Justin Starling has taught high school English for ten years in the northern Minnesota city of Twin Pines. His experience has convinced him that students in the Twin Pines High School are deficient in writing skill. He searches for ways to combat the deficiency. Part of that search results in his assuming the chairmanship of the teachers' negotiating committee. As chairman, Justin leads a campaign to secure improved conditions for learning through the negotiating process. That campaign places him in opposition to members of the Twin Pines School Board who believe that teachers will sacrifice anything for a simple increase in salary. Connie Shetland, school board member with ambitions for higher political office, has determined that a successful bargaining session with the teachers will usher in opportunities to nourish her ambitions. However, Justin refuses to surrender to her demands and faces Connie's relentless battle to secure, on her terms, a bargain with the teachers' union. He also discovers that as chairman of the teachers' negotiating committee, he faces much more than he bargained for in accepting the position.