By almost any measure, the new contract between the American Federation of Teachers and the Rochester, N.Y., school system is a model of labor-management cooperation.

Rochester's teachers have given up tenure and other job security protection in exchange for a top wage of $70,000 and a voice in running the city school system -- helping to decide what should be taught and who should teach it. The contract has drawn the attention of national educators, who praise it as a potential pattern for the future.

It also has drawn the attention of labor relations experts, who are concerned that the type of agreement exemplified by the Rochester contract and other educational reform efforts could ultimately force an end to labor-management cooperation as an emerging force in U.S. industrial relations.

The immediate focus of their concerns is the University of Pittsburgh, which is fighting an attempt by the AFT to organize its faculty. In fighting the organizing effort, the university has gone to the Pennsylvania Public Employee Relations Board and argued that faculty members have a role in what courses should be taught and who should teach them, and therefore are management and cannot form a union.

The argument the school used was the same used by Yeshiva University before the U.S. Supreme Court. Yeshiva said its faculty members had a voice in the operation of the school and were management. The court agreed, ruling essentially that faculty members could not have it both ways under the National Labor Relations Act.

Boston University, a private university like Yeshiva, has since used the same argument in federal court to successfully beat back a union attempt to organize its faculty.

Unlike Yeshiva and Boston universities, the University of Pittsburgh is a state school. A ruling against the union by the state of Pennsylvania could be used by local school boards to decertify teachers unions at the secondary and elementary school levels, where joint labor-management cooperation exists.

If the University of Pittsburgh is successful, AFT President Albert Shanker warned this week that "it essentially will mean an end to education reform in public education."

Shanker called the Pittsburgh situation "one of the most important cases in the country that's in the {legal} pipeline." He said it was of particular concern because Pennsylvania bases its public employee laws on the National Labor Relations Act.

The National Labor Relations Act, also know as the Wagner Act, was approved by Congress in 1935 during a period of enormous labor-management strife. At the time, the notion of labor-management cooperation was probably inconceivable.

The Yeshiva ruling, Shanker said, tells teachers "if you guys want a union you've got to fight with them {management}, don't cooperate." He predicted that if most teachers were faced with the choice of keeping their union or having a voice in the management of the school they would choose the union.

Because of the constant change in school board membership and the turnover in school administrators, Shanker said "you're not going to find anyone in this business willing to place their blind trust in management."

Stephen Schlossberg, Washington director of the International Labor Organization and a former assistant secretary of labor in the Reagan administration, said that at a time when everyone is preaching labor-management cooperation as a way to make U.S. industries more competitive, the idea that the only way you can do it is to put your union in jeopardy is counterproductive.

"It doesn't make any sense," Schlossberg said this week. "Congress didn't intend this. They ought to take a good hard look at it."

Other leading labor relations experts have voiced similar concerns. They argue that it is not an illogical next step for the federal courts to rule that under the National Labor Relations Act any worker who participates in management decisions -- whether it's in a school or an auto plant -- cannot belong to a union.

"The workplace today doesn't happen to be the model of the 1930s," Shanker said. Therefore, he said, the laws must be updated to meet the challenges of today's workplace.