Toward a New Grand Bargain: Collaborative Approaches to Labor-Management Reform in Massachusetts

Source: Barry Bluestone, Thomas A. Kochan, The Boston Foundation, October 2011

In the face of continuing fiscal crisis, the governors of some states including Wisconsin, Ohio, and New Jersey have taken to attacking public sector unions using new legislation to undermine the collective bargaining rights of state and municipal employees. The reaction has been widespread protest and a growing rift between political leaders and civil servants. We believe this painful struggle can not only be avoided in Massachusetts, but that the continuing fiscal crisis facing the Commonwealth and its municipalities can provide the motivation for forging a fundamental change in public sector labor relations that not only could lead to more efficient and effective government service, but in the case of our teachers’ unions, could play a critical role in improving public education and closing the achievement gap.

The approach we put forward in this report is developed on the basis of “interest-based collective bargaining” plus the empowerment of teachers, staff, and principals in the schools where they work. Instead of seeing unions as a barrier to fiscal prudence and better schools, we believe a new collective bargaining framework in the Commonwealth can lead to a “win-win-win” outcome for teachers, students, and taxpayers. The same approach generally can be used for all public sector labor-management relations.

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