February 12, 2007

Grand coalitions in education?

Alexander Russo asserts today, If SEIU and Wal-Mart Can Do It, Education Can, Too.  The argument, in brief: If the interests of SEIU and Wal-Mart allowed both to push for decoupling employment and health care, then is there another grand coalition out there involving teachers unions and education? 

First, a bit of background: SEIU's members and prospective members need health care, and they're in occupations that are very unlikely to have it. So they have an interest in decoupling employment and health care. Wal-Mart has built its business on the lack of health care and other benefits (along with other practices), and so it has an interest in decoupling employment and health care, since if that happened, they would never have to pony up for health care.  Thus, they're both pushing for universal health coverage.

So, to the prospects in education: There already is such a grand compromise idea out there, involving charter schools and unionization, but it looks like charter-school proponents are sufficiently anti-union that they don't want it. Brief gloss: union activists suggested card-check recognition in return for larger numbers of charter schools.  Charter proponents claim that only a secret ballot can prevent intimidation of workers... by unions.  There is plenty of room for discussion, despite this apparent spurning, but only if both parties come to the table. I'm not going to describe any concrete suggestions here unless someone really wants an untrained mediator in the room, except to say that there's plenty of room between card-check recognition (and allegations of intimidation by unions) and long-delayed secret-ballot recognition elections (and allegations of intimidation by management). And there are options for what happens after recognition as well.

Time for those who claim they're not hostile to unions to come back to the table.

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Posted in Education policy on February 12, 2007 10:27 AM |