High school students learn the art of collective bargaining

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ESCANABA – Contract negotiations: an example of a lesson that can be better taught with hands-on experience. And that’s what students from Nah Tah Wahsh did today at the Collective Bargaining Workshop at Bay College.

“The students always love coming to it because it gives us a chance to work on our interpersonal and communications skills and it gives us an opportunity to explore some of the obstacles and opportunities the students are going to face when they head out into the real work world,” said Social Studies Teacher Brian Houle.

The event is sponsored by the Upper Peninsula Labor-Management Council. Teams of labor and management divide up and pick what they are negotiating for said Senior Lorraine Cope.

“Today we were split into two groups,” she said. “I was on the manager’s side. We get a booklet of issues about what’s happening with our company, so we have to come up with a proposal to satisfy the union.”

The result, says Houle, is a well-rounded educational day.

“It teaches them a lot of skills they would use in say an economic class,” he said. “It also involves things that have to do with law, so things that would couple with a civics class. And it gives them the chance to apply it in a real world type situation.”

Going through a series of negotiations gave the students a new perspective on what goes into making collectively bargained agreements in the real world.

One such student was Sophomore Robert Pethers. He said, “I (now) know that everything isn’t just cupcakes and rainbows. So we have to think about who is representing us, if we’re being fair, if our business is being fair. It has really opened my eyes.”

The students were required to reach an agreement before the end of the day, and while striking was allowed, it was highly discouraged.

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