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The goal of collective bargaining is to win better working conditions for you and your coworkers.   

Collective bargaining is a process through which your union and employer negotiate proposed changes to your existing collective bargaining agreement, or contract. This same process is also used to negotiate contracts for the first time.

The bargaining process is a multi-step process which includes the exchanging of proposals between the union and your employer until an agreement is reached. This process can take 6 weeks to 6 months or longer depending on the complexity that may be involved for each individual contract.

Once an agreement has been reached and workers have ratified (approved) the agreement, the resulting contract is legally binding for both parties.

While different sectors of organized labor have their own variation of bargaining, here is how our process generally unfolds.

1. Preparations

Research is collected to determine a package of proposed changes. Research may consist of survey cards filled out by workers or various documents we request from the employer.

Preparations also include selecting a bargaining committee through a set process.

2. Negotiations

After ground rules have been set, proposed changes are exchanged and each party may share the reasoning behind their proposal.

Negotiations include several rounds of back and forth before reaching a tentative agreement.

If the union and the employer cannot come to an agreement, a neutral person (mediator) may be called to assist in negotiating key differences.

3. Ratification

After a tentative agreement is reached, a ratification meeting is held for members to vote on the contract proposal via secret ballot.

If the tentative agreement is rejected, negotiations continue until a new agreement is reached and another ratification meeting is held.

4. Signing the Contract

After ratification, a draft contract is written. Revisions are made until both parties agree with the new language and sign the finalized contract.

From drafting the new contract to signing it, this process may take months depending on the complexity and risk involved. Contract language is very important as it can determine the outcome of grievances and arbitration cases for the length of the contract.

5. Revisions

At any time during the term of the contract, revisions can only be made with the agreement of both parties. Revisions are usually made when new or unforeseen issues are identified.

Revisions are typically implemented via a separate document called a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA), Letter of Understanding (LOU) or Letter of Agreement (LOA).