In the late 1990s, the Los Angeles Unified School District partnered with United Teachers Los Angeles – funded by a federal grant – to produce a multi-part curriculum entitled, “Workplace Issues and Collective Bargaining in the Classroom.”
Education Action Group obtained it from the California Department of Education.
The purpose of the lessons is to get students to appreciate the need for collective bargaining, and experience first-hand how it works. During the lessons, which can take up to a week of class time, students pose as either “labor” or “management” and bargain a teachers’ contract. They grapple with such issues as health insurance co-pays, raises and hiring procedures. Finally, the union has someone to feel its pain!
The curriculum includes a video which touts the success of the program. It’s insightful that the very first speaker on the video is the president of the teachers union, A.J. Duffy:
“UTLA plays a unique role in the labor movement in L.A. As the second largest teachers’ union in the country, with all of our other responsibilities, we are in the position to educate the next generation of civic leaders by reaching out to high school students and having them participate in a unique UTLA program. … The Collective Bargaining Education Project brings the lessons of labor to the classroom by involving students in the same process UTLA and other unions engage in to gain better wages and working conditions for teachers and students at L.A. Unified Schools.”
The union endorsements of the curriculum don’t stop there.
Linda Tubach, one of the curriculum’s creators, says “The students have a very direct experience with the issues that they’re going to face in their workplaces and their experience is a collective one in small groups, mentored by coaches who have direct experience in the collective bargaining process.”
At the time the video was produced, unionized employees in California comprised less than 18% of the workforce, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. So in other words, Tubach’s lessons don’t apply to over 80% of these future workers. But, of course, that isn’t what the lessons are about. They’re about ginning up awareness and sympathy for organized labor.
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