Rutgers’ Center For Innovation In Worker Organization at SMLR Hosts ‘Bargaining For The Common Good’ Convening

On May 21-22, Rutgers' Center for Innovation in Worker Organization (CIWO) at the School of Management and Labor Relations hosted a two-day convening on “Bargaining for the Common Good” in collaboration with the New Jersey Education Association and the National Education Association. Building strong partnerships between labor and community organizations to improve schools and communities was the goal of the two-day meeting, which brought together local NEA teachers’ unions from their NE region, community organizers, and public education advocates.

Photo of teachers' unions convening about the common good.

Marilyn Sneiderman, director of the Center for Innovation In Worker Organization, teaches a group during the "Bargaining For The Common Good" Convening on May 21-22. 

More than 70 participants, speakers, and facilitators attended the event, including representatives from New Jersey Education Association, National Education Association, Springfield Education Association (MA), Chicopee Education Association (MA), Reading Education Association (PA), Paterson Education Association (NJ), Jersey City Education Association, Chittenango Education Association (NY), RSU 22 (ME), Manchester Education Association (NH), Seattle Education Association, Maine Education Association, Chicago Teachers’ Union, and Vermont Education Association, Refund America Project, Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools, Center for Popular Democracy, Pioneer Valley Project, Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor, New Jersey Communities United, and Rutgers University.

The first day of the convening focused on how teachers, community organizers and other advocates can partner with each other to bargain over important issues such as reduced class sizes, adequate nutrition for children, stronger public libraries, longer recess time, and cleanliness of classrooms. By bargaining together, teachers, parents and community advocates can strengthen their ability to improve schools for the benefit of the entire community. The first morning session also included a presentation on new federal legislation, the “Every Student Achieves Act,” and how it provides opportunities for new partnerships between teachers and community groups.

Afternoon sessions included a three-person panel that featured case studies from Seattle, Chicago, and Concord, Mass. on expanding collective bargaining, challenges faced, and lessons learned. In Seattle, teachers, parents, and community groups came together to bargain over broad areas of concern for the whole community, including longer recess time for children as physical activity promotes healthy development and learning. In Chicago, teachers, parents and community advocates came together to bargain over similar areas of concern for the community, including smaller class sizes.  

The second day focused on giving local teams the opportunity to draft bargaining plans to take back to their schools and communities. Participants shared elements of their planning and strategy with the full group to draw out common themes and to identify potential support needs.

A leader from the Paterson Education Association (NJ) said, "Having been exposed to a wealth of information has been very helpful for me because now I can take it back to Paterson. When times get tough, I will look back at these two days and carry it with me for strength."

Another participant from the Chicopee Education Association said, "I am going away from this meeting not hoping but knowing that my team is going to continue this work and that it's going to be effective."

This convening was organized jointly by Rutgers’ CIWO at SMLR, the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA), and National Education Association (NEA) Centers for Organizing and Collective Bargaining and Member Advocacy.