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By Stephen Sawchuk — February 22, 2011 1 min read


Life Without Collective Bargaining

What happens if Tennessee lawmakers pass a bill to eliminate collective bargaining for teachers?

The bill’s got a shot, given the Republican-dominated legislature. But it wouldn’t mean the end of the union or its influence, for a couple of reasons.

First, consider “meet and confer” arrangements which exist mainly in nonbargaining states or districts where the union doesn’t represent enough teachers to trigger bargaining. Under the arrangements, the association has a right to discuss wages and working conditions with administrators, though nothing from the discussions is legally binding.

Second, the Tennessee Education Association could continue its lobbying and advocacy.

It’s safe to say that Tennessee teachers don’t want to lose their bargaining rights, but lawmakers are probably mistaken if they think getting rid of bargaining means doing away with the union, too.

One Way to Collaborate: Bargain Frequently

Several districts spotlighted at the big labor-management conference last week in Denver bargain frequently, on the order of once a month or more to troubleshoot and tweak policy as needed.

Douglas County, Colo., officials meet on a monthly basis and update their contract a couple of times a year in a process called “living bargaining.”

In Helena, Mont., bargaining teams meet all year round and take note of changes they want to make in the contract. At the end of the year, the collection of changes is put to teachers for ratification.

Not exactly the norm in labor relationships.

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A version of this article appeared in the February 23, 2011 edition of Education Week as Blog of the Week


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