Bargaining for the Common Good Is Neither Common Nor Good. But It Makes for Great Public Relations

Mike Antonucci:

Have you heard? Teachers unions are no longer interested in negotiating only the salaries, benefits and working conditions of their members, but affordable housing, restorative justice, climate change and a host of other social issues as well.

Unions call this “bargaining for the common good” and have parlayed the concept into positive — to the point of fawning — media coverage. As a public relations exercise, it has to be considered a resounding success, but our press outlets repeatedly overlook the flaws in the argument that public employee contracts are the proper place to address public policy issues.

The phrase arose from a 2014 conference organized by Georgetown University’s Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor. The conference included 130 public-sector union activists, community organizers, academics and researchers, there by invitation only, “to address the threats posed by financialization, privatization, growing income inequality and retirement insecurity to the lives of public-sector workers and the well-being of the communities they serve.”

Related: an emphasis on adult employment.