A union contract is a legal document that spells out your rights, your job security and your benefits. When workers come together and vote for a union, the employer is legally required to bargain with the union on all matters affecting your employment. The Union draws up a contract proposal addressing worker concerns based on meetings, discussions and worker survey results. The Union then presents its proposals to management. You can negotiate for any and all reasonable items that affect you on your job. Contracts usually last between 3 to 5 years.
How are contracts settled? In order for a contract to be ratified after negotiations are completed, a majority of the workers voting must approve the proposed contract settlement. If a majority vote against the proposed settlement, the Union will go back to the bargaining table, or ask the employees to vote on whether or not to strike. Strikes, which require a two-thirds majority vote, are rare and only occur as a last resort. Managers, union leaders, security guards, etc.… are not allowed to vote on a contract.
What are the benefits of the Union? When workers stick together as a union, they have bargaining power and a collective voice that they simply do not have when they are not unionized. Non-union workers have limited rights and can be fired ‘at-will’. Non-union workers also find that the rules can change at the whim of the employer. With a union contract, everything is spelled out in black and white, as decided upon between the workers’ negotiating committee and the employer during bargaining. These set rules don’t change until workers renegotiate. Guaranteed raises, holidays, vacations and hours can all be defined by a contract.
In addition, discipline and discharge isn’t at the whim of the employer for union members. There are certain rules management must go through, a series of steps, to show they have just cause for your discipline or discharge. Throughout those steps, a union representative works on your behalf to represent you and ensure you get a fair deal and your rights are protected.