The Art of Negotiations: A Lesson from President Biden
The Art of Negotiations: A Lesson from President Biden
“[O]ne of the things that I hear some of you guys saying is, ‘Why doesn’t Biden say what a good deal it is?’” President Joe Biden said to reporters yesterday afternoon before leaving the White House on the Marine One helicopter. “Why would Biden say what a good deal it is before the vote? You think that’s going to help me get it passed? No. That’s why you guys don’t bargain very well.”
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Biden’s unusually revealing comment about the budget negotiations was actually a statement about his presidency. Unlike his Republican opponents, he has refused to try to win points by playing the media and instead has worked behind the scenes to govern, sometimes staying out of negotiations, sometimes being central to them.
(Heather Cox Richardson
For the last few months we have watched a negotiation at the highest level, President Biden and Kevin McCarthy, the Speaker of the House, from rigid, no compromise stances in public and contentious behind the scenes negotiations ending in a complex settlement far beyond the debt ceiling. On Friday morning I was at the CCNY graduation, Senator Schumer had driven to NYC to speak, I had an opportunity to thank him in person, a nice moment. The valedictorian speech was moving, a brilliant women, one of those thrilling moments – watch the U-Tube of the speech here – from the 1:30 mark https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCkjvCj1QqqABeyFpWI4nppQ.
The settlement goes far beyond pushing the debt limit date to January, 2025 it satisfies members who are influential, call them side deals. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2023/05/31/upshot/debt-ceiling-side-deals.html, the approval of a West Virginia gas pipeline for Joe Manchin and a host of other “cookies” to garner votes. Welcome to the world of negotiations.
Negotiation is the world of compromise, finding common ground, weighing offers, trading offers until both sides find solutions they can live with, and, the bargaining demands must reflect the needs of the membership.
The union polled members last spring and Hart Associates polled union members nationally in the fall, the results are not surprising.
· Less paperwork and non-teaching duties that take away from student needs;
· Pay raises;
· More respect and support from administration;
* Increased latitude to teach the way students need;
· Smaller class sizes;
· Larger role in decisions related to the profession;
· Shift in culture: value collaboration and communication; uplift educator and staff voices;
· Additional resources to meet professional responsibilities and student needs;
· More supports for students (counselors, etc.);
· Better mental health supports or health insurance for staff; and
· Less standardized testing.
How do you convert the needs of teachers into bargaining demands and contract language?
How do you convince management, the Department of Education leadership, to give up the disease of top-down insensitive decision-making?
The Department finally released the 23-24 school calendar; many religious holidays fall on weekends and the use of professional days are unresolved, in the midst of negotiations the actions of Department leadership, are, to be polite, counterproductive.
New York State has thousands of public employee unions, police, fire, clerks, parks, the list goes on and on, and, and strikes are extremely rare. There are no bills asking to remove Taylor Law penalties, the PERB process works. Contracts remain in “full force and effect” until the successor contract is ratified. Yes, the process may go beyond the end date of the contract; the PBA waited six years to conclude negotiations, if the parties cannot reach a settlement the PERB process: mediation, impasse, fact-finding, non-binding arbitration moves the parties forward; the process is in the hands of the parties, the union and management.
Strikes, except in rare circumstances, are not a pathway to an agreement, and for teacher unions, disastrous. Management, in New York City, would probably refuse to negotiate while teachers are on strike, 2:1 penalties would accrue, possible court imposed fines, loss of dues check off for unions, kids would flee to charter schools, the governor/legislature would remove charter school caps, teacher unions would lose allies, a fatal loss.
Negotiations mean trade-offs, weighing demands, the process may be rapid, two quickly resolved contracts under de Blasio, may take months, or longer. A few unions are years without a contract; although there is no successor contract teachers still receive step increases and differentials.
The union contract has an arbitration process, the union can file a grievance and the final step in the process is binding arbitration; I was a union advocate, I argued arbitrations. Many of the arbitrations ended in a settlement, a mutually agreed upon award. I had completed my case and the Department was in the midst of its case, the arbitrator interrupted the Department, “I understand the issues,” and told the Department, “You don’t want me to write a decision,” and turned to me, “Don’t be greedy.” We settled.
If the Department continues to be obstinate, the PERB process will move forward.
I don’t believe union members have any enthusiasm for a strike.
Of course recalcitrant failed Department leadership will only lead to increasing activities from the union side, radio commercials, TV commercials, social media, I suggest Mayor Adams check back to Mayor Dinkins, who delayed concluding negotiations for months, foolishly assuming the UFT had no place to go, the UFT didn’t make any endorsement and Giuliani won a close election. https://timesmachine.nytimes.com/timesmachine/1993/10/30/issue.html.
Teachers are professionals and demand to be treated as professionals, sadly the leadership of the Department, perhaps the Mayor, perhaps the Chancellors inner circle appear to be wedded to a long failed structure.
Maybe in days, or weeks, or perhaps months a contract will be put before the membership, teachers want to be full partners, and, teachers, and let me emphasize with their community, partners will succeed.