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 learn about other contracts or trends in bargaining.
- Education and training: the bargaining committee has access to bargaining training through the UAW Education Department.
- Subject matter experts: whether it is corporate research or understanding chemicals used at work, the departments of the UAW can level the playing field when it comes to employers with deep pockets. For example, the UAW Health and Safety Department worked closely with the UAW bargaining team at Foxwoods Casinos (Local 2121, Region 9A) in Gales Ferry, Connecticut, to develop an air sampling plan to track air quality at “no smoking” gaming tables so pregnant women and people with asthma could work in clean air. They also worked with the bargaining team from multiple Freightliner locations in Region 8 to address significant lung disease found among painters that led to “isocyanate language” in the contract which expanded the sampling and medical monitoring terms.
- Legal: sometimes locals have no recourse but to file charges against their employer. Most locals can handle routine legal matters themselves, but some cases require the help of seasoned litigators.
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