Whoever said that politics and education shouldn’t mingle in the same crowd might have been on to something. In what started March 2000 with then Mayor Giuliani is still an issue with present Mayor Bloomberg two years later. The teachers union of New York has been working without a contract for well over 16 months. Both sides have shown what their interests are; however, the positioning and jockeying of politics have made this the ultimate struggle of power. The teachers want a raise and the mayor wants control.
Every person has needs. Mayors have needs. Unions have needs. When we set our interests, we are marking our territory. We are in fact setting the aim at how to best achieve ones goals. Interests are constant. The interests of Mayor Giuliani were very simple; he wanted control of the 1.1 million strong New York school system. At the time when this negotiation started, Giuliani was campaigning for Senate in New York. Giuliani felt that any pay raises for teachers should be based on merit.
The interests of Giuliani’s replacement were very similar. Mayor Bloomberg also wanted complete control of the New York school department. Bloomberg’s interests were not to give the teachers a new contract. His interest was that governance changes first, and then the contract would be handled next.
The union president, Randi Weingarten, felt that the best thing for both sides would be to settle the contract first. The union’s interest was to secure a new contract that would give the teachers a good raise in pay.
Interests and positions are different. Interests are constant while positions are flexible. Positions are adapted to better serve interests. Negotiations are based upon the bargaining of positions. Both the mayor’s office and the union have very concrete interests. They also have positions with which they can use to bargain and compromise. The mayor and union have spent over two years deciding what their leaving points will be and they have also evaluated what their negotiation tolerance will be.
The position of the Mayor’s Giuliani and Bloomberg is that in order for a teacher’s contract, the mayor must have complete control of the school system. The mayor has been stalling the contract negotiations for this reason. Additionally, Giuliani purposely changed his mind on chancellor Harold Levy because Levy stressed “standards” that Giuliani preached. Some say that the only reason Giuliani changed his position on Levy was because he was campaigning for Senator against Hilary Clinton. Bloomberg also used Levy in his positioning because he considered extending his tenure as chancellor. Bloomberg knew that doing so would influence State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to agree to more mayoral control of the school department. Bloomberg also announced the appropriation of 204 million dollars available for teacher’s raises. This positioning was placing increased pressure on union president Weingarten.
The position of the union is to offer increased control of the New York school department. The union is not comfortable with handing over the power to the governing body. The union has positioned to allow the expansion of the board from seven members to eleven. Also, the mayor would be able to appoint at least five of the eleven members.
The reason why the mayor’s need for control of the New York school department is an interest is because it is constant. It has been constant for well over two years. The entering point for the mayor has been to eliminate the school board and turn complete power to his office. The interest of power is the objective. It is not a position because if it was a position, and it allowed flexibility, the teacher’s contract would have been signed in 2000. The contract is a position, but not after the self “interest” of control is addressed and discussed.
The reason why the teacher’s need for a contract is an interest is because contracts are a constant. Sixteen months is a long time to go without a contract. The union knows that eventually they will get “a” contract. However, whether the new contract reflects the 204 million the mayor offered remains to be seen. The need for a contract is an interest because it is a constant request. The union knows that the mayor is stalling the process of the contract for his own interests. The union must be wondering how much longer can they go without a contract. Most teaching contracts last three years. The union must also be wondering if Mayor Bloomberg will also enact the idea of “merit pay”, first introduced by his predecessor Giuliani? Bloomberg knows that only he can be the person to sign off on a new contract. The union knows that what the mayor wants is complete control. The union wants a contract, but is weary to hand over the control of 1.1 million students to one person.
People take positions all the time. Positions change so much that it is easy to have one. Interests are constant. Interests are at every level of the negotiating process. The interest is mentioned at the entering point and through positioning, a “water-downed” version of the interest is offered as the leaving point. The mayor wanted control. The union wanted a contract. Both sides made their interest. For well over two years, it was their main focus. The positioning happened when the board members, Harold Levy, and Sheldon Silver became involved. Both sides are dependent upon each other. One thing is for sure; when education and politics do mix, it is usually education that has to expose the most negotiation range.