Negotiating power of unions

Watching the continued dispute between DPS and DCTA over ProComp and other issues, and based on my somewhat cursory knowledge of collective bargaining agreements, I think teacher’s unions are clearly far better negotiators than districts. If I had to choose one side to represent me in a negotiation, I would pick the union, hands down. I surmise part of the reason for this success is the following:

  • Union leadership have been members for decades and are deeply versed in the issues; the average tenure of an urban district superintendent is under three years;
  • Unions are very focused and consistent in their demands (wages, job protections); districts argue for a variety of priorities that shift widely over time. The former builds on previous negotiations, the latter does not;
  • Unions have generally done a good job with public relations (everyone knows a teacher); districts are usually highly unpopular bureaucracies. Pressure to settle is often more on districts;
  • Unions negotiate for the long term; districts negotiate for the remaining term of the superintendent (see also #1);
  • District superintendents usually aspire to some higher office and thus have more to lose if there is no agreement than unions. It is hard to accelerate a political career if you can be held responsible for a highly unpopular strike;

On ProComp, the worst DCTA will do is have 10% of ProComp dollars paid as a bonus and not as salary. That tells me they have – in the broader context – won this negotiation already. If you were the district, would it be worth it to dig in and risk a strike for the, ahem, “victory” of 90% salary building?

What are other reasons? Or would someone care to argue that negotiations have more evenly distributed resources?

This entry was posted in Teacher Compensation, Teacher Unions and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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