A union is a “no lose” proposition.
Weaker organizers just promise employees will get a big raise or improved benefits if they vote in a union. Smarter organizers (and the weaker ones when it becomes clear they are dealing with an employee who knows how bargaining actually works) will say something like the union would never agree to cuts in current wages and benefits, so employees can only win.
The facts? Bargaining is a two-way street and unions regularly agree to lesser pay, benefits or work conditions in a first contract. Unions need a contract once they are voted in – no contract, no dues and the enormous investment in the organizing effort is lost. Of course this always depends on the relative bargaining power of the parties, but most of the time – especially in today’s tough market – unions have to agree to concessions to get that first contract.
Unions have institutional goals in contract negotiations (like dues checkoff and union
security) that smart companies will only agree to in exchange for something else. That something else is normally something employees either currently enjoy or something the union promised they’d get during the organizing campaign.
Any former organizer (and even current organizers if they are “off the record”) will tell you that as soon as an election is won the job becomes lowering expectations of the new members. Why would that be true? Because nobody would vote in a union if they thought they would pay dues for less pay and benefits. Unions are also great at “spinning” concessions at the bargaining table.
The bottom line is that there is no such thing as a free lunch. Negotiations are full of trade-offs from the two sides to the contract. Some will benefit the union (notice I did not say the employees – the employees are not a party to the contract). And some will benefit the company. If that doesn’t happen there won’t be an agreement.
That’s not to say that employees won’t benefit at all under the new agreement. The union has to get an agreement that benefits them and politically won’t get them voted out of office (not an easy thing to do – more on that tomorrow). But the company has to get a contract they can live with. If that happens there will be a contract – even if
that agreement cuts some of the current pay, benefits or work conditions of employees. If not, no deal.
Is your organizer using this lie with your employees? There are 2 really effective ways to
overcome this lie in an organizing campaign.
1. Give employees a Warranty Coupon Book. Organizers hate these. These are coupons an
employee actually gives to a union organizer, forcing them to “put up or shut up.” You should get one per employee.
2. Show employees a video that explains how the bargaining process actually works in real life. This is the best one available (full of actual testimonials from real people – not actors).