First Contracts: How to Avoid Delay, Disappointment and Decertification

Source: Alexandra Bradbury, Labor Notes, January 29, 2013

The day a new union is certified, the clock starts ticking. After one year, if there’s no contract, the company gets its next chance to bust the union: a minority of workers can file a petition to decertify, and the Labor Board will schedule another vote. If this is the boss’s game plan…bargaining is an exercise in delay. What makes getting a first contract so tough? As anyone who’s been through it knows, the boss’s tactics can work—people get scared and change their minds—so you have to keep asking supporters to confirm, reconfirm, and re-reconfirm where they stand. People who don’t like conflict—which is most people—may start avoiding you. Turning out support, first for the vote and then for a contract campaign, requires calling a co-worker at home if you can’t track her down at work, and showing up on her doorstep if you can’t get her on the phone. … When you do finally talk to her, she may blame the union for the tension and fear she is feeling. Multiply this by months and months. … But it’s not impossible. Plenty of workers win strong first contracts. I asked workers and organizers from four campaigns—three victorious, one still fighting it out—for their top strategic tips. …