One of the fundamental jobs of a union as the "collective bargaining agent" of employees is the task of collective bargaining (also known as negotiations). However, collective bargaining is also one of the least understood aspects of labor relations.
If you were to become unionized, the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) does mandate that negotiations between your employer and the union employee must occur in "good faith."
However, negotiating in good faith does not mean that the parties must agree. In fact the National Labor Relations Board specifically states that:
"The obligation [to bargain] does not compel either party to agree to a proposal by the other, nor does it require either make a concession to the other."
In other words, while the parties are legally obliged to bargain, they are also free to disagree. There's also NO requirement for the parties to even reach an agreement or have a contract. This is why negotiations sometimes lead to strikes. [For more information on union strikes, go here.]
This is also why, according to published reports, labor unions are failing to achieve contracts 45% of the time for newly unionized employees.
IF YOU BECOME UNIONIZED, HERE ARE SOME THINGS THE UNION MAY NOT TELL YOU:
Status Quo = Nothing Changes. While your employer and the union are in the process of negotiations, generally everything stays the same for employees. Things typically do not get better, nor do things get worse while negotiations are ongoing...they just stay the same. This is true whether negotiations takes several weeks, several months, or even several years.
A time consuming process. Collective bargaining is often a time-consuming and tedious process that can span many weeks, months and even years. This is especially true in first-time negotiations (when employees first become unionized). The reason is everything that you and your co-workers have can be placed on the negotiations table and is "up for grabs."
What is typically negotiated? Mandatory subjects of negotiations include major items such as your wages, hours of work, and other terms and conditions of employment. Things like Thanksgiving Turkeys or uniform allowances are items that would normally be considered mandatory subjects of negotiations. [Go here to see what many unions are interested in negotiating into contracts.]
You can lose as a result of bargaining. While union organizers may try to mislead you into thinking that, by unionizing, you cannot lose. this is simply not true.
While the things you have can improve as a result of negotiations, you may not know that you can LOSE wages or the things you currently have (like benefits or time off). In fact, the National Labor Relations Board, in key cases, has affirmed the following:
“There is, of course, no obligation on the part of an employer to contract to continue all existing benefits, nor is it an unfair labor practice to offer reduced benefits.” [Midwest Instruments, 133 NLRB NO. 115]
“Collective bargaining is potentially hazardous for employees and as a result of such negotiations, employees could wind up with less benefits after unionization than before.” [Coach & Equipment Sales Corp., 228 NLRB NO. 51]
Before you or your co-workers allow a union organizer to trick you into turning your rights over to a union, it is vitally important that a union NO greater power than you have without a union. Further, a union's bargaining power at any bargaining table stems from your wilingness to withhold your labor—that is to go out on strike—for that is the union's ultimate weapon. [For more on union strikes, go here.]
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