Strategic negotiation is the art of creating situations that force a decision: creating a crisis.
Sometimes the crisis is created by an immoveable date. The National Basketball Association requires that all player trades must be completed by February 24th. Will the Knicks trade for Carmelo Anthony? Agents leak names, talk radio pumps up the buzz, fans chime in with opinions and the teams and player reps exchange potential deals and potential dollars. When the dust clears everyone will have an opinion: who “won” and who “lost.” The league imposed trade deadline created a crisis.
The lure of $700 million in Race to the Top (RttT) dollars resulted in the union agreeing to raise the charter school cap, and, a teacher evaluation law that may turn out to be a victory for the union. The $700 million was a win for the state. The $700 million hanging out for the taking was a crisis.
This year the mayor is holding new teachers hostage with threats to lay off many thousands of newer teachers unless the layoff law is changed to some iteration of principal choice. The Bloomberg layoff numbers range from 6100 to 21,000 and will probably continue to wander. The current law, not used in thirty-five years requires layoffs in inverse order of seniority within license area.
The mayor’s proposal has yet to be introduced in the legislature and Assemblyman Bing appears to be backing away from his bill of last year.
School budgets reflect teachers actual salary, an experienced teacher can cost twice as much as a new teacher. Principals could choose to layoff senior teachers to save budget dollars, or union activists, or teachers that they simply don’t like.
Both sides, the union and a mayoral front organization are trading TV ads attacking each others’ proposals.
Deputy Mayor Walcott told Albany legislators that layoff rules and the budget were not linked. Believe that and I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.
The state budget is due April 1 and will probably be on time.
School budgets traditionally are released in May, although there is no statutory date. The city budget must be agreed to before the end of June and the legislature adjourns in mid/late June
In the political world in which we live parties may bash or prod each other in public, it is commonplace to maintain quiet, behind the scene contacts. In early draft of Arne Duncan’s Denver Labor-Management Summit speech he criticized seniority, the actual speech deleted the phrases, probably because Duncan asked the union for comment before the speech. This is standard practice.
Bloomberg contacted the union minutes prior to his State of the City and vilified the union. He disrespected the union.
The mayor has chosen the battlefield.
An attack on seniority, on pensions, on Mulgrew, on unions. Highly public school closing meetings that rebuke the union and their allies, parents and communities around the city.
The mayor is creating a crisis, school layoffs, and daring the union, the governor and the state legislator to allow them to transpire. Last year the mayor backed away from his threat of layoffs.
It is risky.
The governor and the legislature could hold firm and ignore the pleas of the mayor.
The union could dare the mayor to devastate the education system.
Playing chicken with the employment of thousands of teachers and the education of countless kids is a dangerous game.
He is hoping to create divisions within the union, to weaken Mulgrew and set teacher against teacher and force changes in the layoff laws.
John Lindsay played chicken in 1968 and paid for it, a career tarnished forever.
The carpenter from Staten Island may call the bluff of the billionaire from Boston.