Monday, May 22, 2006

Labor Relations for Dummies

Editorial "Highlands Contract: the board's to blame", Valley News Dispatch, May 22, 2006, page A6.It's all over except for the recriminations.

Today's Valley News Dispatch had an editorial that assigned responsibility to the Highlands School Board for the debacle that almost resulted in a strike in our local public schools. I appreciated the line that suggested that the board was going to author a primer called Labor Relations for Dummies.

Now before anyone suggests that the title of such a book would be an insult to dummies, remember that the audience that reads the "For Dummies" books is composed of people with a reasonable level of intelligence who are so deficient in actual understanding of a specific field that they need an introduction that makes no assumptions of prior knowledge. Remember also that the nine members of the school board are individuals who were recently capable of mounting effective election campaigns for their positions.

So what went wrong? According to the VND, "By not finding rock solid common ground before making a proposal, [the board] set themselves up to fail."

My impression as an outsider is that the board had not even been trying to have common ground. The new majority, with memories of how it felt when they had been the minority, promptly set to work disempowering the new minority. The negotiating team from the board was appropriately small, but did not ensure that the views and wisdom of the whole board would be brought to bear on the challenge. Thus the OOPS!

With a negotiating team that lacked adequate knowledge of what it would take to actually get a "Yes" from the board they represented, things could have turned out a whole lot worse than what the paper describes as a "sweet deal" for the teachers. There could have been a strike, an outcome that would have been costly for the teachers, the students, the community, and the school board.

File under : , ,

No comments: