Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Dirty Truth Behind Closed Contract Negotiations

If you ask your average rank-and-file UFCW or Teamsters member when they last attended a contract bargaining session, they'll likely tell you that they've never been to one.  What's the reason for this?  One of the unfortunate truths of the labor movement is that many unions do not permit their own members to attend the negotiation sessions of their own contract.

I asked several Kroger members for an update during their contract campaign last year.  The answer was identical from everyone I talked to.   They could attend a regional meeting to receive an update, but they were never informed of negotiating session locations, or invited to attend.  When I asked several Teamsters from the facility in which I work, they responded that only the Shop Steward was permitted to attend negotiations.

So why is this a big deal?

For starters, and probably most importantly, it's your contract.  I don't know about you, but there is no way in hell that I'm going to let someone negotiate the terms of my employment without me being present so I can witness and approve of what they agree to.  I have always believed that someone who has the opportunity to attend negotiations, and refuses to do so has no right to complain about the shortcomings of their collective bargaining agreement.

If your union doesn't encourage you to attend negotiations, or tries to discourage you from attending, this should be a major red flag.  Ask yourself this question - Why don't they want me to attend?

So why don't unions want their members at negotiations? 

There are two very big secrets that many unions do not want their members to know that contribute to this strategy:

1. Having open negotiations has the potential to show the weakness of the bargaining unit if nobody shows up.  Of course, if a union is doing its job, then it will have the bargaining unit mobilized for negotiations.  Most unions do not spend enough time or resources on this sort of action.  Therefore, it is in their interest to have closed negotiations to keep the employer in the dark.

2. Having closed negotiations allows the union to make whatever deals it wants to make without the members knowledge.  I call this the SEIU strategy.  SEIU has become famous for its backroom deals with employers.  While I mentioned earlier that my local had open negotiations, I was trained to figure out what the members would swallow without going on strike, then to make a deal with management without the members knowing to settle the contract.  Sadly, many unions follow this playbook and negotiate weak contracts instead of organizing their bargaining units into a militant force that can fight concessions.

The bottom line is: It's your contract, your job - Fight for it!

In Solidarity,



  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. These are interesting comments coming from someone who most of the other staff members joke about being so drunk on the purple kool aid that they can't see straight. I haven't said anything on this blog that is not true, or that can't be backed up by solid evidence.

      There is a reason that SEIU is a joke to the rest of the labor movement, and it is the willingness of the organization to sell out its members.

      As for my own case, I didn't file a ULP on SEIU due to the fact that I was a probationary employee due to the weak contract our staff union negotiated before I arrived. I had perfect performance reviews before I fought management for equal treatment and paternity leave. You know as well as I do that they could have gotten the same BS on any staff member that they used against me, I just happened to be probationary.

      Finally, since you decided to get personal, everyone in the staff union knows you are toast as the leader of the staff union due to your indiscretions with a member. They own your ass and you know it.

      I am glad that you're reading my blog, even though we don't see eye to eye.

  2. Let's see Joey, maybe the reason you think I was such a "joke" as the leader of the staff Union was because I do my work FIRST, which is something you always had a problem doing, you had your own personal agenda. As far as being "owned", I expect too work hard for a paycheck, something else you and I don't see eye to eye on. You should know regardless of how "weak" any contract is, every Union member regardless of what Union has a right to file ULP charges. Your disciplines started before requesting your paternal leave, think of your timelines. And no, I don't think anyone on this team has lost a member of 27 years their seniority, nor has anyone currently had charges dismissed d/t not calling a Labor Board Agent back. You have not only attacked the organization, but people who were good to you, invited you into their homes, their lives, tried to be good to you and all you have done in return is shown your ass instead of appreciation. I think your an intelligent, likable person, but you were the one who threw your career away here, no one else but you. Move on before it bites you in the ass.

  3. You are still speaking about things that have no firsthand knowledge of. The member who lost their seniority did so because they never submitted an arbitration report. Also, I allowed the NLRB charge to be dropped because the employer had ceased the activity that caused me to file the charge in the first place.

    I have been critical of the organization for valid reasons, but it has not dominated my blog, or even been a major part of it. I never attacked anyone personally, which you have decided to take it upon yourself to do, which is the only reason I responded.

    My fight with paternity leave started initially in June at the staff retreat(that was when Kathy instructed us to rig the WV Member VP race - remember our team meeting on Friday morning?) Everything really ramped up a few weeks after I raised issues of equal work distribution, etc.

    The bottom line is, there is a ton of stuff I could easily have publicized, but I haven't. I've moved on, I bear no ill will towards anyone, regardless of what I may think about them or the organization. I am thankful for some valuable friendships I made, even if they were strained by circumstances beyond my control. I will continue to call a spade a spade be it with SEIU or any other labor organization as I see fit.