NEA, NJEA strengthen partnership to grow labor-management collaboration


NEA invests more than $3 million over three years to support initiative expansion

The National Education Association (NEA) and the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) have agreed to develop a dynamic partnership to grow a New Jersey-based program to introduce states and districts throughout New Jersey and the country to the benefits and processes of labor-management collaboration. NEA is providing NJEA with a $500,000 grant to help expand the New Jersey Public School Labor-Management Collaborative and additional funds to help other interested state and local affiliates to plan and launch partnerships that foster labor-management collaboration practices in districts and worksites. NEA has committed to invest more than $3 million over three years to fund and grow this initiative.

The partnership will also implement a system of support by providing resources, mentorships and a framework to build and enhance quality labor-management collaboration initiatives across the country. NEA has partnered with NJEA because of its work with its local associations and school districts across New Jersey through the New Jersey Public School Labor-Management Collaborative in facilitating such initiatives.

The New Jersey Public School Labor-Management Collaborative began nearly eight years ago with the support of Saul Rubinstein, a professor in the Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations. The collaborative, created by a partnership of New Jersey statewide education organizations, has worked with numerous New Jersey school districts to design, enhance and build collaborative structures. Dr. Rubinstein has helped coordinate the state’s collaborative, and with John McCarthy of Cornell University, has conducted research that reveals the positive impact of greater collaboration.

“We see a very clear relationship between what happens between the adults in the building—the collaboration among educators at all levels—and a positive impact on student learning,” Rubinstein said.

Through studies conducted in 2011, 2012 and 2014, Rubinstein and McCarthy have found that formal labor-management partnerships help improve student performance, lead to more extensive communication between educators, more frequent informal communication between union representatives and school principals, and enhance learning among schools leading to the adoption of innovation from one school to another.

“NEA is committed to leading a movement to unite our members and this nation to transform public education into a racially and socially just and equitable system that prepares every student to succeed in a diverse and interdependent work,” said NEA President Becky Pringle. “Building a nationwide system that fosters and supports labor-management collaboration is essential to that vision.”

“The bottom line is—and always has been and always will be—the effect this work has on our students,” said NJEA President Marie Blistan. “New Jersey’s schools are ranked number one in the nation, and one of the reasons our public schools perform so well is because local associations and school district administrators in our state work together in areas where we share common ground. In partnership with NEA, we will be able to take to a national level the lessons we have learned here in New Jersey.”

NJEA Executive Director Steve Swetsky traces the history of the New Jersey’s labor-management initiative to the strong relationships that already existed among state-level organizations that represent labor and management, such as NJEA, the New Jersey School Boards Association, the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association, AFT-NJ, and the New Jersey Association of School Administrators.

Taking the labor-management initiative to the district level in New Jersey formally began in 2013, when Rubinstein made a presentation of his and McCarthy’s research to a group of representatives from these state-level organizations that represented labor and management.

“It was an ‘Aha!’ moment,” Swetsky said. “When they heard the data that connected labor-management relations and collaboration in schools to student achievement, they started to consider whether collaborative practices at the local association/district level could be supported at the state level.”

The NEA-NJEA partnership will help support local-level labor-management collaboratives from a state and national level.

Specifically, the NEA-NJEA partnership will work, through The New Jersey Public School Labor-Management Collaborative, to:

  • Support the growth of labor-management collaborative practices in additional New Jersey districts, particularly large urban areas.
  • Promote the benefits of labor-management collaboration and introduce the systems of support, framework and resources to interested affiliates.
  • Offer NEA funds to support the creation of state and district partnerships that foster worksite-based collaboration that results in student success, educator retention, and transformed leaders and unions.
  • Provide mentorship and forums for participating affiliates to reflect, learn, and sustain quality labor-management collaborative practices where members are deeply engaged in shared decision-making practices.
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