The supposed payoff for an employee of a unionized company is the all-powerful union contract. From the union’s side, dues cannot be extracted from their new members until a contract is in place, so they are the party with the greatest degree of desperation in the fight to secure a ratified contract.
Economic realities are forcing unions to face increasingly contentious negotiations, for both first contracts and renewal contracts. The union website LaborNotes provides some insight to the strategies unions are pursuing, or considering pursuing, in light of these realities.
To help push through first contracts after a successful organizing drive, recommended actions include:
- pressuring employees to visibly support the bargaining team
- begin acting like new “union rules” are already in place
- rally the support of community leaders to pressure management to reach a contract
- attempt to heal the divisions created by the organizing drive, so the “no” voters don’t sabotage the bargaining process by encouraging management to hold out.
Read between the lines to identify some helpful management strategies.
In companies where existing contracts expire, and a quick settlement on new terms doesn’t seem forthcoming, unions have three basic choices:
- agree with the employer to extend the contract for a fixed or an indefinite period
- strike, or
- work without a contract.
Most of the time, unions have tended to lean toward the first two options, but LaborNotes posits that the third option may be a more viable strategy. Although there are risks to the union associated with this strategy, there is also a different set of risks to the employers operating under this status. If you are a unionized employer, this article is recommended reading.