICHIGAN COLLEGE FEDERATION OF TEACHERS and Edward Shaffer, Individually and as representative of other Individuals similarly situated and too numerous to conveniently be here set forth, Plaintiffs,
LAKE MICHIGAN COMMUNITY COLLEGE, a public education institution established under the laws of the State of Michigan, et al., Defendants.

Civ. A. No. K-49-73.

United States District Court, W. D. Michigan, S. D.

September 27, 1974.

390 F. Supp. 104
390 F. Supp. 105
390 F. Supp. 106
390 F. Supp. 107
390 F. Supp. 108
Bernard J. Fieger, Craig, Fieger & Golden, Southfield, Mich., for plaintiffs

Robert C. Claus, Vedder, Price, Kaufman & Kammholz, Chicago, Ill., Paul A. Taglia, Spelman, Taglia, Meek & Lagoni, St. Joseph, Mich., for defendant Lake Michigan Community College.

Gerald F. Young, Asst. Atty. Gen., Lansing, Mich., for defendant State Board of Education.


FOX, Chief Judge.

This case arose out of an employment dispute between Lake Michigan College (hereafter referred to as the College) and certain of its employees, most of whom were teaching faculty represented by the Lake Michigan College Federation of Teachers, their certified bargaining agent (hereafter referred to as the Union). Although this case was originally begun as a class action, the pleadings were amended so that the plaintiffs are the Lake Michigan College Federation of Teachers and the named individuals, all of whom were the subjects of disciplinary action taken by the College as a result of a work stoppage which began on February 15, 1973. The defendants are the Lake Michigan Community College, a publicly created and financed two-year junior college; the individuals who were members of the College's Board of Trustees, the governing body, when the dispute arose; and the President of the College, the institution's chief executive officer. The Attorney General of the State of Michigan was admitted as an Intervenor Defendant.

390 F. Supp. 109

The gravamen of the amended complaint1 is that certain actions taken or proposed to be taken by the defendants principally during February, March and April of 1973 in connection with discharge proceedings violated or would violate the Fourteenth Amendment due process rights of the plaintiffs to notice and hearing by an impartial tribunal before the deprivation of their protected interests by the defendants.2 The plaintiffs are seeking reinstatement with damages incident to the reinstatement, and further declaratory and injunctive relief with respect to the proposed form of the discharge hearings. This case falls under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983, and this court has jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. Secs. 1343(3) and (4), and 28 U.S.C. Secs. 2201 and 2202.


Before discussing the legal merits of this case, the court must make a comprehensive survey of the facts, review the relevant Michigan public employment relations law, and survey the procedural history of this case to date.


Because of the truncated jurisdiction of this court and the nature of the issues upon which this court may rule, it is necessary to make an especially thorough examination of the facts in this case, and to assess in particular the course of bargaining between the College and the Union during 1972-1973.3

Shortly after this case was filed, the court, after a hearing during which it was informed of the essential facts, issued an Opinion and Temporary Restraining Order. Although the court has since received a much greater volume of evidence, enabling a more detailed view of the case, this evidence has convinced the court that its original assessment of the case was correct. In particular, the court is convinced, as it said in its original Opinion, that the "intransigence" of the Board on the issue of salaries was "so provocative that it must be characterized as being violent, if not barbaric." The Opinion is reproduced as Appendix A, and is incorporated herein by reference.

Lake Michigan College was originally established as the Junior College of Benton Harbor by the Benton Harbor Board of Education in 1946. At a special election in 1963, the voters approved the creation of the Community College District of Berrien County, Michigan, with a separate Board of Trustees to manage the institution. Voters also approved a tax levy for twenty years from 1964 to finance the school. At this time, the name was changed to Lake Michigan College.

While the record does not show the date on which the Lake Michigan College Federation of Teachers (abbreviated in the record as LMCFT) was certified as the bargaining representative of the faculty,4 it does reveal that the first collective bargaining agreement went into effect during the Fall term, 1967,5 following a six-week strike by the faculty which was settled by voluntary arbitration.

At the trial of this cause, Dr. James L. Lehman, who had assumed his position as President of the College in July 1967, just before the strike, indicated by his expression and manner that the College authorities had never fully accepted

390 F. Supp. 110
many of the terms of the collective bargaining argeement which had been "imposed" upon the College by the arbitrators in the Fall of 1967.6 This intense dissatisfaction with the results of the strike and with the whole principle of collective bargaining contributed to the hostility which the College demonstrated toward the Union and the teachers, and is evidence that the College had concluded that the second strike would be the last

Following the expiration of the 1967-68 agreement, new agreements were reached and implemented in 1968-69, 1969-70, and 1970-72.7 The number of agreements indicates that the parties have been almost constantly negotiating or preparing for negotiations since the stormy beginning in 1967. With important issues thus almost always joined, a stable union-management relationship never developed.

Although the 1970-1972 collective bargaining agreement was not scheduled to expire until August 1972, the Union initiated the process of bargaining toward a new contract in December 1971. On December 13, the Union formally wrote the College as follows:8

"In accordance with Article XVIII of the Master Agreement between the Board of Trustees of Lake Michigan College and the L.M.C. Federation of Teachers, we hereby notify you of our intention to begin negotiating a successor agreement to the present contract. Our negotiating team has been selected and it is our desire to begin negotiations prior to the stated date of February 15, 1972, in order to conclude an agreement early. We wish to point out that it is possible to begin before February 15 and that the contract does not prohibit it. We urge your team to prepare your position as soon as possible so we can begin."

The Union submitted a substantial number of its proposals in February 1972, and had submitted all its proposals by April 13.9 This early action by the Union was responsibly designed to ensure that there would be ample time to complete the new agreement by the beginning of the 1972-73 academic year.10 In fact, as appears more fully below, the unreasonable demands and intransigence

390 F. Supp. 111
of the College prevented any such agreement from being reached

It is important to note the general economic and social conditions within which the bargaining took place. It was a period of extraordinarily high inflation, and the President had imposed a ceiling of 5.5% on wage increases. Many families of modest income found it very difficult to maintain a decent standard of living.

During the fall of 1972, teacher strikes increased as public school administrators resisted pay raises which teachers required to merely stay even with inflation. Although there had been teacher strikes in 11 Michigan public school and college systems in 1971-72, there were 17 such strikes in 1972-73. All of the 1972-73 strikes involved contract renewals.11

A substantial number of non-vital issues had been resolved by early August 1972. At this time the College requested the services of a mediator to be appointed by the Michigan Employment Relations Commission pursuant to the Michigan Public Employment Relations Act.12 A mediator was appointed, and the parties met with him.

The collective bargaining agreement expired on August 12, 1972, but the teachers returned to work at the beginning of the 1972-73 school year under a "day-to-day understanding" with the College. By the terms of the understanding, the teachers would work under the provisions of the expired 1970-72 collective bargaining agreement, except that the new contract terms which had been agreed upon before September 8, 1972, would be implemented.13 One of the sections of the old contract which was continued was a provision whereby the Union and the faculty agreed not to strike and the College agreed not to lock out during the term of the agreement.14

On August 17, 1972, the Union requested fact-finding pursuant to P.E.R. A. A factfinder, Mr. J. Warren Eardley, of Grand Rapids, Michigan, was appointed. The first meeting with the factfinder was held on October 17, 1972, but was adjourned to November 13, 1972, to give the parties an opportunity to bargain further. By the time the factfinder's report was issued on January 11, 1973,15 the parties had reached agreement on all but three issues, each of which was examined by the factfinder.

The three issues on which the parties were unable to agree were the salary schedule, the duration of the contract,

390 F. Supp. 112
and the number of weeks' work scheduled for the assistant librarians. The latter issue was of secondary importance. The issues of the salary schedule and the duration of the contract were closely related, and were the subject of major difficulty

Since the first collective bargaining agreement of 1967, each of the Lake Michigan College faculty members had been...

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