"CMI Concord Group has worked with the City of Newton on several high stakes negotiations with our unions. Their skill, creativity and patience have helped us reach fair agreements in tense negotiations. Recently, we were able to jointly restructure our health care arrangements in ways that have saved the City and the employees thousands of dollars."
- Sandy Pooler, as City Budget Officer, Newton, MA
The Newton Public School System educates more than 11,000 students with almost 1,000 teachers. Although one of the best systems in the state, labor relations in the late 1980s and early 1990s were plagued by a poor relationship between the School Committee and Administration and the Newton Teachers Association. The interactions got so bad that the teachers "worked to rule" as part of their bargaining strategy, something that all parties acknowledged was not good for the teachers, the administration, the parents, or the children.
CMI Concord was asked to help rebuild the working relationship between and among the parties. Starting with an initial three-day joint training workshop, we taught the parties how to use an "interest-based" or "principled negotiation" process for resolving their issues. As a result, the parties created a "procedural contract" for how negotiations would be conducted and memorialized that in negotiation "ground rules." The parties then used these ground rules to change the process from acrimonious positional bargaining to a more interest-focused dialogue. Joint data gathering teams produced information on legitimacy; small brainstorming groups inventing options for discussion in the larger group; and the "Newton Five" became a sub-group to maintain communication and the working relationship whenever issues arose between contract talks.