Collective Bargaining Agreement and ‘Meet and Confer’ Laws
Karl Marx’s ‘Class Theory’ is under the premise that the human society is naturally divided into classes pursuing clashing principles in view of protecting their respective interests. This is seemingly true as people in any society have the tendency to argue over something because they are moving around different interests. One classic example would be in a corporate setup, wherein the employer and the employee argue about the merit increase to be given to the employee. The employee, in view of his personal or financial interest, would fight for higher increase. On the other hand, it is expected that the employer would do what is necessary to put it to minimum. This is to protect the company’s revenue. Our own interests bind us all, whether group or individual interests – the driver of how we act and react.
In the City of Houston, Texas, there is an existing state legislation allowing the orderly and constructive procedure wherein cities and police personnel meet and confer with the public employer about items concerning the effective and efficient administration and management of police departments, with the purpose of achieving and maintaining the harmonious working environment while still fulfilling the agreed level of performance and excellence, equitable standards for remuneration packages, working hours, etc. This law applies to “police officers” that is defined to be full-time employees who regularly serve in the police department of a political division. Exempted are those under the rank of Sergeant, Lieutenant, Captain, Assistant Chief, Captain, Assistant Chief, Executive Assistant Chief, and pay grades V and above. Unless majority of the police withdraw the recognition, the public employer is obliged to recognize an association duly selected by majority of the police officers; and the public employer can always question if the association is indeed composed of the majority representative. Consequently, the public employer does not have to negotiate with an association that is not a representative of the majority of the department in question.
The meet and confer covers the aspects of remuneration packages, working environment, grievances, working hours, and other items of concern to the police officers of the city. For economic or compensation matters under collective bargaining, the association needs to send the public employer the written warning of the collective bargaining 120 days or more before the end of the public employer’s current fiscal year.
The meet and confer law lies in the premise that it is advisable for members of a working relationship to resolve any conflict at the earliest possible time and without the judicial intervention. With this said, the law prohibits the employees concerned from participating in labor strikes and any form of violent movement to slow down the work. The law imposes this prohibition in a constructive manner by having the meet and confer process, instead. The harmonious working relationship can be achieved through cooperation and mutual recognition of each other’s position, with respect to the issues in question.
Collective bargaining pertains to the responsibility of the public employer and of the association to meet at reasonable schedules, to confer in good faith (or a meeting with the aim of ending up with a fair and reasonable agreement for both parties) regarding the issue at hand, and to come up with written contract of any consensus drawn in the conference. However, the law does not oblige the public employer and the association to agree on the matter of dispute or make a concession. Having mediator to reach the target agreement is allowed. It is also important to note that the collective bargaining negotiation needs to be open to public. After reaching an agreement and signing a contract, the provisions are then enforceable by law against the public employer and the association. Once the act is adopted, there is petition to repeal it through repeal election, provided the petition is submitted after a year of act implementation.
‘Meet and Confer’ and Collective Bargaining are not in place in the Texas education system. Texas is in struggle to fulfill the large vacancies in teaching positions due to increased enrollment and retirement and attrition of teachers. The State’s effort to reduce the class sizes even strengthens the need for more teachers. Gonzales (2000) studied the factors contributing to the attrition rate of certified schoolteachers in Texas. Her study took into consideration the personal, financial, organizational, emotional, and social aspects of a teacher. Detailed interview with teachers who left their posts is the means in acquiring the needed data for this study. Gonzales (2000) mentioned that 38.8% of beginning teachers leave the profession for another job; while 28.9% leave because of dissatisfaction that rooted from salary (78.5%) and administrative support (26.1%) among other reasons. According to National Education Association (2003), teachers are paid relatively less than other professions with the same educational requirements.
Nelson (2006) studied the impact of collective bargaining agreement on teacher transfer rates in urban high-poverty schools in the United States. According to this study, collective bargaining agreement is associated with the reduced teacher transfer rates. In high-poverty schools with collective bargaining agreement, the transfer rate is 7.5%, compared to 11.3% transfer rate in high-poverty schools that do not adopt the collective bargaining agreement. In addition, prominent reasons for transferring include dissatisfaction with the administrative support and with the working environment.
Teaching is a very stressful profession. According to the study of Gonzales (2000), excessive pressure and stress is the top emotional factor driving the large attrition rate of Texas teachers. One thing worth exploring is the application of collective bargaining agreement and the ‘meet and confer’ laws in Texas education system. As may be seen in the study of Nelson (2006), it could bring the attrition rate of teachers down.
As humans, in general, it is always relieving to be heard. Especially in a stressful profession like teaching, it would probably help to let them have a voice about qualms, grievances, and sentiments even before deciding to leave their posts. As one of the tenet of meet and confer law suggests, it is always better to have it talked in the first place in a peaceful and orderly manner. With this said, it is with due respect to say that imposing collective bargaining agreement and ‘meet and confer’ laws could promote promising improvement in the stand of teachers in the Texas education system. After all, it is them – the schoolteachers – who taught most, if not really all, of us to speak our minds. Maybe it is just fair to give them that kind of treatment they deserve.
Gonzales, Liza. 2000. A Study of Factors Contributing to the Attrition Rate of Certified School Teachers in Texas. Retrieved July 30, 2007 from http://education.tamuk.edu/kfmns00/Defense%5B1%5D.ppt.
Nelson, Howard. 2006. The Impact of Collective Bargaining on Teacher Transfer Rates in Urban High-Poverty Schools. American Federation of Teachers.
Meet and Confer Agreement between the Houston Police Officers’ Union as the Majority bargaining Agent for All Police Officers, and the City of Houston, Texas. Retrieved July 30, 2007 from http://www.hpou.org/meetandconfer/2001contract.pdf.