Last week I posted a case study from the Thompson School District, an example of how NOT to negotiate an employee agreement. Just because the popularly enacted Prop 104 has opened the door on these negotiations doesn’t guarantee that they will be conducted effectively, at least not on the first try.
That isn’t to say open negotiations have little or no impact. Unless you’re writing a Friday headline for Chalkbeat Colorado Rise and Shine:
The lead story being cited was a Gazette piece about the status of negotiations in one school district: Colorado Springs 11. And the piece cited only the opinion of one self-interested figure:
A new law that 70 percent of Colorado voters approved in November hasn’t translated to radical differences for local union negotiations, according to the head of the area’s only collective bargaining group for teachers.
Seems like it might have been a little clearer and more accurate to preface the Rise & Shine header with something to source the statement, such as “Union Head: Open Negotiations Law Shows Limited Local Impact.” Or, as one of my Education Policy Center friends Tweeted:
— Ben DeGrow (@bendegrow) May 1, 2015
At first I thought about being upset about the distortion. I mean, can’t they see open negotiations’ positive effect of enabling informative news stories to keep the public engaged with the important process?
So what if one local union leader is downplaying the impact of Proposition 104? And so what if that district’s experience is likely not typical, since it was one of a handful ahead of the curve, already holding some negotiations in open session before the statewide initiative was adopted?
After all, even the sole source quoted in the story suggested District 11′s experience probably does not reflect the norm:
[Colorado Springs Education Association president Kevin] Vick said districts that had entirely closed bargaining sessions are likely experiencing a “drastic shift” with the new law. But here, “it hasn’t significantly changed bargaining overall to a great degree,” he said.
No, I decided rather that Colorado should celebrate the progress in union leaders’ views on bargaining transparency. After all, it was only four years ago that CSEA leadership unanimously voted down a request to open negotiations. Vick’s predecessor, Kevin Marshall, explained to the Gazette that the vote was taken to “protect the integrity of the collective bargaining agreement between teachers and safeguard the future of children by keeping the negotiations private.”
Considering all the scary “sky is falling” arguments made against Prop 104 and open negotiations, it’s encouraging to hear one-time opponents admit publicly that the transparent process is not so disturbing after all. Taken in that light, the verdict of “little impact” further vindicates Colorado voters’ decision and gives reason to other states to consider the same.
Thank you, Chalkbeat. Perhaps you could say an inadvertently truth-stretching headline ends up shining a positive light on a good government sunshine measure. On an overcast Monday, I’ll take that with a smile every time.