A union contract is the most effective legal document that a worker has on an employer’s ability to determine worker wages, hours and working conditions. Without a contract, a worker is considered an “at-will” employee and subject to the commands of the employer.
With your input as a union member, a contract has been negotiated with your employer on your behalf – a contract which is a legally binding document specifying your wages and wage progression, your rights on the job, your vacation, your healthcare benefits and pension, and nearly all other conditions of your employment. Should your employer violate any terms of this contract, a grievance procedure is firmly in place to resolve the problem.
Your contract is valid for a specified period of time and, upon its expiration, a new contract is negotiated by a committee comprised of trained union negotiators and rank & file union members.
Before negotiations begin, the committee asks for input from all members who will be affected by the contract (or the Bargaining Unit).
When negotiations conclude, and a tentative agreement is reached between the union bargaining committee and the company, the contract is presented to the members of the bargaining unit for a vote to accept or reject it.
Although the committee will recommend acceptance or rejection to the voting members, the final vote by the members ultimately determines whether the contract will take effect. The contract is ratified only when more than 50% of voting members vote to accept it.
Every contract is different, so one of the most positive things that you, as a union member, can do for yourself is be familiar with your union contract. To get the most out of it… be sure you know what’s in it!