An MEA training audio tape for union negotiators offers a particularly disturbing inside look at the MEA, and clearly reveals that it has adopted the militant "industrial union" model for its organization, rather than a "craft union" or professional association model.
The transcript[*] of the tape explains how union negotiators should use pressure tactics to force school board members to concede to their demands. Among the tactics advocated are:
Investigate the background of each school board member, including religious affiliation, marital status, age, education, employment, family, politics, "what do his peers think of him?," "what is his relationship with his employer or employees?," and "does holding a public office help him advance in his job or produce business connections?" This should be investigated, the MEA states, so the negotiator will "know what sensitive chords and nerves to hit during negotiation to get the results you seek."
After gathering information, the MEA recommends that the local union "consider bringing in a heavy from the outside. You know, perhaps your Uniserv director. When the job is done and the bad guy, you know, has to leave town, won’t it be nice when the local association won’t have to bear the brunt of resentment?"
The MEA tape recommends that the negotiator "use time as an ally. You know, if your negotiating team can get to bargaining sessions well rested, whereas the board’s team is harried and fatigued, keep negotiations going until 2 o’clock or 3 o’clock in the morning. Wear down the board physically and psychologically."
"Remember that large districts rely heavily upon the superintendent to absorb the flack. They use the superintendent as a shield. If he is discredited, the rest of the board suddenly feels naked and they are often eager to take an escape route which the association has waited for the appropriate moment to offer."
"Do your best to split the board on crucial issues through contacts with individual board members or misrepresentation of the issues to the public through press releases. Attempt to carefully attack the credibility of the board negotiating team so that most of the board team’s executive sessions with their board will be spent answering board members’ questions about association charges and not with planning on up-coming negotiation sessions."
Tells Her District's Story
In order to apply pressure tactics properly, your negotiating team needs to know and understand your board and its negotiating team thoroughly. Uncovering information about the board, the superintendent and the board negotiating team are critical to your success in negotiations. An integral part of your pre-negotiations research is to analyze and understand as much about the board and the people who sit across the table from you. A good negotiation strategy cannot be devised until the power structure, the power structure that operates within the board itself and the community, is thoroughly understood. The attitudes, prejudices, pressures and operating logic which comprise the board’s and board team’s approach to negotiations must be understood because such understanding will reduce miscalculations and errors in judgment on the part of your team. With the benefit of background on the board and its team you will know how and with whom a deal can be made. You will know what sensitive chords and nerves to hit during negotiations to get the results you seek. You will be able to predict more easily how a given board member or team member will react to certain gambits or initiatives. An association negotiating team that never scouts its opposition will probably never produce a good contract. By improving and refining its knowledge of the board and its negotiating team your association will demonstrate at the bargaining table a much higher level of confidence and have an enhanced probability of a successful outcome.
What types of information should you gather about board members in order to apply effective pressure tactics on them? Well, I guess first of all, some of the things you are going to want to know would be the age and number of years that that board member has been on the board. What is his education? What organizations does he belong to? And don’t forget his religious affiliation. His estimated income and property ownership become very important to you. His employment or his occupation. Oh, and be sure to find out, is he employed by a company or is he self-employed or is he union or non-union. Find out about his family; his marital status; the number of children he has and their ages and what schools they go to. Are they public, parochial, or are they private? And also, don’t forget to check into his politics. Find out if he’s a registered… (tape malfunction). Don’t overlook them. Some of the examples of these other facts might be: when checking into his employment you might want to find out what do his peers think of him; what is his relationship with his employer or employees; and does holding a public office help him advance in his job or produce business connections? You might check into the background of his election to the board of education. Why did he seek the office? Was it concern about education; concern about taxes; or was it a political stepping stone or a need to contribute to the community or enhance his reputation within it? Don’t overlook these. And you know, when checking into his politics be concerned about his voting record on the board of education and who are the voting blocks on the board and which block does he usually vote with? And how is this voting block represented on the negotiation team? Which people, board members or not, does he influence, and who can influence him?
Here are some basic ideas on how to get some of this information. You might want to check your teachers who live in the community or teachers who’ve been in the system a long time. You know, your own association representatives who attend board meetings can be most helpful. Have a teacher who is a registered democrat or republican contact the local party chairman for information concerning board members of the opposing party. Get to know people who are acquainted with the board member’s family, they can be very valuable and will shed a lot of light onto the background of board members. Social gatherings, school functions, faculty-board dinners, cocktail parties, political meetings, so on and so forth. From your contacts on the board itself you can gain much information.
Now that you have gathered the needed information on your board, superintendent and negotiating team, the decision to apply pressure tactics to get a particular issue on your contract resolved should be arrived at carefully after consultation, and remember this, after consultation with your executive director. The tactical advantage of the moment must always be waived against the animosity such tactics might arouse and their long-term affect upon the character of the relationship between the board, the community and the association. If the decision to use pressure tactics is finally made, the following general observations and suggestions should help you to weigh the pros and cons, to keep your objectives in focus and to select from among the number of options the tool or method most likely to get the job done. Every community, every community, has its pressure point. Your job is to find out what they are and, if necessary, exploit them.
Consider bringing in a heavy from the outside. You know, perhaps your uniserv director. When the job is done and that bad guy, you know, has to leave town, won’t it be nice when the local association won’t have to bear the brunt of the resentment? Also consider alternate humor with the application of pressure at the table, if possible, to cool down the emotions and possibly prevent a conflagration. Adopt you language and tactics to what the board understands.
Remember, find out what they understand. Do they understand logic, power, pragmatic effect, pounding on the table with your fists? Select your tactics accordingly and don’t be afraid to use them. Here’s another one to remember. Use time as an ally. You know, if your negotiating team can get to bargaining sessions well rested, whereas the board’s team is harried and fatigued, keep negotiations going until 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning. Wear down the board physically and psychologically. Ask them to clarify and explain their positions. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Review the legal language of a proposal and ask for the board’s reaction and don’t be afraid to repeat yourself. Make time work for you. Don’t let time work against you. That can be your most valuable tool.
Remember, that the large urban board is often susceptible to what appears in the newspapers or the other news media. A small rural or suburban board may be more susceptible to what is said over the fence. Remember that large districts rely heavily upon the superintendent to absorb the flack. They use that superintendent as a shield. If he is discredited, the rest of the board suddenly feels naked and they are often eager to take an escape route which the association has waited for the appropriate moment to offer. You know, with the small district it usually will not help much to attack the superintendent. They tend to see the guy as simply another hired hand whose fortune does not necessarily coincide with theirs. Sometimes a veiled or implied strike threat may be effective. It may be a successful ploy in one community but don’t forget, it may work the opposite way in another. For example, affluent suburban communities are thought to be generally more vulnerable to this tactic than labor-oriented blue collar communities.
General publicity and use of the press may be an effective pressure tool in one community and not in another. Remember, don’t always assume that the same approach will work in all communities the same way. If a member of the board or its negotiating team is an obstructionist, pressures can sometimes effectively be applied by getting the message to the community that this individual is adversely affecting community harmony or is indifferent to the education of its children — don’t forget that. Is indifferent to the education of its children.
Pressure can sometimes be applied by appealing to the pride of the community in its school system or it may sometimes be applied in a very subtle manner through the ego of the opposing chief negotiator who may perhaps be using his post to build or enhance his personal reputation in the community. Get to know that guy and figure out ways of using him.
Use tactics such as the unfair labor practice charge against the board that the community won’t clearly understand, but will place the board in a very defensive position. Do your best to split the board on crucial issues through contacts with individual board members or misrepresentation of the issues to the public through press releases. Attempt to carefully attack the credibility of the board negotiating team so that most of the board team’s executive sessions with their board will be spent answering board members’ questions about association charges and not with planning on up-coming negotiation sessions.
Don’t forget to apply pressure to the board negotiating team on issues such as the cost of living increases and class size. The economic impact of these issues can never be clearly explained to the public, but, at the same time, don’t forget to keep other important demands on the table.
Remember to apply pressure tactics on the board team or board members subtly, since open public evidence of the tactics you are using will have the disastrous effect of unifying the board and you don’t want to do that.
You know, these have just been a few ways that you may apply pressure. Consult with your uniserv director for a plan that best fits your district before you begin negotiations or reach impasse.