Chicago Teachers Strike: Why All The Secrecy Anyway?

Via TIME, a question on Chicago and teacher contract negotiations more generally: If it’s all about the kids etc…etc…as both sides say, then why all the secrecy?  Let’s negotiate in public:

Spoiler alert: when Maggie Gyllenhaal’s new feature film, “Won’t Back Down,” hits theaters later this month, the plot hinges on forcing school officials to make big decisions in front of parents rather than behind closed doors. The film is fictional, but raging against backroom power politics is not. Teachers unions and district officials almost always negotiate privately, so when those negotiations reach a deal or an impasse — and lead to a strike, as they did in Chicago yesterday — the public only gets to hear part of the story as families scramble to figure out what to do with their kids.

The column is not secret, click here, it’s in full public view.

7 Replies to “Chicago Teachers Strike: Why All The Secrecy Anyway?”

  1. There’s nothing magical about bargaining in the sunshine. We do it in Florida, and it doesn’t make the results better on average. There are some ways in which bargaining in open sessions make it more difficult to settle hard issues.

  2. In which Rotherham strikes out.

    1) There is no comparison between the movie and the Chicago strike. Do I really have to explain the difference? The movie is disingenuous enough but to compare it Chicago is adding insult to injury.

    2) Negotiations are done privately to avoid any more extremism and grandstanding than there already is by all sides.

    3) In Douglas County, talks in public FAILED. So much for your dear theory. And, in DougCo, the board got taken-over by Tea Party hacks and Christianists who applied their profound ignorance and the negotiating skills of Vlad the Impaler to what was already a great school system. Now, they are losing quality teachers. Nothing good happens when the American Taliban™ run the schools.

    Sorry Andrew, but this time it’s strike three and you’re out.

  3. Sherman –

    I agree it’s not somehow axiomatically better, which is why I used the DougCo example and pointed out that it’s still messy. But, how is it *worse?* Isn’t “settle hard issues” code for ‘subvert the public interest one way or another to get a deal done’ (and that’s a problem with labor and management)? And of course in ‘if a tree falls’ department you need people to show up, which doesn’t always happen even in places it’s open.

    Jeffery – as always, thanks for the close textual reading, keep up the good work!

  4. No, “settle hard issues” is not synonymous with “subvert the public interest one way or another to get a deal done.” Often negotiating in public IS grandstanding, which isn’t exactly serving the public interest.

  5. I think that’s right, Sherman, about grandstanding as a potential risk but isn’t the basic choice between two bad behaviors here the threat of grandstanding in public or of outrageous requests in private? I’ll take the former only because at least in public there is a chance for some accountability for it.

  6. Well Andrew, just consider me a loyal reader if sometimes in opposition. I do appreciate you read the comments, not all bloggers bother.

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