Campus: CSU Fullerton -- April 30, 2003

Business Students Learn Art of Negotiation in Labor Management Exercise

Students in two Cal State Fullerton labor management relations courses have put aside their textbooks and rolled up their sleeves as they network with working professionals, conduct research and analyze information.

Next month, they will put their preparation ³on the table² when they face off in a bargaining simulation representing either labor or management.

Working in teams, the 70 students will attempt to negotiate agreements involving health insurance and other benefits, profit sharing, salaries and overtime. Like the real world, they will struggle with plant closings, outsourcing of jobs and whether the company is making or losing money.

³To really learn negotiating, lectures and talking about it only go so far,² says Mei L. Bickner, professor of management and a labor and employment arbitrator since 1980. ³That¹s why I offer this simulation. There is no better way for students to get a real feel for what it takes to negotiate agreements.²

During a three-week period, the students pore over the simulation premise Bickner has provided. They will analyze strengths, advantages and weaknesses of the employer and the union, as well as the merits and limitations of the expiring collective bargaining agreement. With the simulation outline in hand, they are now in the midst of choosing issues, ranging from salaries, pensions and sick leave to seniority, management rights and grievance/arbitration procedures.

The students also are consulting with federal mediators, employee relations directors and representatives of several unions who have volunteered to help out by providing advice on substance and strategy.

Among those resource professionals is CSUF alumna Kim Cano (B.A. business administration - management ¹01), an employee/union relations consultant with Boeing Satellite Systems Inc. ³I remember when I was in the class, we just waned to settle,² she says. ³But when you invest in the process, you really start to believe in what you¹re fighting for.²

³This is really an excellent process,² says Andy Shelby, manager of human resources operations at Boeing Satellite Systems in Los Angeles. ³ The preparation, the negotiations and outcomes ‹ all are fairly close to the real process.

³The students are very bright and really do their homework,² Shelby adds. ³The more preparation they do, the better they are at negotiations. They really learn a lot.²

Raymond G. Huffer, division chair of the Transportation Communications International Union, Lodge 1315 in Anaheim, agrees. ³You see the same personalities and techniques that you would see in real negotiations. I enjoy seeing the students going through the simulation and admire their seriousness.²

³It¹s a tough class,² says Bickner. ³There¹s lots of preparation and no shortcuts. They meet across the table and have to use all their skills, book learning and gut feelings to work out an agreement.²

On May 10, the students will face their counterparts and begin the negotiations under the eyes of observers. After five hours, the teams must come to an agreement or declare an impasse.

³If they reach an impasse, they have to write a 75-page paper to ensure that they understand the costs of not reaching an agreement,² adds the professor, who has provided arbitration training for the American Arbitration Association and staged negotiation simulations at a number of conferences.

At the end of the simulation exercise, the student teams prepare a folder outlining the preparation they underwent ‹ analysis, negotiation priorities, the proposals that they exchange a week before the actual negotiation, a follow-up audit and minutes from team meetings.

³They complain the whole time about the amount of preparation they need to do but they feel good when they have accomplished the task,² said Bickner. ³These students will never forget this class or the lessons they receive.²

Media Contacts: Mei L. Bickner, professor of management, at (714) 278-3828 or
Pamela McLaren of Public Affairs, at (714) 278-4852 or

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