Project Description

The California Labor Management Initiative (CA LMI) is a project of Californians Dedicated to Education Foundation and seeks to engage school system unions and management as collaborative partners in creating, resourcing and implementing solutions resulting in a strong public education system that serves every student in California.

Since 2015 the CA LMI has convened public school leaders to advance labor-management collaboration and continuous improvement through peer learning networks and training. The CA LMI facilitates exploration and sharing of research and best practices to build deep enduring cross-sector union-management partnerships in California public schools. The Initiative is guided by a steering committee that includes the state education organizations.

The goal of the CA LMI is to make labor-management collaboration an integral part of improving public schools and advancing equity in California.

Who is involved?


The districts participating in the CA LMI represent the diversity of California school districts. From large to small, coastal to inland, and including elementary, high school and unified districts, these school systems are working to build and strengthen labor-management partnerships. The CA LMI provides a venue to bring together teams of board members, administrators, and union representatives. Participating leaders across California have highlighted the value of the CA LMI providing a place to learn together and build trust and relationships.

As the CA LMI has progressed, we have worked to build and leverage our relationships with our state partners. That effort has mirrored the relationship building that we see as critical at the district and school site level. The CA LMI continues to develop opportunities to empower educators to improve our public schools.

We have benefited from the ongoing support of the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. and Stuart Foundations and the partnership of California’s state education associations. The Consortium for Educational Change (CEC) has continued to be a key strategic partner providing trainings and technical assistance.

CA LMI Participating Districts and County Offices of Education

Steering Committee:

The CA LMI Steering Committee is made up of the top leadership from our state association partners and key leaders in labor-management partnership.

State Organization Executive Leadership

  • Association of California School Administrators (ACSA)
  • California Collaborative for Educational Excellence (CCEE)
  • California County Superintendents Educational Services Association (CCSESA)
  • California Department of Education (CDE)
  • California Federation of Teachers (CFT)
  • California School Boards Association (CSBA)
  • California School Employees Association (CSEA)
  • California Teachers Association (CTA)

Key State Leaders in Labor-Management and District Support

  • Ray Gaer, President, ABC Federation of Teachers
  • Mary Sieu, Superintendent, ABC Unified
  • Shannan Brown, Director, California Teacher Union Reform Network (CalTURN)


The initial public convening of the CA LMI in 2015 was the result of significant planning with state education leaders, as well as the desire of State Superintendent Tom Torlakson to focus on building in-district collaboration to improve outcomes for California public school students. By 2017, the CA LMI engaged over a hundred school systems across California. The Initiative continues to focus on capacity building at the district and site level to support collaboration, goal alignment, accountability and pedagogy.

Utilizing Michael Fullan’s Coherence Framework and Patrick Dolan’s School System Boundaries approach, the CA LMI focuses school and district leaders on developing structures and practices that foster collaboration and staff voice, building systems for continuous improvement to improve outcomes for students and staff, parents and communities.

To improve our ability to deliver effective capacity building opportunities for educators, we embarked on a strategic planning process with the generous support of the Stuart Foundation. Bringing together key partners such as the Consortium for Educational Change (CEC), leadership from the California Department of Education, California Collaborative for Educational Excellence and Saul Rubinstein from Rutgers University, we began our latest strategic planning work in the summer of 2017.

These partners were joined by leaders from districts across the state that included superintendents and administrators, certificated and classified union presidents and school board members from a variety of districts that have engaged with CA LMI over the past two years. With the help of the CA LMI Steering Committee, we have further refined and developed our plans resulting in the 2018-2020 CA LMI Strategic Plan

We invite and encourage educators and civic leaders across California to join us in the work of making collaborative problem solving and capacity building a key driver for public school improvement. We continue to be energized by the broad level of support for building the capacity in California to drive deep authentic partnerships and improve school culture. Recent research demonstrates that this work can make a lasting impact on public education’s ability to ensure that all our state’s children have a strong educational foundation and equitable outcomes.

The CA LMI’s Objectives are to:

  • Build the collective knowledge base for supporting local labor-management collaborations in California
  • Build capacity and resources at the state, regional, and local levels to support local labor-management collaborations
  • Facilitate learning and sharing of promising labor-management practices among local labor-management teams
  • Improve a wide range of educational outcomes


We convene labor-management teams from across California to promote inquiry into the processes that promote effective system-wide collaboration. We catalyze and promote collaboration in districts through ongoing support and by connecting union-management teams in regional and statewide peer networks. We facilitate communication across districts, state associations and educational stakeholder groups.

Building capacity in school systems and educators to increase collaboration and collective trust is central to creating the conditions for change that improve outcomes for students and staff. Recent research from Professors Saul Rubinstein and John McCarthy of Rutgers and Cornell Universities respectively has demonstrated the powerful impacts of labor-management collaboration on student achievement and staff retention.

The deep shift is a process shift of the way you work together. The culture of working together—risk taking, truth telling, openness, and so forth. You can’t learn that in a seminar. You must learn that in action research working and listening to each other in a healing way.

Dr. Patrick Dolan , Labor-Management Leader & Author of Restructuring Our Schools

Building trust takes time, it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s about following through with what you say you’re going to do. We don’t want to see each other fail.

Dr. Mary Sieu , Superintendent, ABC Unified School District 2017 ACSA State Supt. of the Year

What the LMI and the whole Labor Management Collaboration Initiative is doing is a good thing because people are hungry for it. It’s time for something like this.

Eric Heins , President, California Teachers Association

You can’t make change unless people believe in the process.

Jodi Muirhead, School Board Member Santa Clara Unified School District

Labor Management partnership has become so important in our district because our members believe they should have a voice at the table.

Machelle Kessinger , President, CSEA Chapter 281 Milpitas Unified-Area C Director

Hear more about the impact of the CA LMI:

Read more about the impact of the CA LMI in these case studies:

Events & Resources

A key element of increasing collaboration and trust is building systems and practices that change school culture so everyone plays a meaningful role in problem solving and decision making. The CA LMI hosts various statewide and regional gatherings to provide a space for district, school and union leaders to learn about and engage with methods to create better working relationships. Meetings range from half-day workshops to three-day-long conferences and feature keynote speakers, skill-building sessions, and team discussions.

Upcoming LMI Events

These events are an opportunity for labor-management teams to learn from other districts, share insights, and plan their work together. Teams will hear from districts who have made significant strides by making labor-management partnerships a priority. They will learn together how to take substantive and collaborative steps in a post-Janus world. We recommend participants attend as part of labor and management teams that include district and possibly site staff as well as representatives from each bargaining unit within the school district. With the increased focus on the importance of labor relations this past school year, there has never been a more important time to forge deeper partnerships between labor and management.  Join with your colleagues who are taking action to strengthen our public institutions! Space for all events is limited so please register your team as soon as possible.

El Dorado/Sacramento County Regional Convening

When:  October 16-17, 2019 & Februrary 3-4, 2020

Where:  Sacramento County Office of Education (Main) and SCOE Conference Center

Price: $125 per individual 

You can view our draft agenday here, or more details about this event here.

Partner Organization Events

ABC West Coast Labor Management Insitute – The ABC Federation of Teachers and The ABC Unified School District Partnership invites you to send a Union/District team to attend this year’s Institute. Many Administrators and Union leaders throughout the country have been asking the question of how they can improve labor-management relations. This Institute will bring together experts, practitioners, and researchers in the field of data and partnership building to give Districts the tools needed to promote collaborative labor-management partnerships that improve educator networks and how to make informed shared leadership decisions that count in school classrooms.  Participants will receive the “ABC’s of Partnership” handbook and other resources that will help districts and local unions understand some of the elements needed to promote a collaborative environment. Teams will see first hand a successful working partnership where educational colleagues work together so that students can learn and be successful. Teams will observe and participate in Partnership building activities and hear models of partnering at the school level.

When: Wednesday, October 23, 2019, and Thursday, October 24, 2019

Where: Holiday Inn, 7000 Beach Blvd., Buena Park, California 90620. Hotel reservation information will be in registration form coming soon.

Cost: We ask that teams pay $100.00 per person to help offset the cost for food. Your registration fee will help us pay for breakfasts and lunches on both days for the members of your Union/District team.  We strongly encourage that the local leader and the Superintendent be part of the team. We will send out the Registration form the last week of August to be returned by September 30, 2019. We will only be taking the first 100 participants, so get your registration in early. If you have any questions you can contact ABCFT at 562 924-6942 or at [email protected] for more information.

Resources from Past CA LMI Events