Winning a strong first contract takes the same (or sometimes more) effort and focus as winning recognition for your union. So, our organizing goal must always be to win recognition and a first contract.
understand the opposition
Your first fight may be about getting any contract, not what’s in the contract. Many employers who want to oppose the union also try to make the first contract process fail to frustrate the organizing effort. If they succeed at stalling the process, this can communicate to people that having a union doesn’t make any difference. This is why you must win!
it's only a first contract once
Do not miss this opportunity to engage co-workers and show your employer what it means to have a union. The choices you make together about what you do and how you do it will shape your union for years to come. People are watching.
What you do outside of negotiations will have more impact on what kind of contract you get than what happens across the bargaining table. Smart people and expert negotiators talking across the table can’t compete with organized people showing the employer what we intend to fight for and why it matters to us, our families and our communities.
Put organizing principles into action
Good organizing campaign principles still apply. Do the same things in a contract campaign that you would do in the election campaign: leadership committee, outreach, build and show majority support around issues people care about, engage individuals in actions that demonstrate that power in numbers work. Some Ideas:
- Run an election for the bargaining team in a way that makes it representative of the workforce.
- Have a goal of getting a majority of people to participate in the bargaining team election and run it with the same level of focus and attention to detail that won the recognition election.
- Create a “Contract Action Team” to be your organizing committee during the contract campaign.
- Engage leaders in every step of organizing so they can run meetings, do turnout, plan actions, sign up members for years to come!
- Find opportunities to engage lots of people in surveys and actions and connect your message to people’s priorities and negotiation sessions.
- Develop a message to interpret what’s happening in negotiations and connect people’s actions and participation in the union to results at the bargaining table.
- Avoid ground rules that restrict your organizing activity.