March 7, 2006

Transparent aluminum bargaining

For some reason, a little spat has erupted in the ed policy blogule (blogospherelet? blogosphericle? ) over how transparent unions are when bargaining. Andrew Rotherham operationalized this wonkishly into whether contracts are online, at which point John at NCLBlog said there were plenty of teachers union contracts online, Rotherham said most of those are on school-district websites, not on union sites where reporters would look for them, John replied that they're still available publicly, and NYCEducator said he didn't want Rotherham negotiating for him.

A few points about this spat:

  • The existence of a collective bargaining agreement online is a good thing but only one tiny slice of the issue. Unions have a duty of fair representation to educate employees about the contract, so having something online helps fulfill that duty. But public bargaining isn't the same as public decisionmaking by a union. Both management and union typically reserve the right to go into private caucus sessions, even in states (such as mine) where collective-bargaining sessions fall under open-meeting laws. And because school boards will always reserve that right to private caucuses, so will unions.
  • Whether reporters can find everything they want on a union website is a matter of effective web design, not openness. (Most reporters are far more irritated, I gather, by not having accurate contact information on a website when they're working on deadline, but I may be wrong about that.)
  • The call for transparency by devotees of postliberalism rings hollow when most of the rhetoric concerns what stands unions eventually take, not the process involved.

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Posted in Education policy on March 7, 2006 10:28 PM |