Collective bargaining can be like swimming in a sea of coded words, speaking English as a foreign language, being bilingual in English and English. Negotiating a contract with administrators is like trying to break hieroglyphic code, to unravel linguistic secrets, to read between the lines. Unscrambling the surface narrative. Deciphering the message.
It’s a bit like a strip tease. Revealing a bit of flesh here, a bit of flesh there, but a tease without the seduction. A dance without a partner. A slight of hand, a distraction, a prestidigitation. Illusions and smoke. Schemes, gambits, and machinations.
This is an exercise which, because of a natural skepticism, sharpens one’s powers of observation and interpretation. Gestures, glances, facial expressions, a look in the eyes, all become evidence overlaying and obfuscating the words.
This is all terribly exhausting, but powerfully invigorating as we wrestle toward resolution and more than vestigial consensus— a dramatic example of humans simultaneously protecting their sometimes wildly disparate interests and pragmatically functioning in and as community.