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 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. Sign up for our monthly eBlasts to ensure you receive upcoming events and resources! 



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)

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.

Sign up for our monthly eBlasts to ensure you receive upcoming events and resources! 

Our newest resources include:


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 that 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.

CA LMI Summer Institute – Resources from this event coming soon! 
When:  June 22-23, 2021
Overview: This two-day virtual event will provide an opportunity to learn about labor-management partnerships, work with collaborative tools & frameworks, and plan with your team. While the convening is now virtual, it is still designed as shared learning and team-building experience for school district and county office labor-management teams.


Resources from Past CA LMI Events



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
2018-2020 CA LMI Strategic Plan


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:


District Stories

The CA LMI works with leading education researchers to highlight stories of labor-management partnerships across California.  These stories from practitioners in the field highlight the work of educators transforming labor-management practices in school systems to intentionally move across the partnership continuum and improve outcomes for students and staff.  Please use these examples to learn about approaches to drive change and improvement in your organization.

CA LMI Spotlight – Dinuba’s Journey: From Conflict to Cooperation – October 2020

What’s inside: Each Spotlight features a researched story of transforming labor-management practices in one of the 150+ districts that have participated with CA LMI. This spotlight story features the ten-year journey of growth and relationship building in Dinuba Unified.





CCEE – Building a Culture of Trust – June 2020

What’s inside: A two-year partnership with Monterey County Office of Education and district labor-management teams across the region is at the center in this new publication from the California Collaborative for Educational Excellence (CCEE).  It also includes information on the regional network, set up by CA LMI, to support and strengthen labor-management partnerships at County offices.  The work of Alisal Union School District, a four-year partner of LMI,  is also highlighted.





CCEE – The SJUSD Approach November 2020

With evolving state guidelines and considerations, local partnerships are critical in ensuring a safe return to schools. The #ComeBackCASchools campaign spotlights LEAs’ collaborative approaches to support instruction and address all potential factors that could influence the continuity of learning.  CCEE’s spotlight on San Juan Unified School District (SJUSD) showcases the long-standing partnership between SJUSD and its teacher union, the San Juan Teachers Association (SJTA), that allowed for the last-minute shift back to distance learning more manageable. Built on a foundation of trust, this collaborative relationship operates from a theory of action and a core set of shared beliefs, which guided SJUSD’s strategic priorities for the 2020-21 school year.



Collaboration and Addressing Student Needs: A Rural District’s Response to COVID-19 – June 2020

What’s inside: COVID-19 has disrupted California’s education system in fundamental ways. Districts across the state are quickly creating strategies to serve all students, and many are designing their responses around the needs of their most vulnerable students. This brief highlights the response of Mother Lode Union School District (MLUSD) to the COVID-19 pandemic, in which district staff and teachers were able to collaborate—despite the unprecedented crisis—to meet student needs. The district has been a part of the CA LMI Sacramento/El Dorado Regional Network.





  Impact of the CEC Labor-Management Partnership in Santa Clara California – October 2019

What happens when a concerted effort is invested in promoting healthy relationships between education leaders and practitioners? The Consortium for Educational Change (CEC) in partnership with the Santa Clara Labor Management Partnership has spent the last five years focused on doing just that. This case study highlights the impact of the efforts to support stronger relationships and collaboration to improve teaching and learning in Santa Clara Unified School District, Santa Clara, California. CEC facilitated the effort to repair frayed communication throughout the district with the end goal of improving communication structures between the school sites and the district office, and elevating teacher and student performance and satisfaction.




The ABC’s Partnership: Creating a Labor-Management Partnership Focused on Student Achievement – 2012

Since 1999, ABCUSD and ABCFT have built and sustained a partnership that now serves as a strong example of labor-management collaboration. Their early and ongoing experiences are inspiring other unions and districts—from as far away as South Africa—to create a new way of working together. This handbook is intended to provide a more detailed look at how the district and the union achieved their successful partnership, and to offer suggestions that other school districts and employee unions can follow to reach a similar level of trust and collaboration.






Case Studies of Three California School Districts – Alhambra, San Juan and Pomona – Spring 2016

Responding to recommendations of the former SPI Tom Torlakson’s Blueprint 2.0, CDE Foundation collaborated with the leaders of California’s largest public education organizations and launched the California Labor-Management Initiative (CA LMI) in spring 2015 at a symposium in San Diego. Teams of superintendents, labor leaders, and school board members from 47 school districts across California participated in the symposium to learn about labor-management partnerships and their impact on student learning. An additional 50 district and county office teams attended similar regional events later that fall. In 2016, 42 of the 97 teams that attended these introductory meetings participated in a round of regional convenings that explored labor-management practices in greater depth. To build on the state’s knowledge base about how these partnerships work and their impact on school effectiveness, the CDE Foundation sponsored case studies of 3 California school districts that are engaged in labor-management collaboration and have participated in at least one of the CA LMI convenings.


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.

What is the CA LMI?

The California Labor Management Initiative, a project of the CDE Foundation, brings together public school union and management leaders to co-develop structures and practices that lift staff voices and build systems for continuous improvement to create better outcomes for students and staff, parents and communities. The CA LMI fosters and supports labor-management partnerships as a foundational element of improving public schools and advancing educational equity in California.

Why should my team participate?

CA LMI convenings provide safe, supportive learning environments in which public school union and management leaders can have tough conversations that lead to collaborative problem-solving utilizing structures, frameworks and research to collectively meet the needs of students and staff.  The CA LMI provides labor-management teams hands-on tools to lift up issues and co-develop practical solutions to improve outcomes.

What types of supports does the CA LMI offer?

If you are interested in learning more about the CA LMI and would like to participate, the California Labor Management Initiative provides districts and county offices with three tiers of support to advance labor-management collaboration.  

  • Universal Convenings, provide labor-management teams across the state opportunities to learn about labor-management partnerships and understand key collaborative frameworks. They are designed as shared learning and team building experiences for school district and county office teams. Universal convenings take place in various regions of the state as well as online. These convenings provide a place for unions and management to learn together and build the foundations for collaboration – trust, equity and communication. See the CA LMI website for upcoming events, materials and our CA LMI Resource Library. 
  • Regional Networks ​connect multiple districts within a geographic region and support localized networks which build capacity and peer learning opportunities over time. Regional Networks support sustained peer-to-peer learning, and they provide a structure for teams to share resources, celebrate successes and navigate challenges. We have worked to connect our Regional Networks to County Offices of Education as a hub for convening districts and develop labor-management regional planning committees to further our networks.  
  • Individualized Supports provide an opportunity for districts or county offices to work with the CA LMI staff or consulting partners to further support their labor-management teams. The support is tailored to the individualized context of the district or county office. Teams can contract with the CA LMI staff or our consulting partners directly to develop a customized scope of work to advance their labor-management partnership efforts via in-district coaching.

How do we get started?

We encourage teams to sign up to attend our convenings to begin the process. Events for new teams are held several times a year. You can find upcoming events on our CA LMI websitePlease contact Gustavo Morales, CA LMI Program Manager, for additional information on engaging your team.

Who should participate in my labor-management team?

Most teams typically include at a minimum, the Superintendent, Classified and Certificated Union Presidents and a school board member. Additional key leaders may include the Asst. Supt for HR, Chief Academic Officer and other top union executive officers. As teams continue to participate they typically add site labor-management leaders such as principals and building reps.  Larger districts often roll out the effort via cohorts of school site teams once the district level leadership has engaged.

Can I participate as an individual?

We encourage you to connect with your labor and management leadership to organize your labor-management team attendance at CA LMI events.  Some virtual events such as webinars are designed for individual participation but we encourage teams to participate together whenever possible.

How much does it cost to participate?

The CA LMI is supported by several foundations that help reduce costs for participation.  Our low cost convenings can run as little as $50 per person. Please contact us directly for more information or see the CA LMI website for upcoming events.

What state agencies and associations are involved?

The CA LMI works closely with the California Department of Education and the California Collaborative for Educational Excellence. State educational associations representing teachers, classified staff, administrators, and school board members, also play a critical role in advancing labor-management collaboration on a broad scale.  CA LMI has had ongoing support from leaders of state associations and agencies, as demonstrated by their participation on our Steering Committee and involvement in CA LMI statewide institutes and trainings. The CA LMI Steering Committee members meet at least once a year to provide high-level guidance to the CA LMI team and connections to their members. Representatives from state partners include: 

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

What research supports this work?

Studies from researchers such as Anthony Bryk have highlighted the importance of developing collective trust among school staff.  In a labor-management context, more recent research from Saul Rubinstein and John McCarthy from Rutgers and Cornell Universities has shown the impact of labor-management partnership and collaboration on student achievement and staff retention. These impacts are particularly pronounced in high poverty schools. For instance, their work found that teacher turnover in high-poverty schools was 3.5 times the rate of that in low-poverty schools when school-level educator collaboration was low. However, when collaboration was high, there was no statistical difference between turnover in high-poverty and low-poverty schools.

Additionally, Rubenstein & McCarthy found that formal union-management partnerships at the district-level seem to be a catalyst for building highly collaborative schools, finding that district partnerships are positively associated with school collaboration.

How does labor-management partnerships interact with district bargaining processes?

Developing labor-management partnerships is not a substitute for collective bargaining and the CA LMI does not get involved in negotiations. Participating with the CA LMI and building labor-management partnerships is often cited by labor and management leaders as being helpful in providing additional problem-solving strategies/opportunities outside the formal bargaining process.

When will you have in-person convenings?

We hope to resume convening in-person as soon as it is safe to do so. In the meantime, we are convening teams virtually using online platforms. 

Is this work supported at the national level?

The effort of the CA LMI has been joined on the national level with the recent activity of the National Labor Management Partnership (NLMP).  The NLMP is a working group comprised of the American Association of School Administrators, American Federation of Teachers, National School Boards Association, and the National Education Association (NEA).  From their 2018 National Call to Action to their recent NEA workbook Collaborating for Student Success, there is a growing recognition of the importance of effective labor relations in improving public education.  

What labor-management teams have participated?

Over 170 district and county office labor-management teams have participated with the CA LMI since our start in 2015. Please contact us to learn about teams that have participated in your region.

If you have any questions that are not listed here, please feel free to contact Gustavo Morales at [email protected] To view a complete list of these questions and answers, download the PDF here.