When a conflict looms, it can be tempting for each side to try to make unilateral decisions on key issues because of the belief that negotiations with the other side will be a dead end. This dispute resolution strategy may pay off in the short term, but it’s important to factor in the long-term costs in terms of resolution of conflict.
Take the mid-2012 union negotiations between the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) and the City of Chicago, which led to a 10-day strike in September. After being elected mayor of Chicago in February 2011, Rahm Emanuel, President Obama’s former chief of staff, lobbied the Illinois state legislature hard for an education-reform bill targeted at Chicago’s troubled school district that included changes to collective bargaining between the city and the CTU.
Specifically, the bill, which passed in May 2011, raised the percentage of CTU members who must vote in favor of a strike from 50% to 75%. The new law, known as SB7, also effectively prevented the CTU from striking over issues other than teacher salaries and limited the issues that could be negotiated – leaving out class size, for instance.
The law outraged the union, which viewed it as a signal (among others) that the new mayor was aggressively anti-union. Rumors spread that Emmanuel’s long-term plan was to gradually close public schools and replace them with non-unionized charter schools.
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