Once a Union is Formed

Negotiating a Contract

Once the company recognizes the union (via card check) or the union wins an NLRB election, the company and union must negotiate a contract which spells out terms of employment for those workers eligible for the contract. Usually, the union bargaining team is com-posed of leaders from the organizing commit-tee and union representatives familiar with contracts and bargaining.

Negotiating a contract is referred to as collective bargaining. When relations between unions and management are decent, contracts can usually be agreed to in a relatively short period of time – a few days, a few weeks or at most, a few months. Negotiations that drag on longer than a few months usually do so because a company does not want a contract. Unfortunately, 32 percent of workers in the U.S. who vote for a union for the first time never get a contract.

Enforcing the Contract

A union contract sets forth the terms of employment and a grievance mechanism for dealing with disagreements. A shop steward is the person who assists workers in filing grievances and using the grievance process. The union has a legal obligation to assist workers in the process. A shop steward is usually a worker who has special training in understanding the contract.

Renewing the Contract

Because contracts are for specific periods of time, such as one year or three years, the contract will “come up for renewal.” For most union-management relations, this is a fairly straightforward process. In other situations, it can become contentious.

The traditional way for workers to exercise pressure on a company is to go on strike. This is almost always a last resort for because it is so hard on their families.