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November 18, 1983 - Image 33

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1983-11-18

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

Friday, November 18, 1983 33

Beth Din Circumstances for Akiva Debated

By ALAN HITSKY
The chairman of the
negotiating team for Akiva
Hebrew Day School, attor-
ney Steven Cohen, has

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charged in a letter to The
Jewish News that the school
has twice tried to have the
Akiva teachers' strike
negotiations submitted to
the arbitration of a Jewish
Beth Din — rabbinical
court.
Cohen was responding to
an item in The Jewish News
"Purely Commentary" col-
umn last week.
Cohen's latter stated
however, ". . the submis-
sion of matters to a Beth Din
was contingent upon the
withdrawal of all pending
civil litigation and the per-
manent submission of all
differences between the
union and management to

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the tribunal." Cohen
claimed this is in accor-
dance with Jewish law to
eliminate potential con-
flicts between secular and
religious law.
Attorney
Mark
Couzens, who represents
the Michigan Federation
of Teachers and the strik-
ing Akiva teachers, said
the Akiva negotiators
tied the Beth Din prop-
osal, and the teachers re-
quests for binding arbit-
ration and non-binding
arbitration, to "propos-
als so unacceptable that
we could not agree."
He labeled Cohen's letter
as another ploy by the
school. "It is one more at-
tempt by the school to avoid
resolution of the contract."
Couzens said the striking
teachers' charges of unfair
labor practices and a charge
of libel against the school
would be withdrawn if there
were "a complete resolution
of the strike." He said the
contract between the
teachers and the school now
calls for arbitration by 10
Jewish arbitrators.
He said the Akiva
negotiators have now re-
jected both secular and re-
ligious arbitration of the
dispute by tying unaccepta-
ble proposals to acceptance
of arbitration.
Cohen's letter also
stated: "Frankly, with the
recent withdrawal of
strike status and the sub-
sequent withdrawal of
recognition from the
teachers union by mem-
bers of the teachers unit,
the issue of submission to
a Beth Din is now a moot
point."
Couzens commented that
he received a letter from
Akiva's attorneys stating
that the replacement
teachers had petitioned the
school, requesting that the
union not represent them.
The letter states that be-
cause of the petition, Akiva
will no longer negotiate
with the striking teachers.
Couzens said the remedy
for the situation will be
court-ordered re-hiring of
the striking teachers with
full back pay. "I am worried
that this will injure the
school," Couzens said, "but
Akiva has chosen the road
that we travel."
He said Akiva is making
up excuses to justify its posi-
tion. "They are showing the
community and the chil-
dren that crime does pay."
Cohen charged The
Jewish News with pre-
judging the quality of
education at Akiva given
by the replacement
teachers. He said re-
placements would have
been needed for 10 open
positions at the start of
the year even if there had
not been a strike, adding,
"You and the community
owe them (the replace-
ment teachers) the cour-
tesy of not judging their
abilities without evi-
dence or investigation."
Couzens labeled the pre-
sent quality of education at
Akiva as "patchwork at
best.

"If Akiva believes
teachers are like Kleenex —
when you are through with
one piece, get another —
then the quality is the same.
But how can you replace
teachers with years of ex-
perience and expect the
quality to be the same?"
Couzens said the striking
teachers have applied for
unemployment compensa-
tion. He expects the initial
applications to be rejected,
based on Akiva's compensa-
tion exemption, but that the
exemption will be over-
turned on appeal.
Susan Marwil, presi-
dent of the striking
teachers, was bitter
about the latest de-
velopments. "I feel like

I've wasted 11 years of
my life." She called Akiva
"underhanded" and said
the school has now done
"just about everything
they could to get rid of us.
They've pulled down ev-
erything the teachers
have tried to do for the
school over the years."
Of the teachers who orig-
inally struck the school, six
have returned to work and
15 are still part of the
"strikers."

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