The purpose of this primer is to provide school board members and other interested parties with information critical to effective collective bargaining. The primer addresses Michigan law; the functions of the various parties; strategies; and current challenges. It also contains a number of suggestions for preparing better contracts.

In addition to this survey of the legal landscape, we have included a more subjective view of collective bargaining by incorporating thoughts gleaned from more than two dozen in-depth interviews with past and present school board members, teachers, administrators, negotiators and other professionals (see preceding page). These insights appear in the primer in proximity to the relevant legal discussion. However, it should be made clear that those who agreed to be interviewed and cited may or may not agree with the content of this primer.

This work is designed to assist school board members — including those not participating in formal contract negotiations — in their understanding of basic Michigan law and bargaining principles.[i] It is not intended to duplicate or supplant other fine works on the subject.[1] This primer does, however, build on and update several previous publications of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, such as "Michigan Labor Law: What Every Citizen Should Know" (1999) and La Rae Munk’s pivotal study of collective bargaining in Michigan’s public schools, "Collective Bargaining: Bringing Education to the Table" (1998).

The community expects board members to put in place an education system that results in productive citizens. That task requires a proper understanding of the law and the dynamics of collective bargaining. Our hope is that, in subject matter and depth of discussion, this primer will augment existing work and provide school board members with a useful tool as they oversee the management of Michigan’s public schools.

[i] The contents of this primer are intended as general information on an issue of public policy, not as legal advice. Readers should not act on this information without benefit of professional legal counsel. Laws change, and rulings interpreting the law are issued frequently. Always consult the latest legal authorities.