Revised by Douglas Swanson, June 2022
Original author: Paul Rainsberger, JD

The goals of the union

The specific issues in any negotiations reflect the concerns of the local union involved, its membership, and the business.  There are general goals that are likely to be present in most bargaining agendas.  They are in broad categories — institutional, economic, and non-economic goals. These classifications are not rigid as many issues will overlap the broad categories. Thinking of them in this way may present a useful method for the evaluating specific bargaining goals and objectives.

Institutional goals

The status of the union as the representative of the bargaining unit is an important element in determining, maintaining, and expanding union bargaining power. Organizational security and the integrity of the union as bargaining representative are two such broad goals. In addition, adding the voice of the workers via the union in their jobs and in their interactions with management at work are important institutional goals of the union.

Specific issues that may be negotiated under the broad heading of union institutional goals include:

  • Recognition clauses
  • Union security provisions
  • The number and rights of stewards and officers on the job
  • Preferential seniority for union representatives
  • Pay for stewards and negotiators for collective bargaining activities
  • Provisions for union-related leaves of absence
  • In-plant posting of union literature
  • Provisions for union-initiated grievances
  • Limitations on management rights
  • Union participation in capital decisions of the employer
  • Contract term, expiration and renegotiation provisions
  • Preservation of bargaining unit work

Economic goals

Economic security for the members of a bargaining unit represented for purposes of collective bargaining is a major category of subjects of bargaining. It is important to distinguish between economic security and job security, but both may be reflected in the actual bargaining agenda of the union. Wages and benefits are obvious examples of provisions related to the economic security of the represented workers, but there are many other issues with direct implications for the job and economic security of the membership.

Examples of bargaining subjects related to the economic goals of the union include:

  • Wages or salaries, and the method for payment of wages
  • Protection of wages from the effects of inflation
  • Premium pay for shift, overtime, emergency and related work
  • Pension eligibility and benefit levels
  • Health insurance benefits and the cost of such insurance to workers
  • Other insurance for life, accident and disability
  • Supplements to unemployment and workers' compensation benefits
  • Hours of work
  • Vacation, holidays and leave of absence eligibility
  • Compensation for time not worked.

Non-economic goals

Non-economic items may also be major issues in the bargaining goals of the union. While employers are likely to see an economic impact of virtually all proposals of the union, non-economic items are much more directly related to the conditions under which work is performed that the compensation received for that work. Examples of common non-economic issues in bargaining include:

  • Seniority provisions
  • The application of seniority for movement into and out of jobs
  • Overtime limits and equalization
  • Shift and other work preferences
  • Protection against unjust disciplinary action
  • Grievance procedures
  • Limits on the right of management to direct and control work
  • Work, production and performance standards