The Michigan Education Association, which is the primary school employees union in most Michigan public schools districts, is a state affiliate of NEA. The MEA can thus act as a conduit for the national union’s efforts. For instance, the “10-step plan” for fighting privatization published in the Spring 2007 edition of the union’s newsletter, MEA Voice, contains material that is adapted from the NEA “Beat Privatization” guide described above.
The MEA also mounts powerful opposition independent of the national union. The MEA has long opposed contracting in the school districts with which it bargains. Like the NEA, it has produced anti-privatization work. This material is not particularly easy to obtain, but an idea of the contents of one such publication, the 1995 pamphlet “Privatizing Public School Services: The Rest of the Story,” can be gleaned from my essay “Setting the Privatization Record Straight.”
The MEA has also made a science of tough negotiation. Consider comments made in an MEA union negotiator training tape:
“Do your best to split the board on crucial issues through contacts with individual board members or misrepresentation of the issues to the public through press releases. Attempt to carefully attack the credibility of the board negotiating team so that most of the board team’s executive sessions with their board will be spent answering board members’ questions about association charges and not with planning on upcoming negotiation sessions.”
“Remember that large districts rely heavily upon the superintendent to absorb the flak. They use the superintendent as a shield. If he is discredited, the rest of the board suddenly feels naked, and they are often eager to take an escape route which the association has waited for the appropriate moment to offer.”
“Use time as an ally. You know, if your negotiating team can get to bargaining sessions well rested, whereas the board’s team is harried and fatigued, keep negotiations going until 2 o’clock or 3 o’clock in the morning. Wear down the board physically and psychologically.”
The tape also suggests that negotiators investigate the background of each school board member, including religious affiliation, marital status, age, education, employment, family, politics, “his relationship with his employer or employees” and whether “holding a public office help[s] him advance in his job or produce business connections. …” According to the tape, such information means the negotiator will “know what sensitive chords and nerves to hit during negotiation to get the results you seek.”