What to know about collective bargaining and securing a first contract

When workers start a union at their workplace, they are able to negotiate a fair contract with their employer which helps employees create a fair workplace. Collective bargaining is the beginning point for a union to secure a contract. Learn more about collective bargaining and what you can do to help secure a first contract for your coworkers.

What is collective bargaining and what does it involve? 

Collective bargaining (sometimes called contract negotiations) is when workers work together to negotiate with an employer to improve their working conditions. This can include wages, hours and overtime, healthcare coverage, health and safety, seniority, and more. The employees, or bargaining unit, will select a few of their co-workers to act as representatives. And with the support of Teamsters 987, representatives will have discussions and will collect information on what working conditions should be improved and/or any issues that need to be resolved. Collective bargaining will then occur between the collective representatives and the employer to come to an agreement that is voted on by all of the workers; this is called the ratification process. The bargaining agreement will only be implemented if the majority of the workers agree to the terms.

How do unions participate in the process of collective bargaining? 

Unions play an important role in collective bargaining by increasing the power of workers’ voices and ensuring that their needs and concerns are addressed in negotiations with employers. When workers start a union, they become part of a collective that provides representation to workers if and when collective bargaining (or negotiations) with employers are needed. This allows workers within a unionized workplace to exercise greater control over their working environment and ensure fair treatment of all employees. Unions also provide a support system for their members during negotiations by providing legal advice and organizing activities.

How important are first contracts in setting the tone for future agreements between unions and employers?

The first agreement outlines the roles and responsibilities of both sides and generally includes the rules for working conditions, like:

  • wages and overtime
  • health and safety
  • benefits and bonuses
  • seniority

First contracts include fair minimum standards and outline how unions and employers should conduct themselves throughout their ongoing collective bargaining relationship. They play an important role in helping to build trust and set a positive tone for future agreements.

Negotiating that first contract can be challenging and you’ll need a lot of patience during these early stages. But it’s important to know your rights.

Thinking of unionizing or want to know more about negotiating with your employer? We’re here to guide you through every step of the unionizing process: get in touch with us.

What’s next in the process: 5 Steps to Organizing Your Co-Workers

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