Category: Bargaining 101:

Strike Threat Gets Management’s Attention

It’s a standard practice when a union is bargaining to ask members for a strike vote. It’s both a show of confidence in the bargaining team and the first salvo toward management that union members are united as they head into negotiations. The ramping up doesn’t stop there. The real pressure on management comes when the bargaining team sets a strike deadline. A strike is simply the act of workers withholding their labor, which, at the end of the day, is the only thing management wants from its workers. It’s a legally protected activity, but it is not without cost – both ... Read more

Building Agreement Upon Agreement

When a UAW bargaining team heads to the table, negotiators begin with management where they left off in the last agreement.  This happens because of well-established federal labor law that holds that when a contract expires, the employer must maintain all terms and conditions of employment until a new contract is ratified or imposed if the parties are at true impasse (which means the parties were not able to reach an agreement after exhausting good faith bargaining). In practice, this means it is illegal for companies to tell workers who are organizing that they will “start from zero” when they ... Read more

Subjects of Bargaining

One area that the law is clear about is what unions and employers must and can bargain over.   “Mandatory subjects of bargaining” include the terms and conditions of employment.  That means wages, over time, benefits, etc.   If management does not bargain over these subjects in good faith, then the employer has committed an “unfair labor practice.” Issues that are indirectly related to the terms and conditions of employment are called “permissive subjects of bargaining.”  On these subjects, the parties only negotiate if both agree.   These include things like issues relating to current retirees, how a product will be manufactured or ... Read more

Members are the Highest Authority

Members elect their local leaders, run their local union, elect their negotiators, vote on the contract and elect their grievance handlers.  Without question, the strength of our union begins and ends with membership. This is especially true when it comes to bargaining.  Bargaining proposals are rooted in the information collected from members.  Whether it is a formal survey or discussions at union meetings, members give input to their leadership on bargaining priorities.  Top issues are identified and help form the basis of the union’s bargaining proposal to the employer. Another way that members participate in shaping the bargaining agenda is ... Read more

Pattern Bargaining

Pattern bargaining started as a collective bargaining strategy in which unionized workers across an industry or sector attempt to bargain uniform standards in their contracts. UAW autoworkers started this practice right after World War II, and by 1955, the UAW contracts with the major automakers set the same pattern wages and had the same contract expiration date. Pattern bargaining serves an important purpose: it levels the playing field so companies compete based on the quality of their products or services not how much they pay (or don’t pay) their workers. This was the vision of Walter Reuther, who wanted to ... Read more

Why It Gets Quiet Once Negotiations Start

After the bargaining committee is elected, has collected member priorities, and received training, the next step is to head to the table to begin bargaining. For members, this can be one of the most frustrating parts of bargaining because most bargaining committees do not provide reports to membership during this time.   This information “blackout” can lead to frustration and even suspicion.  But there is a very good reason for it. Bargainers negotiate entire agreements, not piecemeal parts.  So what is true on Monday when the team agreed to language on overtime might change by Tuesday when they are talking about ... Read more

The Bargaining Team Doesn’t Go In Alone

Sitting across the table from management can be intimidating.  They sometimes have lawyers representing them at the bargaining table, and it’s a simple matter for them to hire experts to flood bargaining with information and arguments as to why workers should give up their hard-won rights. But UAW bargaining committees do not head into bargaining alone.  UAW resources support the committee in several key ways: Servicing staff: each unit within the UAW works with a specifically assigned servicing staff. Many servicing staff were themselves local union leaders who served on bargaining committees. Servicing staff can be an invaluable resource to ... Read more

Where the Right to Bargain Comes From

It’s easy to forget that that the policy of the United States is to encourage “the practice and procedure of collective bargaining.”  (National Labor Relations Act, Foreword) The reason why is simple:  the federal government regulates free commerce, and it believes that collective bargaining is a useful tool to reduce obstacles to commerce.  Thomas Perez, current U.S. Secretary of Labor calls collective bargaining, “a cornerstone of a free society and indispensable to a strong middle class.” The right to collectively bargain for most workers in the private sector rests on a handful of words contained in the National Labor Relations ... Read more

What is a Bargaining Committee?

UAW members are represented at the bargaining table by their bargaining committee.  The committee is elected pursuant to the local union bylaws, and their size and composition varies depending on the size of the local and the nature of the agreement. The committee’s job is to attend all negotiating meetings, and do the necessary research and fact-finding to ensure that member’s interests are protected. The committee should also be aware of member priorities and concerns and be prepared to update membership when appropriate. Some contracts fall under the umbrella of a “national agreement” which is a master agreement covering multiple ... Read more