I love sports. I love playing, watching, and all that comes with sports. In most professional sports, collective bargaining and player associations and unions are essential for ensuring that athletes are treated equitably and are then able to focus on their job—playing their sport to the best of their ability. But what happens when a team owner tries to pull a fast one on the athletes and jeopardize the rights of an athlete, or entire team? That’s when the players associations (such as that of the NBA) with the specified language in their collective bargaining agreements, can stand up for their athletes. It’s something that most fan-bases don’t really care to think about, but I love it. If you follow the NBA at all, you may know what I’m talking about.
So what does that mean for the business of education, specifically technology and school leaders? The common language of collective bargaining agreements is—as it should be—that which protects and defends the rights of a governed body of employees in a financially responsible and equitable manner. We all want equity and a perfect working environment in order to maximize our performance. And in our profession, we want what’s best for all students; that includes the launching of sustainable technology programs that are relevant for preparing students to be ready for the future. If we as educators cannot feel secure in our roles in the classroom on a daily basis, any implemented programs, regardless of their level of success, are jeopardized, as well.
According to Kemerer and Sansom (2013), the stages for collective bargaining include unionization, contract negotiation (using a bilateral employer-employee relationship), and contract administration (p. 135). Furthermore, “collective bargaining is about group rights, not individual rights, though the provisions of the contract serve to protect individual rights” (p. 135). We must collectively bargain and agree upon those rights we would like to have protected. I want to go to work knowing that I am being fairly compensated for my service, that I have specific agreements to what that service entails, and most importantly, that my students are able to rely on the sustainability of all great programs that are implemented under my tenure; they don’t deserve to have to worry about their teachers not having a secure position to facilitate and advocate for such programs due to contract agreement issues (as this is an issue with many charter and private schools that aren’t represented by collective bargaining).
As future technology and/or school leaders, we must also understand that curriculum development and administrator selection is an aspect of “permissible subjects of negotiation” under collective bargaining (p. 136). We must advocate for obsolete instructional materials to be replaced with innovate programs that foster true student learning and critical thinking for the 21st century. One aspect of collective bargaining is that employees must be loud and proud, and not weak. In collective bargaining, there is “no guarantee that management can preserve enough authority to direct the organization and prevent worker demands from becoming an impregnable wall against needed innovative change” (p. 137). When we unionize as a school and district, we must have a vision that includes our students as the end-product. This profession is not about the teachers, but about our future leaders. Sure, it’s great to have job security and the confidence to be able to enlist our unions to stand up for equity, when necessary, but we must think about effective, equitable, and sustainable programs when we think about the language of these contract agreements.
Technology and school leaders should also understand that collective bargaining agreements should promote academic freedom for teachers to have the confidence and assurance of sustaining a successful program for their students. We need to always keep in mind that as changes occur in standards, demands in the global workplace, and student diversity, the collective bargaining contract should be renegotiated to amend such details. In the complex yet massive business of education, we are surrounded by policies that affect the way our classrooms function. It is our job to ensure that such policies promote sustainable and appropriate teaching practices, or we will become part of the problem and not a part of the solution.
I will argue that the most important feature that exists with collective bargaining agreements is the fact that they’re bilateral and must adhere to the governing bodies of Educational Employment Relations Act (EERA), as well as the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) (p. 137-141). I’m so grateful that although I don’t always agree with every written word within my own collective bargaining agreement under the Teachers Association of Long Beach (TALB), I know that the union is there to advocate for my rights as an employee of LBUSD. This allows me to focus on my creative teaching and still exercise my individual voice by approaching my school board to fight for the implementation of new and improved technology, blended learning opportunities and equity issues. And I know that my union is on my side because union “advocates point out that having public policymakers, bureaucrats, and school administrators make decisions about curriculum standards and student assessment leaves out of the loop the valuable input of teachers who face the students every day” (p. 162). I look forward to experiencing more change on the landscape of education reform with unions on my side.
Kremerer, F & Sansom, P. (2013). California School Law (3rd ed.). Stanford University Press.
Turner Broadcasting System, Inc: A Time Warner Company (Producer). (2012). Board of Governors News Conference: David Stern and Adam Silver address the media after finalizing a 10-year CBA with the NBPA. The National Basketball Association. Podcast retrieved from http://www.nba.com/video/channels/nba_tv/2011/12/08/20111208_bog_presser_full.nba/