Camarillo’s Pleasant Valley School District and its teachers began negotiations Tuesday on a new contract. But, with the memory of drawn-out disputes in the last two contract years, they decided to try something new.
Called “Win-Win,” the process is aimed at decreasing animosity and mistrust and building a familylike atmosphere, said sociologist Irving Goldaber, who formulated Win-Win. He said the program is set up to last a month, much shorter than many traditional negotiations.
“The only time you solve a problem at home is when you sit down and talk about it,” said Goldaber, 59, of Miami.
Goldaber said his plan is not an alternative to collective bargaining, since representatives from organized labor and the district negotiate in Win-Win just as they would in bargaining. But he said it differs in important ways.
For one thing, the parties meet in a pre-bargaining session where they clear the air of ill feelings about previous contract disputes or other past complaints. Also, school board members and top union officials are involved, instead of negotiators appointed by them.
Cost of $7,000
Goldaber charges a $7,000 fee for directing the program, with each side paying a share agreed on between them.
Although the Win-Win program is not widely known, district administrators and union officers who have been involved with it have praised it.
“We did in one month . . . what took nine months of just bitter arguing to accomplish before,” said Bruce Peppin, superintendent of the 20,000-student Alhambra School District, which used the process last year. “It was a good feeling.”
Chuck Churchill, president of the Alhambra Teacher’s Assn., also found the Win-Win technique a success. “It did give us the opportunity to establish better communications and relationships,” he said. “It turned out to be a reasonable contract.”
But there are skeptics who believe the process unfairly demeans traditional bargaining techniques.
Objections to Approach
Denise Holt, a spokeswoman for the California Teacher’s Assn., said the process unfairly stigmatizes traditional bargaining techniques as necessarily causing acrimony and mistrust.
“To call it a Win-Win situation, it implies that in the traditional process, someone is going to lose,” Holt said. “We prefer not to take that approach.”
Goldaber is the director of the Center for the Practice of Conflict Management. He has developed techniques on how to deal with hostage situations for a police chiefs’ organization. He also has developed crowd-control methods for the National Football League and the Indiana State Police, which provides security at the Indianapolis 500.
Win-Win has been used by 40 school districts around the country, including ones in Colorado, Illinois and Pennsylvania, Goldaber said. In California, it has been used in Alhambra, Santa Rosa, Santa Maria, La Canada and Lake Arrowhead.
There has been only one unsuccessful use of the program, Goldaber said. He said negotiators in a Chicago suburb failed to “suspend mistrust” of each other.
At the 5,530-student Pleasant Valley district, which operates 11 elementary and two intermediary schools, there have been many difficult negotiations in recent years.
For example, bargaining for a teachers’ contract covering the 1983-84 school year lasted about nine months, resulting in a retroactive 7% raise. The 1984-85 negotiations also required nine months of bargaining, and yielded a retroactive raise of only about 1 1/2%.
Bigger Raise Sought
For the 1985-86 year, teachers will be looking for a bigger salary increase to make up for the small raise last year, said Aileen Tyner, president of the Pleasant Valley Education Assn., which represents 190 teachers.
District officials could not be reached for comment on their contract demands.
Win-Win began Monday with separate three-hour orientation meetings with the school board, administrators and union officers.
On Tuesday morning, negotiations started officially with an unusual, 14-hour, closed-door session designed to air old grievances, doubts and gossip on both sides. Facing each other at the session were five members of the school board and three district administrators on one side, and five top union officers and three other union representatives on the other. They talked until about 11 p.m., with breaks only for meals. Even those were eaten together.
Goldaber sat with the group to provide guidance but did not intervene, he said.
No Table Used
There was no table to separate the two sides--or “to pound on,” Goldaber said, just a circle of chairs.
The purpose of the preliminary session was to demonstrate to each side “that neither will go away, that they are inextricably linked to each other,” Goldaber said. He added that, with Win-Win, “both sides treat each other in a civil way” while preserving advocacy on both sides.
Tuesday’s discussions were to have ended with the formation of three committees to discuss salaries and benefits, working conditions and rights, responsibilities and miscellaneous subjects.
Goldaber said the key to these discussions is not to look for “compromises,” but for what he calls “newpromises,” a word he has coined.
An example is the solution found by one district and its teachers that broke an impasse over medical insurance, Goldaber said. The union at first wanted the district to pay 100% of the teachers’ coverage, whereas the district wanted the teachers to absorb some of the costs.
Both sides eventually approved a plan under which the district paid 100% of the health-care costs but the teachers agreed to enter a fitness program featuring classes on quitting smoking and reduction of weight and blood pressure, he said.
After three weeks of committee meetings and “newpromises,” the entire Pleasant Valley group will meet for another marathon session during which the whole contract will be discussed. Then, it is hoped, an agreement will be drafted and signed.
Shirley Woo, assistant superintendent for staff relations at the Los Angeles Unified School District, said district labor negotiators are only vaguely aware of Win-Win. But Wayne Johnson, president of United Teachers of Los Angeles, which represents the Los Angeles district’s 32,000 teachers, said his group may suggest using the program.
Johnson said negotiations in many school districts have for too long been characterized by “warfare” and said he thinks Goldaber’s approach could lead to much-needed harmony.
“I think the man is onto something,” Johnson said.
Ray Curry, assistant executive director of the Assn. of California School Administrators, said the process will probably be used more because school boards, administrators and union officials are tired of “tooth-and-nail” negotiating.