Welcome to UFCW Local 400!
As you have likely learned through the process of forming a union in your workplace, a union is simply a group of workers who join together to have a greater say in their working conditions. When employees join together and form a union or “organize,” they increase their ability to bring permanent, positive change to their workplace. Once you achieve recognition, your employer is required by law to bargain with you over your conditions of employment.
Collective bargaining is the process of formal negotiation that takes place between union representatives and management representatives for the purpose of determining wages, benefits, and working conditions for all workers in a bargaining unit.
It’s only as part of a united group that workers can gain the economic and legal leverage necessary to bargain with their employer. One person telling management that wages or working conditions should be improved does not carry the same weight as a bargaining proposal that represents all of the workers. For this reason, bargaining a first contract is considered the last stage in a successful organizing drive.
Overview of Bargaining Process
To get the conversation started, below is a basic overview of the bargaining process:
This is the stage of the process where you figure out what your fellow members care most about. But member input is not only about what members want, but also what members are willing to do to get what they want! You can tell us what your priorities are by filling out a bargaining survey.
Member input is not only important at the beginning of bargaining. As the process unfolds and the bargaining committee has to make tough decisions, it is important to communicate with members so that the union’s decisions at the table reflect the unit’s priorities.
The role of the bargaining committee is to:
- Spend time learning to function cooperatively as a team
- Research employer
- Bargain with management
- Mobilize members in support of bargaining demands
Develop reports to membership
- Organize ratification
Bargaining committee members are paid for all hours spent at the bargaining table and in bargaining preparation sessions.
Bargaining committee members are expected to be present for all negotiation sessions. They should also not be planning to leave FRESHFARM in the near future. Bargaining may last for months, and may involve up to 10 hours a week when we are actually at the bargaining table with management.
Once the bargaining committee has a clear understanding of member priorities, they turn those priority issues into proposals to present at the bargaining table. This is an ongoing process throughout bargaining.
The Bargaining Process
The process of exchanging proposals is a broad negotiation of power.
During the bargaining process, the union has the opportunity to explain our point of view to the employer (what issues are priorities, what changes members would like to see). This often includes pressuring the employer to agree to our demands, particularly when the employer does not share the union’s point of view.
The bargaining process, however, also requires understanding the employer’s feedback, as well as their priorities and constraints. This helps the union and bargaining committee think strategically about where to apply increased pressure, and where to compromise or make sacrifices. Part of bargaining does include finding common ground.
As management agrees or objects to certain proposals, the bargaining committee adjusts proposal language based on ongoing conversations with members and the employer.
Once the bargaining committee has agreed to a set of proposals with the employer (this can take weeks, months, and in some cases years!), in most cases, the proposals will be made into legally enforceable contract language and presented to the membership as a tentative agreement.
Ratification and Implementation
Because unions are democratic institutions, typically, the bargaining committee cannot finalize a contract without the approval of a majority of workers in the union. This is known as ratification.
The only time contracts go into effect is if a majority of the members voting agrees. Part of the role of the bargaining committee is to educate fellow members about the bargaining process, as well as the merits and disadvantages of the agreement. If workers vote to ratify the contract, it will go into effect. If not, the bargaining committee will go back to the table with management to address core member concerns that weren’t reflected in the tentative agreement.
Once a contract is signed and ratified, it is time to enforce it! Once a contract is in effect, members must constantly work to enforce it, maintain it, and improve upon it in future contracts. Our contract is only words on paper unless members of the union make sure management follows it. Identifying, recruiting and developing workplace stewards is a critical component to maintaining an organized workplace with sufficient power to hold management accountable to the bargaining agreement and win even better wages, benefits and working conditions in future contracts.
Membership Meeting: 7pm, Tue, April 4
Our next general meeting is scheduled for 7:00 p.m., Tuesday, April 4, 2023. We will provide a comprehensive overview of the negotiations process and make important decisions about the composition of the bargaining committee.
Take the Bargaining Survey
As we negotiate our first contract with FRESHFARM, we need your input! Take our brief survey to help us set priorities for contract negotiations: