As the dust settles from the recent 3 day strike, I wanted to take a moment to talk about bargaining a contract. The process itself is something that should represent a simple procedure but unfortunately the reality is much different. The union’s goals are established from the concerns submitted by the members; while the company’s goals are very much driven by high level business unit leaders and large investors.
As you can imagine, the ideas presented by both parties are typically worlds apart. This usually results in a very drawn out and difficult journey when attempting to reach a fair agreement.
The committee, elected by the local union’s delegates, attempts to bargain over every concern submitted to them. The company in turn presents their proposals and attempts to dismantle every union proposal and in most cases the company even attempts to take away current contract provisions. We refer to this as retrogressive bargaining.
The company starts by taking away what you already have and they spends months of bargaining making the union team fight back to the point of what we already had. It can be grueling and difficult to say the least. I have been there personally 2 times in the wireline contract negotiations. The union team is there to bargain the best contract they can reach. It does not mean they will attain every item they presented but their task is to reach the best agreement they can reach before putting it out to you for your vote. Yes, every current member gets to vote on any tentative agreement reached by the bargaining table. You have the power to vote yes or no!
I’ve been hearing “we went on a 3 day strike so why do we not have an agreement yet?”
Well, there is no simple answer. I am not privy to any of the details of what is occurring at the table but I believe there is no agreement because the union team has not reached a point that they believe they have attained as much as they can for your contract. The 3 day strike was intended to send a stern message to the company that we are willing to fight for the contract we deserve. That message was clearly sent and no doubt it has moved bargaining forward but not yet to the finish line. Your actions were both historic and heroic. The company had dismissed your threat to strike and clearly you did. This was needed to move bargaining forward and that progress has been reported in the reports.
WE ARE NOT DONE! The fight is not over. You must continue to educate yourself and mobilize when asked. We will be working on a plan to do “flash mob” picketing at select locations until we reach a tentative agreement. I certainly hope the company finds the backbone to deliver a fair agreement for your job security, benefits, attendance plan and commissions plan very soon. You deserve that decency and have earned every bit of it. You deliver and so far the company has not. Hold your head high, you are the 6% of America that can fight for fairness and you are doing so.
Tim Strong and your Local 4900 Executive Board