Skip to content
Topics
Stories

Collective bargaining in the classroom

Interest- ​​based col­lec­tive bar­gaining with teachers unions could play an impor­tant role in improving edu­ca­tion and closing the achieve­ment gap in Mass­a­chu­setts public schools, according to a new report on public sector labor-​​management reform.

Barry Blue­stone, the founding dean of the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity, and Mass­a­chu­setts Insti­tute of Tech­nology pro­fessor Thomas A. Kochan coau­thored “Toward a Grand New Bar­gain: Col­lab­o­ra­tive Approaches to Labor-​​Management Reform in Mass­a­chu­setts.” The report was spon­sored by The Boston Foundation.

“The goal is to improve K through 12 edu­ca­tion,” said Blue­stone, who served as a “proud member of the United Auto Workers union” in the 1960s. “To that end, we need to make sure that teachers, super­in­ten­dents and prin­ci­pals are fully engaged in that effort.”

The new approach to labor-​​management rela­tions in the Commonwealth’s public schools would replace detailed work rules in com­plex con­tracts with a system of con­tin­uous problem solving through joint decision-​​making, Blue­stone said.

“When there is a problem, the par­ties will resolve it instead of cod­i­fying it in the next con­tract in lan­guage that, over time, cre­ates a dense web of rules and inflex­i­bility,” Blue­stone explained.

“Old style bar­gaining is based on con­flict and give and take,” he added. “Interest-​​based bar­gaining would allow both sides to explore their inter­ests and find out where they coincide.”

The labor-​​management reform plan, which may include com­pen­sa­tion and performance-​​based pay prac­tices for teachers, would fea­ture a statewide academy to train union leaders, school super­in­ten­dents and school com­mittee mem­bers in interest-​​based bar­gaining. A pilot pro­gram for at least one school dis­trict may be up and run­ning within the next three to six months, Blue­stone said.

Edu­ca­tion stake­holders, such as teachers, par­ents and prin­ci­pals, would also be granted access to an online Mass­a­chu­setts Learning Net­work, where inter­ested par­ties could share common experiences.

“The online system would allow us to very quickly dis­tribute our best prac­tices across the state,” Blue­stone said. “It would be a way of making sure people used the latest and best infor­ma­tion in designing their own interest-​​based bar­gaining systems.”

Blue­stone hopes to apply a mod­i­fied ver­sion of those col­lec­tive bar­gaining strate­gies to resolve labor-​​management con­flict among other state employees, such as fire­fighters and police officers.

He praised North­eastern for con­ducting such ground­breaking applied community-​​based research. “We are really engaged with the com­mu­nity and have a pas­sion for solving crit­ical prob­lems that face society,” he said. “North­eastern is one of the leading uni­ver­si­ties in the country devoted to this kind of work.”

– by Jason Kornwitz

More Stories

Photo of the Capitol Building at night

High stakes for politics, SCOTUS in 2018

01.04.2018
Photo of the crashed truck that was used in the October 31st attack in Manhattan.

Weaponizing Language: How the meaning of “allahu akbar” has been distorted

11.08.2017
Northeastern logo

Why I love studying Spanish

05.29.20
Uncategorized