Bringing the Community to the Bargaining Table

Source: Nick Faber, Labor Notes, October 16, 2013

In a time when parents, community, and teachers have less and less say in how their schools are run, the union contract is one place where we can authentically give parents and community members a voice. That’s how union teachers in St. Paul feel about our contract: it’s the most important legal document—and social justice document—for ensuring a quality education for our students. So over the past four years we have gradually moved toward public participation in our negotiations. There was a bit of tension around open bargaining on our team at first. People weren’t sure how outsiders would act, and were afraid of saying something “wrong” in front of community members. But after reflecting over the last 10 years’ negotiations, we realized there was nothing we said around the table that we would not want our members and the community to hear. In fact, there were many things said by management that we really did want the community to hear!