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In the joint press release issued the day they publicly announced they had reached agreement, the BPS and the BTU described the process we had used with them this way; "The unprecedented educational reform achieved in this contract was aided by the use of a specific negotiation process, 'The One-Text Procedure.' The process enabled the negotiating teams from the Boston Teacher's Union and the Boston Public Schools to: (1) identify and focus on educational interests and goals rather than on arguing over the positions taken in our collective bargaining proposals; (2) generate creative, innovative options that satisfied mutual educational and fiscal interests; and (3) build and improve the mutual trust and respect necessary to create the effective partnership needed for true, on-going educational reform in Boston."
The California Public Employment Relations Board: A Model For Statewide Change
In California, the state's Public Employment Relations Board has spearheaded a broadly based approach to improving union-management working relationships in school systems throughout the state. School districts and unions are invited to send key leaders (for example, district and school administrators, teachers, other school employees, and board members) to a five-day intensive workshop, during which they progress through increasingly complex exercises and simulations to sessions in which, working as a joint team, they (1) discuss issues and perceptions that have kept them apart, and (2) begin to develop a plan for explicitly resolving past issues and working together to generate solid agreements going forward. When the workshop is over, the district teams continue the process they have begun, with periodic assistance from a PERB follow-up team.
The workshop, called the PERB Institute: Improving the Labor-Management Relationship, has been conducted for as many as four district teams simultaneously. The main requirement for gaining admittance to a workshop is that both management and the union(s) must agree to participate together.
Graduates of the program, both at the end of their workshop and some months later, have asserted that the program has enabled them to achieve several important benefits, including: (1) increasing ability to raise existing divisive issues, some for the first time; (2) educating one another -- both on the "same side" and on the "other side" -- about perceptions, assumptions, communication styles, and the like, so that future misunderstandings are minimized; and (3) developing both awareness of the interests and concerns of one another and appreciation of one another, individually and collectively, as resources.
District labor and management teams who participated in the earliest workshops in the series have reached what they describe as "better agreements, less acrimoniously, and much more quickly" than in previous contract negotiations. District teams participating in more recent workshops report better progress toward agreement than in prior years. All "graduate" teams also report that, although they continue to experience differences of opinion and priority and other conflicts, they find themselves more willing, confident, and able to work through their differences without damaging their working relationships.
A team of PERB specialists, consultants and others - representatives of California's educational labor and management organizations (including the California School Boards Association, the California Teachers Association, the California School Employees Association, the California Federation of Teachers, and the Association of California School Administrators) - developed the PERB program. We helped design the curriculum and have helped to conduct the first several workshops by facilitating discussions and interactive exercises. The firm's primary role, however, has been to help the PERB staff and others gain experience in creating special materials, in facilitating discussions and exercises during the workshops, and in applying existing or specially designed tools to help the district labor-management teams continue their joint work after they return home from the workshop.
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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