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The Cincinnati Public Schools Model: Joint Training
Plus Facilitation Our work with the Cincinnati public schools also involved joint training. However, significant differences in the negotiating history between the parties and significant differences in the circumstances in Cincinnati resulted in a different joint training model than the one that was developed and used in Greece.
The Cincinnati Public Schools have about 52,000 students, 3,200 teachers, and 550 clerical staff. The vision and political will to try joint training arose in Cincinnati out of their prior negotiation history. In 1977, Cincinnati teachers went on strike for 19 days. In 1979, they disrupted rush hour traffic downtown during a one-day walkout. Combative negotiations in 1985, conducted in the midst of a union media campaign, produced "victory" for the teachers, anger and discouragement among school administrators, and a difficult process of implementation. Forward-looking leaders in the administration and union realized that a non-traditional approach to negotiation, which produced joint gains rather than winners and losers, was needed if they were to consolidate the gains already made and make durable progress in the future. The union and administration made the joint decision to investigate a new approach to the 1988 collective bargaining process and chose to work with us. In consultation with the union and administration, our team of three instructors designed and conducted a three-day negotiation workshop. For two and a half days the full negotiation teams for both the union and the administration, about 30 men and women, discussed concepts, practiced negotiation skills in exercises, and analyzed their results in reviews. On the last day of the workshop, with us facilitating their use of the analytical tools and skills developed over the prior two days, the negotiators jointly designed the process by which they would conduct their collective bargaining.
Facilitation During The Collective Bargaining Process
The major difference between the Greece schools joint training model and the Cincinnati schools joint training model is that in Greece, our involvement with the negotiators ended after we completed our workshop. Greece workshop participants conducted their negotiation and reached agreement without any further contact with us. Cincinnati, on the other hand, retained our team of consultants to work with them at strategic points in the initial and final stages of their negotiations.
In Cincinnati, after the workshop, the parties formed a joint process committee and retained us as process consultants and facilitators to assist them on an "as needed" basis. In the initial stages of the negotiation, we provided phone consultation, and as issues developed which needed more direct attention, we sent a team to Cincinnati to facilitate. In the final stages of the negotiation, the parties completed a framework agreement with all but about six issues resolved. We were brought in to facilitate marathon bargaining sessions between the deputy superintendent and the union president who successfully settled those key issues.
The Cincinnati negotiators described the impact of the new process in the preface to their collective bargaining agreement. "Through this process we have become a team of fellow professionals who have learned to use the [negotiation] tools well. We believe this presents the Cincinnati Public Schools with a unique opportunity to make a significant change in the climate of our system and in the education for children in our city..." In Greece, the process of planning and implementing a new negotiation process began almost a year and a half before actual negotiations began. Thus, the various parties had plenty of time to practice the skills they had learned and to build better working relationships before they actually tried putting their new process to the test in actual negotiations. In Cincinnati, negotiations began the month after the joint training was completed. In Greece, the superintendent participated in the entire workshop. In Cincinnati, the assistant superintendent attended but the superintendent was unable to participate. These differences may provide some answers as to why Cincinnati chose to use our facilitation during the negotiation process.
The Boston Public Schools Model
Although joint training is often the process we recommend for school system negotiations and in other labor/management contexts, circumstances in Boston led us and the parties to decide to use a different model to initiate change in the Boston Public School's negotiation process. Neither the Boston Public Schools ("BPS") nor the Boston Teachers Union ("BTU") hired us. Instead, an organization of Boston business leaders approached the parties and asked them to talk with us and offered to pay for our assistance. When we met with the parties they had been negotiating for nearly three months and both sides agreed that little progress had been made. They were deadlocked on most of the major issues. The working relationships between the BPS and the BTU were poor. They had little confidence in their ability to resolve their problems without outside help.
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Copyright © Irma Tyler-Wood, C. Mark Smith, and Charles Barker
Originally published in the Journal of the North American Association of Educational Negotiators
Copyright © 2003, The Negotiator Magazine