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The Collective Bargaining Process — A Roll of the Dice

Collective bargaining is an uncertain process. It can be a roll of the dice. Below are some frequently asked questions about collective bargaining:

Q: What would be in a union contract?
A: No one knows.

Q: What does Collective Bargaining mean?
A: It means the company and the union would have to talk. That’s all.

“Collective bargaining” means only that a company and a union have to meet at reasonable times to discuss in good faith wages, benefits, hours and working conditions. It does not mean they have to reach an agreement.

No company is obligated to improve wages or benefits just because a union asks. As a result of good faith bargaining, employees could get more, the same or less than they currently have. If the IAM is telling you different, it is simply untrue.
(Sources: NLRB case – Coach and Equipment Sales Corp.; National Labor Relations Act Section 8D)

Q: How does the process work?
A: Everything is on the table. Generally, things remain the same while bargaining is taking place. But during bargaining, everything – wages, benefits, policies and working conditions – is on the table and subject to negotiations.

Both parties exchange proposals – collective bargaining is a process of give and take.

  • A company’s proposals are generally tailored to its financial and market condition, future prospects and customer needs. Boeing bargains in good faith, but its approach is always designed to meet its business objectives.
  • A union, of course, has its own agenda. What matters most to them is when and how it can collect your dues. A union might also trade away some items to get a quick contract so that it can start collecting dues.
    (Source: NLRB case – Midwestern Instruments)

Q: What if a company and union cannot agree?
A: If a company and a union reach an impasse, the company can put into effect the proposals it made to the union whether the union agrees or not. If a company and a union cannot agree after bargaining, the union has three choices:

  • The union can accept the company’s proposals;
  • The union can walk away from the employees, or
  • The union can go on strike.

(Source: NLRB case – Atlas Tack Corp.)

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