Nearly 30,000 Chicago public school teachers and support staff went on strike this week after the city and teachers’ union failed to reach a new labor agreement.
Why did they strike? The teachers’ union identified their BATNA (best alternative to a negotiated agreement), or Plan B, which was to strike, and decided it was better than the deal on the table. They also presumably factored in the city’s most likely Plan B (which has been to open some schools, increase police patrols and enlist the assistance of community organizations to provide activities for students).
While striking can have a short-term cost (lost pay), the union calculated the probable long-term benefits from a better deal in the future would likely outweigh those costs. The union is also banking that city leaders will suffer more from the resulting community disruption and rising parental frustration and anger as the strike continues. Of course, the equation will change as events unfold (for example, if the city sweetens its offer or threatens to fire and replace the striking workers).
The bottom line – you should always evaluate your and your counterpart’s Plan B (what will happen if a deal doesn’t get done). And then only take the deal on the table if it’s better than your best Plan B.