February 9, 2010

Post-Contract Expectations Make All the Difference

Justin Katz

Megan McArdle highlights an important distinction between union and individual employment contracts:

Obviously, people who are not in unions write employment contracts, which are similarly hard to write. But non-union employment contracts operate in an environment where both sides often hope to continue the relationship beyond the initial term. This offers quite a bit of good-faith flexibility, because people who are too rigid about the exact letter of their contracts are apt to find that their contract isn't renewed. Even in contracts with a very definite term, there are reputational considerations. That's just not how unions operate, because the union can't be fired by the employer. When the contract expires, you're going to negotiate another contract. The result is that people in non-union employment contracts can tolerate quite a bit more ambiguity on both sides than people in a collective bargaining situation.

That's the dynamic that the school committees and town councils of Rhode Island must address. If intransigence from the unions may result in reconfigured hiring policies or a more stringent baseline for the next contract, they'll be more apt to be reasonable — and their members will be less inclined to such practices as work-to-rule.

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Someone please explain to me why work to rule is such an issue. Does Justin the carpenter build the stonewalls or fix a fence that was not part of the homeowners original plan without an increase in his fee. Be honest Justin. If you want something done then include it in the contract. When I bring my car into the station for an oil change the breaks never seem to get done out of the goodness of the mechanics heart.

Posted by: buttnutter [AR codenamed: Assigned Pest] at February 9, 2010 8:13 PM

To go along with your example, does Justin the carpenter put the wall studs 18 inches apart or 22? Does he use pressboard or plywood? Does he use 2x4 or 2x6?

Basically, there are certain things that are "part of the job" that shouldn't have to be written in, little things like writing college recommendations. A "professional" understands this.

Posted by: Patrick at February 9, 2010 8:42 PM

Not to mention that teachers want favors from administration all the friggin time that are not in the contract.

Posted by: Dan at February 9, 2010 9:18 PM

Does that mean that the teacher is required to write college letters to every student that asks regardless if they deserve one or not.should they be forced to take on coaching roles. I hope I can get Katz over here to fix my house up and do all other kinds of things that are not part of the original contract.

Posted by: Lunker [AR codenamed: Assigned Pest] at February 9, 2010 10:46 PM

Lunker, right to the extremes, eh? You represent well.

No, not for students who don't deserve one. The problem with work to rule is when the teachers don't do *any*. Is that right? Especially when the teachers claim that it's all about the children?

And coaching is already completely separate. It's a totally different contract already. Nice try there.

Posted by: Patrick at February 9, 2010 11:04 PM

I recently bought a new car and was very upset to see that they had not upgraded the radio and interior. I had signed a purchase agreement for that standard model but i know I should have received the extras because I wanted them.

Dan what are these favors that teachers are always asking for from the administration. Guess what if I have an illness and run out of sick days or personal days for some reason the superintendent and crew will not be giving me any additional ones. I wish they would, it would be the right thing to do .

Posted by: booeyjoe [AR codenamed: Assigned Pest] at February 10, 2010 9:14 AM

The union slacker mentality demonstrated by some of the commenters here is very revealing, and well illustrates why unionized teachers aren't really the professionals they like to claim that they are; and why employers are quite rational in resisting unionization (just look at the great things the UAW has done for the auto industry) and what the teachers unions have done to public education; and why unions are for losers.

Professionals -- any worker with a work ethic and basic pride in themselves -- takes pride in their work and in performing to the best of their abilities, and hopefully by doing so a cut above average.

Yes, there are employers that don't appreciate that, or try to exploit that, but the worker with integrity will not demean or diminish themselves by then running into the arms of union mediocrity, but will instead find another situation / employer more aligned with their personal integrity and work ethic.

Posted by: Ragin' Rhode Islander at February 10, 2010 9:31 AM

How ironic that a union of teachers, who call themselves professionals dedicated to helping new generations of children realize their full creative potential, advocates a stultified, dehumanizing work environment in which they do exactly what they are told in the contract and nothing else.

If teachers are professionals (and being one, I argue that they should be) they need to work in a regime that (financially and otherwise) rewards excellence and achievement, measured by the quality of their results. If they are mere laborers filling a dehumanized, mechanical function, then the present union regime might be fitting.

But in the latter case, no one should be surprised at the results we are getting.

Posted by: BobN at February 10, 2010 10:02 AM

Does anybody need more evidence of why Rhode Island's public schools so strongly resemble the state of the US auto industry in Detroit?
To listen to the union pig rationale here is evidence enough as to why we need to eradicate the unions from our education system. They will NEVER be a part of the solution. Kudos to the superintendent in Central Falls. Fire the bums, and get somebody who wants to do the job. Lord knows, there are plenty of people willing and able to do so, without the union pig mentality.

Posted by: Mike Cappelli at February 10, 2010 12:35 PM

Anybody who assumes another person's motivation or work ethic according to their union status must be predisposed to the behavior they accuse others of having.

Productive, competitive people normally don't concern themselves with the other guy, rather focus on their own productivity.

The union is what you make of it. Most people produce the same regardless of their status. There is the exception of course, and they come out of the woodwork to accuse the other guy of their own actions.

Posted by: michael at February 10, 2010 2:34 PM

Hi booeyjoe -- If you're worried about running out of sick days, maybe you should recommend your union create (or negotiate) a donation pool, where those of you who don't use their sick days can help out those who do. An improved benefit for those who need it, no additional cost to the tax payer. Win-win!

Posted by: davidc at February 10, 2010 3:02 PM

Another dynamic are school committee members that also are members of the unions they are negeotiating contracts with.There are state laws to allow this conflict to exist.

Posted by: Joe at February 11, 2010 2:32 PM
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