Unions in Four states Forge No Raid Pacts
Labor unions in at least four states have forged agreements that will limit their turf battles in the quickening drive to organize educational-support personnel.
In California, Florida, Washington, and Wisconsin, affiliates of the National Education Association and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees have either agreed, or tentatively agreed, to forgo competing for the bargaining rights of school workers already organized by the other.
The two unions are an "inch away'' from a similar agreement in Rhode Island, according to John Hein, the NEA's assistant executive director for affiliated services.
Comparable arrangements have been worked out between the state affiliates of the NEA and the Service Employees International Union in California, and are close to completion in Washington State.
And talks on the same front, Mr. Hein said, are progressing between the NEA and AFSCME affiliates in Illinois, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, and between the NEA and SEIU affiliates in Illinois.
Both AFSCME and the SEIU are affiliates of the AFL-CIO
Though the overwhelming majority of certified K-12 teachers are represented by a union, workers in the education-support field, which encompasses a wide variety of jobs in schools and higher-education institutions, remain largely unorganized.
Unions now actively engaged in efforts to organize these workers include, in addition to the three groups moving toward so-called "no raid'' agreements, the American Federation of Teachers and the International Union of Operating Engineers, both affiliates of the AFL-CIO
Unions that are part of the AFL-CIO are prohibited under the labor federation's rules from seeking to win bargaining rights held by other federation members. But the NEA, the nation's largest independent union, is not restricted by such limitations.
Agreements Limit Competition
The NEA began actively organizing school-support workers in the early 1980's, and in a number of locations has sought to capture the bargaining rights held by these other unions.
This jurisdictional warfare--commonly known as raiding--is costly, Mr. Hein noted, and had begun to impair the working relationship the N.E.A. has enjoyed with AFSCME and the SEIU on other fronts.
"Competition of this type doesn't do any good,'' he conceded. "You are fighting over units that someone represents while you could be broadening your membership base on other fronts and providing additional services to your members.''
Donald S. Wasserman, director of collective-bargaining services at AFSCME, agreed.
"The purpose of these discussions,'' he said, "is to bring a sense of stability that will enable the organizations to use their resources to represent their members, rather than to fend off one another.''
In crafting their agreements, the unions used as a model the "no-raid'' provision already in place within the AFL-CIO.
Under that model, unions agree not to raid one another's members, but are free to battle it out over workers who are not yet organized.
Agreements between the NEA and AFSCME affiliates in Florida, Wisconsin, and Washington State have taken that understanding one step further.
In those states, the two unions have worked out arrangements that will limit competition for unorganized, as well as organized, school-support workers.
Although the terms of these agreements differ in each state, and from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, the basic idea is the same: If one union already represents a unit of workers within a school district or institution, then the other union will not seek to organize other support staff in that district or institution.
In general, Mr. Wasserman said, "we agreed that we would not organize in specific school districts where they have units, and they agreed not to organize in districts where we have some units.''
Such agreements among AFL-CIO unions, he said, are "not common, but not unheard of.''
In Florida, Wisconsin, and Washington jurisdictions where neither union has an established hold or claim, the organizations "will go ahead and compete,'' Mr. Hein said.
National Agreement Sought
The talks to limit these turf battles at the state level are part of a broader effort by the unions to reach a national agreement on the issue.
Though AFSCME was prepared to negotiate this broader understanding first, NEA officicals believed it crucial to secure agreements in roughly 15 states where discussion on the issue had already taken place before attempting a national pact.
"We decided to split these states into two groups and see if we could find ways to work out our competitions in one group and, if we could, then move on to the second group,'' Mr. Hein said. "We are assuming that if we can get things worked out in these 15 states, then we will be able to get a national agreement approved by the NEA board of directors.''
Mr. Hein said he hoped to conclude agreements in Illinois, Maryland, and Pennsylvania in the months ahead, and to begin working with the second group of states this fall.
Both the NEA and AFSCME would like to have agreements in all 15 states by the end of the year.
In addition to AFSCME, the second round of discussions will also involve SEIU and the International Union of Operating Engineers, but only in two or three states, Mr. Hein said.
None of the discussions involve the rival teachers' union, the American Federation of Teachers.
"We will still be duking it out with the AFT,'' Mr. Hein said. "That won't be ending.''
Officials at the AFT said that AFSCME had kept them "well informed'' on its discussions with the NEA "There are no surprises here,'' said Kate Krell, a spokesman for the teachers' federation.
"We don't see this as making our [organizing] efforts any more
difficult,'' she added. "Our organizers are shrugging their shoulders
over this and saying, 'So what.'''
Vol. 07, Issue 39 Extra Edition