Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Celebrating Labor-Management Collaboration: The Literature Grows

A year ago, I began a bibliography of every web and print resource I could find on the subject of labor-management collaboration.  I was worried that heading into the U.S. Department of Education’s Labor –Management Conference in Denver, participants would lack the background and context to deal with the ideas and practices they would encounter.
Initially, I did only web resources, and could find just seventeen.  It was a sparse literature.  Over the ensuing year I added several books, including classics like United Mindworkers and Getting to Yes.  I added the research we performed for the Denver LMC.  It still looked pretty sparse to me.
Suddenly, there has been a small, but exciting explosion of publications on the subject. 
Recently, Education Week published a special report on labor-management collaboration entitled “Joining Forces: Moving district-union negotiations beyond bread-and-butter issues”.  With this report, labor management collaboration has gone mainstream.  But leading up to this breakthrough, there have been several other publications of note that have significantly expanded the literature.
Improving Student Learning Through Collective Bargaining” By Adam Urbanski (Harvard Education Letter May/June 2011) Urbanski, the brilliant local president of the Rochester, NY NYSUT affiliate,  and cofounder of the Teacher Union Reform Network (TURN) writes of the use of continuous  and expanded scope bargaining to promote student learning.
SRI International and J. Koppich & Associates published “Peer Review: Getting Serious About Teacher Support and Evaluation”  This paper reaches three important conclusions based on in-depth analysis of two established Peer Assistance and Review (PAR) programs in California: 1) Peer support and evaluation can and should coexist.  2) PAR is a rigorous alternative to traditional forms of teacher evaluation and development. 3) PAR leads to better collaboration between districts and unions.
The NEA Today Summer 2011 issue had a cover story entitled “Change Agents: Union led collaboration is driving success in schools across America.”  The story profiles several locals which employed the traditional levers of unionism to benefit student learning.  I was particularly struck by the story about the Dayton local employing the grievance process to acquire textbooks for special needs students.  This aligns with John Wilson’s call for use of expanded scope bargaining to achieve social justice in his farewell speech at the 2011 RA in Chicago.
Richard Elmore’s I Used to Think….and Now I Think is a brilliant meditation on policy by 20 leading education reformers.  Among the many wise and provocative essays two stand out with regard to the subject at hand:
Brad Jupp’s “Rethinking Unions’ Roles in Ed Reform” takes on union reform from a systems perspective.  Jupp, who as Denver Classroom Teachers Association lead negotiator was one of the architects of Denver’s ground breaking ProComp strategic compensation system, tackles the issue of union reform from a systems perspective.  He writes, “If we are to see teacher union affiliates take a leading role in improving our schools, we must begin to ask some questions about how they are designed.”  He posits that unions are well designed to “get the results they are presently getting.”  Several pointed questions encourage repurposing unions to support the success of the overall educational enterprise: great student learning.
Mark Simon, former president of the Montgomery County MD NEA affiliate, and a TURN leader, contributed “High Stakes Progressive Teacher Unionism.”  He writes, “Teacher Unions have a responsibility to advocate not just in the narrow self-interest of their dues paying members, but in the public interest, from a teacher’s perspective.”
But Joining Forces really excited me when I saw it this month.  Here is a national education policy newspaper highlighting the difficult work successfully pursued by unions and districts across the country.   From New Haven to Memphis to Los Angeles and Lucia Mar , CA, the articles highlight unions and board as they grapple with the art and science of collaboration, wrapped around tough issues like Value Added Methods, the Teacher Advancement Program, and new forms of compensation.  Included is a great introduction/overview and a timeline.  This is a must read to get the history and flavor of Labor-Management Collaboration.
Oh yes - hot off the presses: Transforming Teaching: Connecting Professional Responsibility with Student Learning - 2011 Report.  The NEA Commission on Effective Teachers and Teaching (CETT) just published their report chock full of union reform recommendations.  More on that later.
Last February at the Denver LMC Arne Duncan spoke of igniting a movement that would make labor-management collaboration the norm.  Speaking as a union leader, on the subject of labor-management collaboration I support the Department of Education - and the CETT.   The current wave of significant research and publication leads me to believe the vision is getting traction.
What other publications should I add to this list or to my Union Reform Resources Page?


  1. Your viewpoint on the topic is very outright and convincing.thanks for exposing this to world, amazing stuff!
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    1. Great article, thank you! Any insight on foundations who support this work?