In “How Unions Work”February 5, 2010
Sunday LeftoversFebruary 6, 2010
After Gov. Christie’s Education Subcommittee’s recommended that the Legislature reinstall the ability of school boards to use the practice of “last, best offer” during negotiation impasses, NJEA spokesman Steve Baker told the Philadelphia Inquirer,
Before the law to disallow the practice – passed during the McGreevey administration – strikes were not uncommon, education association spokesman Steve Baker said. Since then, he said, “we’ve settled every contract at the table.”
Hmmm. The NJ Legislature in its wisdom rescinded the right of school boards to resolve intractable impasses through “last, best offer” in 2003. According to the Journal of Collective Negoiations, a thirty-year profile of teacher strikes in NJ through 1999 “demonstrates that the number and severity of teacher strikes has systematically declined. The author suggests that this long term decline in strike activity is at least partially explained by the maturation of the system and its participants.”
In other words, before the approval of “School Employees Contract Resolution and Equity Act” teacher strikes in NJ were hardly “not uncommon” but, in fact, already a rarity. And the New Jersey School Boards Association noted in 2001 (while it was fighting – unsuccessfully – against approval of the Act) that “implementation [of last, best offer] has occurred less than a dozen times during the 33 years of collective bargaining in New Jersey schools and only under strict standards applied by the Public Employment Relations Commission.”
We don’t fault the NJEA leadership on lobbying hard for its local units to have the competitive edge at the bargaining table. That’s its job. But do they have to misconstrue history while they’re at it?