What Role Does Location Play in Teacher Collective Bargaining?

[We are pleased to welcome Lesley Lavery of Macalester College. Lesley recently published an article in ILR Review with co-authors Dan Goldhaber and Roddy Theobald, entitled “My End of the Bargain: Are There Cross-District Effects in Teacher Contract Provisions?”]Teacher_of_the_year_uses_initiative,_technology-fueled_lessons_140310-M-IY869-611

Teacher collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) cover a wide array of school district rules and regulations that govern everything from hiring and compensation, to the policies that determine teacher transfers, evaluation, and termination. In this paper we investigate the role spatial relationships between school districts and teachers’ unions play in determining which specific provisions appear in CBAs.  We find that bargaining outcomes in nearby districts have a strong, positive effect an individual district’s bargaining outcomes and that regional bargaining structures like Education Service Districts (representing school districts) and Uniservs (representing teachers’ unions) largely drive these outcomes.

We were somewhat surprised by these findings. Though we were not shocked to find that geographically proximate districts bargain similar agreements, we did not ILR_72ppiRGB_powerpointnecessarily expect to find such a pronounced role for Education Service Districts and Uniserv Councils given the minor (or perhaps nonexistent) role these institutions play in public debate.

This is the first paper in a larger project that investigates the role collective bargaining agreements play in the uneven distribution of teacher quality. In “Uneven Playing Field” we model the distribution of both teacher inputs (e.g., experience and credentials) and outputs (e.g., estimates of performance/ effectiveness) across a variety of indicators of student disadvantage (free/reduced lunch status, underrepresented minority, and low prior academic performance) to demonstrate that no matter how you cut it, disadvantaged students are less likely to experience highly qualified teachers.

Then, in “Inconvenient Truth?” we explore whether and how patterns of teacher mobility (movements that lead to static measures of distribution) differ in districts with different collective bargaining agreement (CBA) transfer provisions.  We find that seniority transfer provisions have differential impacts on the distributions of teacher experience and effectiveness which suggests that policymakers may have to careful consider and weigh their ultimate goals before taking a stand on unions and CBAs.

The abstract:

A large literature on teacher collective bargaining describes the potential influence of the provisions in collectively bargained teacher union contracts on teachers and student achievement, but little is known about what influences the provisions that end up in these contracts. Using a unique data set made up of every active teacher collective bargaining agreement in Washington State, the authors estimate spatial lag models to explore the relationship between the restrictiveness of a bargained contract in one district and the restrictiveness of contracts in nearby districts. Employing various measures of geographic and institutional proximity, they find that spatial relationships play a major role in determining bargaining outcomes. These spatial relationships, however, are actually driven by two “institutional bargaining structures”: education service districts (ESDs), which support school districts, and UniServ councils, which determine who is bargaining on behalf of local teachers’ unions. This finding suggests that the influence of geographic distance found in previous studies of teacher wages may simply reflect the influence of these bargaining structures.

You can read “My End of the Bargain: Are There Cross-District Effects in Teacher Contract Provisions?” from ILR Review free for the next two weeks by clicking here. Want to know all about the latest research from ILR ReviewClick here to sign up for e-alerts!


Lesley LaveryLesley Lavery’s interests include American politics, political behavior, civic engagement and public policy. Her scholarship focuses specifically on the ways in which policy may influence political engagement and participation.  Using No Child Left Behind as a lens, she recently examined parents’ views on schools, education policy and government, adding to a growing body research that suggest that public policies shape citizens beliefs about their place in and value to society.  Her recent work appears in Politics and PolicyEducational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, and the Economics of Education Review.

goldhaberDan Goldhaber is the Director of the Center for Education Data & Research and a Professor in Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences at the University of Washington Bothell. He is also the Director of the National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research (CALDER) and a Vice-President at American Institutes of Research (AIR). Dan’s work focuses on issues of educational productivity and reform at the K-12 level, the broad array of human capital policies that influence the composition, distribution, and quality of teachers in the workforce, and connections between students’ K-12 experiences andpostsecondary outcomes. Topics of published work in this area include studies of the stability of value-added measures of teachers, the effects of teacher qualifications and quality on student achievement, and the impact of teacher pay structure and licensure on the teacher labor market. Previous work has covered topics such as the relative efficiency of public and private schools, and the effects of accountability systems and market competition on K-12 schooling.

Roddy Theobald is a Research Assistant at the Center for Education Data and Research and PhD candidate in Statistics at the University of Washington. He is a former 7th-grade math teacher and PhD student in statistics at the University of Washington. His research at CEDR combines his interest in teaching and public education with his current training as a statistician by applying statistical methodology to problems like teacher evaluation and layoffs.

Book Review: Unions and Class Transformation: The Case of the Broadway Musicians

Unions and Class Transformation Book Cover

Unions and Class Transformation: The Case of the Broadway Musicians. Catherine P. Mulder; New York and London: Routledge, 2009, xiii + 147 pp. DOI: 10.1177/0486613415574474

Costas Panayotakis of New York City College of Technology recently took the time to review the book in the December 2015 issue of Review of Radical Political Economics. From the review:

One of the features of our age is the decline of organized labor. This decline has been especially dramatic in the United States and has led to numerous books and articles investigating its causes, effects, as well as the labor strategies that could reverse it. As many of these works have recognized, responsible for this decline are both the loss of industrial jobs as a result of new labor-saving technologies and capital’s increased ability to scour the global economy for cheap labor.

Catherine Mulder’s contribution to this problem is unique in a number of ways. First of all, it recounts the experience of Broadway RRPE 2015musicians. They are a segment of organized labor that goes beyond the usual suspects of unions within industrial manufacturing or even the public sector unions that have increasingly captured people’s attention as they have become the largest segment of unionized labor in the United States. While focusing on a segment of the labor force that does not figure prominently in scholarly analyses of organized labor, Mulder also makes clear that both the issues faced by Broadway musicians and the lessons that can be drawn from their experience are broadly relevant. In this respect, Mulder’s book constitutes a genuine contribution to the debate on the future of organized labor rather than simply a monograph on a union local that had not been studied in the past.

You can read the full review from Review of Radical Political Economics by clicking here. Like what you read? Click here to sign up for e-alerts and have all the research and reviews like this sent directly to your inbox!

Book Review: What Unions No Longer Do

What Unions No Longer Do - Book Cover

What Unions No Longer Do. By Jake Rosenfeld . Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014. 288 pp. ISBN 978-0-674725119, $39.95 (Cloth).

Barry Eidlin, currently an Assistant Professor of Sociology at McGill University, recently took the time to review the book in the October Issue of ILR Review.

From the review:

What Unions No Longer Do starts where many books about U.S. labor end, providing a summary of how dramatic union decline has been, how it compares to unions’ fate in other countries, and the various factors that have contributed to union decline. While this is well-worn territory, it provides a useful refresher ILR_72ppiRGB_powerpointfor those familiar with U.S. labor, while helping those less familiar with the scholarship about U.S. union decline get up to speed. The bottom line, as Rosenfeld concludes, is that “the private sector in this country is now nearly union-free, to a degree not seen in a century” (p. 30).

The qualifier about the private sector is important because of the large difference in union density between the private and public sectors. While the private sector is nearly union-free, roughly one-third of public-sector workers are union members. A majority of union members now work in the public sector. While some point to recent union growth in the public sector as a positive sign, Rosenfeld is more cautious. Although he recognizes the significance of these gains, he contends that public-sector growth cannot be the focus of union revitalization efforts. Just by sheer numbers, at barely one-tenth of overall employment, the public sector is too small to make a serious dent in aggregate union density. But more important, public-sector workers on average are better educated, better paid, and have better benefits than do private-sector workers. Union membership concentration in the public sector means that “[unions’] historical role representing those with comparatively low education and income levels [has been] reduced” (p. 66).

You can read the rest of the review from ILR Review for free for the next two weeks by clicking here. Like what you read? Click here to sign up for e-alerts and have all the latest research and reviews like this sent directly to your inbox!

‘Norma Rae’: Why Workers Join Unions

In honor of Labor Day, we are pleased to present an article from the Journal of Management Education that describes how business educators can use the classic film Norma Rae to teach labor relations:

Undergraduate business students in North America are often unfamiliar with the labor organizing process and frequently fail to identify with the reasons why workers join unions. This article suggests a discussion exercise based on the 1979 film, Norma Rae, by 20th Century Fox, as an effective tool for familiarizing students with fundamental topics in labor relations such as the union organizing process, union avoidance strategies, and unfair labor practices. In addition, the film and the discussion-based exercise can be used to help students further explore the sources of individual attitudesJME_72ppiRGB_150pixW toward unions, union instrumentality perceptions, union voting intentions, and contemporary issues in private sector labor relations. Collected data show positive responses from students who viewed the movie and participated in the discussion-based exercise. Suggestions are offered for using the film and the discussion-based exercise in the classroom to engage students in the study of labor relations.

The paper, “Teaching Labor Relations With Norma Rae” by Vicki Fairbanks Taylor of Shippensburg University and Michael J. Provitera of Barry University, is available online in the Journal of Management Education.