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Federal law states, "Collective bargaining is one of the keystones of the Act." Collective Bargaining is the ONLY thing a union wins when they win the right to represent a group of employees. It is imperative for employees to understand and appreciate what collective bargaining means, how it works, and what the potential consequences can be as result of the process. Federal law warns employees, "to bear in mind several cautions" when considering the process of collective bargaining.

Collective Bargaining Defined. Collective bargaining is defined in the Act. Section 8(d) requires an employer and the representative of its employees to meet at reasonable times, to confer in good faith about certain matters, and to put into writing any agreement reached if requested by either party. The parties must confer in good faith with respect to wages, hours, and other terms or conditions of employment, the negotiation of an agreement, or any question arising under an agreement.

In lay terms, Collective Bargaining means that both, Via 313 and the RWU, MUST agree to attempt to negotiate a contract. The two parties cannot refuse to negotiate. The Employer and the Union representatives MUST do three (3) things:

  1. MEET (at a reasonable time and place),

  2. WRITE down anything the 2 parties agree to, and

  3. Negotiate in GOOD FAITH.


The law goes on to say, the obligation and "the duty to bargain is imposed equally on the employer and the representative of its employees. It is an unfair labor practice [against federal law] for either party to refuse to bargain collectively with the other.


Does the Company have to Agree to a Contract? NO. "The obligation [of collective bargaining] does not, however, compel either party to agree to a proposal by the other, nor does it require either party to make a concession to the other." In summary, Via 313 NEVER has to agree to any contract, or make concessions, with the RWU on behalf of the represented employees.

The law goes on to say, the Employer and the Union must approach negotiations with an "Open Mind". But again, the law clarifies, "while a union may try in contract negotiations to establish wages and benefits comparable to those contained in other bargaining agreements in the area, it may not insist on such terms without giving the employer an opportunity to bargain about the terms.

What does GOOD FAITH Mean?  There are thousands of NLRB cases which address this question. In determining whether a party is bargaining in good faith, the NLRB will look at the totality of the circumstances. The duty to bargain in good faith is an obligation to participate actively in the deliberations so as to indicate a present intention to find a basis for agreement. This implies both an open mind and a sincere desire to reach an agreement as well as a sincere effort to reach a common ground. The additional requirement to bargain in "good faith" ensures that the Employer and Union did not come to the bargaining table and simply go through the motions. Conduct away from the bargaining table may also be relevant. For instance if an Employer were to make a unilateral change in the terms and conditions of employees employment without bargaining, that would be an indication of bad faith.

How Long Can Negotiations Take? There is no time limit to the collective bargaining process. Negotiations usually takes several rounds, especially when attempting to reach a first contract, and can take months to years in attempt to reach a contract. Recent data from Bloomberg Law, demonstrates that the average time to reach a first contract in now 465 days. The data goes on to demonstrate that of the contracts reached, ONLY 47% reach an agreement in the 1st year. Further data from the Center of American Progress states, only 56% of union won elections reach a contract at all. Unions fail to reach a contract with employers 44%

Why does Negotiations take so long? Negotiations generally entail both, the Employer and Union, putting on competing proposals covering the full gamut of issues from wages, benefits, paid time off, overtime, job bidding, to work rules, there is a lot of ground to cover. The pandemic injected a host of new issues to cover as well, such a personal protective equipment, social distancing policies, etc. In situations where the parties are working toward a first contract, that often means they are building the contract from the ground up and have no foundation to work from. It should be expected that every word, every letter, is heavily scrutinized in its meaning. Since federal law extends the luxury of a 1-year Certification Bar, the union and the company are typically not in a rush to get an agreement. Besides, employees need to accept that the Employer will only agree to an Agreement that does not jeopardize its ability to be efficient, flexible and control unnecessary cost.


What if Via and RWU CANNOT agree to a Contract?  If RWU supporters haven't told you about IMPASSE, they're missing out a pretty important topic. The law says, "Your union and employer must bargain in good faith until they either agree on a labor contract or reach a stand-off or “impasse.” If negotiations reach an impasse, an employer can impose terms and conditions of their last offer so long as it offered them to the union before impasse was reached. Once a contract is in place, neither party may deviate from its terms without the other party’s consent, absent extraordinary circumstances. 

Well, as a union, you always have the other option TO GO ON STRIKE!

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