Monday, October 18, 2010

Union Contracts Are Not Unilateral Agreements

Writing about teachers unions and the new movie, "Waiting for Superman," Crooked Timber's Harry Brighouse makes an obvious but often overlooked point, 

Last week saw the publication of the Klein/Rhee manifesto, much of which is a lightly coded version of a call to get rid of the teacher’s unions, and the promulgation of a standard narrative that all we need are good teachers to save these children from educational disaster. Beyond the obvious question—once you’ve gotten rid of the teachers’ unions what are you going to do about the school boards and administrators who have been signing contracts with them for decades and who, unlike the unions, actually have managerial responsibility and authority?—there are many others.
Quite right. This comes in the private sector as well. The narrative is always that the union has imposed its will on the school board or corporate management.This narrative removes all responsibility from the management for the terms, conditions and outcomes of the contract. It's always amazing to me that a cut throat business executive could rise to the very top of his company but somehow lacks the skill to bargain a contract that protects at least some of his interests. If the school board or board of directors is that incompetent at negotiating then they shouldn't have their jobs to begin with. Imagine what their suppliers must be doing to them!

Harry's entire post is worth a read.

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