Do you have some suggestions about what board members can and can’t say, and should and should not do during collective bargaining?

Yes! Our labor relations team at OSBA has put together a helpful list of do’s and don’ts for board members to follow when communicating during the collective bargaining process.

Basic Communication Strategies for School Board Members During Collective Bargaining

Do: Engage in thorough, candid and vigorous board deliberations over bargaining proposals and/or bargaining strategy during executive session under ORS 192.660(2)(d). The media may legally be excluded during executive sessions called for the purpose of consultations between the board and its bargaining team.
Don’t: Negotiate with staff or union representatives during public comment periods or conduct sensitive board deliberations over collective bargaining strategy during the public portions of board meetings.

Do: Speak with a single Board voice through a designated spokesperson.
Don’t: Allow individual board members to dilute or confuse the collective message of the full board.

Do:  Designate a single board bargaining team and authorize that team to represent the full board in formal collective bargaining negotiations.
Don’t:  Assume you as an individual board member have the authority to negotiate on behalf of the full board unless specifically given that authority. 

Do: Formally present all district bargaining proposals or settlement ideas to the union first.
Don’t: Communicate proposals (or even potential proposals) to employees, the media or community members prior to formally offering the proposals to the union. Doing so might be construed as “direct dealing,” a prohibited practice under Oregon’s collective bargaining laws.

Do: Follow a regular bargaining communication plan that ensures various audiences (e.g., administrators, parents) are accurately informed about what the board has proposed and shared with the union during collective bargaining sessions.
Don’t: Assume the union is accurately communicating the board’s proposals or rationale to its members, the staff or other stakeholders.

Do: Share feedback from community and staff with the full board in executive session.
Don’t: Express concerns or reservations about the bargaining process or team outside of executive session.

Do: Listen to concerns of staff and community members and direct them to formal board communications and resources (e.g., web site with copies of proposals) or to the union or board bargaining teams.
Don’t: Offer solutions or share personal opinions or perspectives or ideas for settlement. Public comments should be positive and focus on the desire for the parties to reach settlement.

Do: Understand that if you are on the designated bargaining team, your individual words and actions reflect upon the entire bargaining team.
Don’t: Assume that you can easily separate your personal opinion from the position of the bargaining team.

Do: Understand board and union proposals.
Don’t: Assume you understand a proposal without discussion and explanation of the proposal by the proponent.

Do:  View negotiations as a necessary process.  Move on when the process is complete.
Don’t:  Make negotiations personal.

For more information on this question, Ask OSBA.