Book Reviews

Understanding the Teacher Union Contract: A Citizen's Handbook

by Myron Lieberman

Reviewed by Charles W. Rudiger
Professor of Leadership and Technology, Dowling College, Oakdale, N.Y.

In his most recent work, Understanding the Teacher Union Contract: A Citizen's Handbook, Myron Lieberman, chair of the Education Policy Institute, has compiled a comprehensive and timely volume to describe the current public negotiation process. Lieberman's participation in the 1961 campaign to choose a bargaining agent for New York City teachers began a four-decade involvement in collective negotiations. During this period, private-sector unionization has declined nationally to below 10 percent, while public education union membership has increased to more than 65 percent, mostly in urban areas.

Lieberman documents the myriad of changes in relationships, notably due to the well- organized efforts of the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers. It is his premise that policymakers, administrators and the general public must be prepared to respond to powerful and well-organized union forces. He recommends a thorough grounding in and understanding of the subtleties in the give-and-take of the collective process. He provides examples of potential traps and snares that can result in unanticipated or unintended consequences and encourages limiting bargaining topics to "terms and conditions of employment."

Over the decades, Lieberman has mellowed. In this work, he is considerably less strident than in previous publications and presentations. Nonetheless, he has assembled a valuable and detailed handbook of strategies and caveats for those concerned with the quality, effectiveness and efficiency of public education.

(Understanding the Teacher Union Contract: A Citizen's Handbook by Myron Lieberman, Transaction Publishers, 390 Campus Drive, Somerset, N.J. 08873, 2000, 219 pp., $39.95 hardcover, $21.95 softcover)