About Bargaining

Bargaining Terminology and Concepts

Table Discussions – Union and Management bargaining teams sit together to discuss proposals. Only bargaining team members can speak during table discussions.

Caucuses – Union and Management bargaining teams discuss proposals privately. When you attend a bargaining session, this is when you get to be a part of the conversation. The bargaining teams will nearly always hold a caucus before making major decisions.

Contract – An official agreement between employers and employees that is legally binding.

Clause – One section of a contract, also called an article.

Proposals – Rather than passing a whole contract back and forth between the bargaining teams, negotiations happen one clause at a time. In general, the Union bargaining team writes a potential clause or ‘proposal’ and the Management team responds with a counter-proposal. After negotiating back and forth as much as is necessary to find language that is acceptable to both sides, the proposal becomes a tentative agreement.

Tentative Agreement – Not as tentative as the name implies, a tentative agreement can’t be opened back up for negotiation once it is reached (unless both sides agree there is a good reason). Tentative agreements become clauses in the tentative contract.

Ratification – When all of the tentative agreements have been put together into a tentative contract, the union members will vote on whether or not to make it legally binding. This process is called ratification.

Bargaining Subjects – The bargaining process covers everything that goes into the contract, but there are some rules about what can and cannot be discussed.

Mandatory Subjects – Things that must be discussed include wages, benefits, grievances, strike/lockout policies, union security, and management rights.

Illegal Subjects – Essentially, you can’t write contract language that goes against existing state or federal law.

Permissive Subjects – Literally anything that is not defined as one of the other two subject types.