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

In preparation for negotiations, it is important for union leaders to think in terms of "solidarity”, “in the "interests of the membership," in “the common good”. It is also important to remember that unions are complex and dynamic organizations. That means defining the interests of the membership may be a perplexing task. Solidarity, in the union as in any community-based interest group, is based not on the definition of a single set of issues in which all agree. Solidarity is based on an organizations internal capacity to recognize and accommodate many diverse interests. Union bargaining power is based not on the lowest common denominator of membership concerns but on the ability of many diverse groups to recognize and support the goals of others in the organization.

To move toward this level of solidarity, it is important to understand some basic elements of organizational dynamics and group behavior. Bargaining power reflects the internal dynamics of the union as much as it is a function of relationships with the relevant employers. The power of a bargaining committee relative to the employer is directly affected by the capacity of the committee to operate on a solid base of membership support. If you are not engaging and motivating the members, you as losing or wasting an opportunity and handicapping your efforts before you start.

This paper is not intended to be a comprehensive analysis of the principles of organizational behavior and the bargaining process. However, it is designed to provide information on issues that can have a significant effect on a local union's preparation for collective bargaining. Each section will raise questions concerning that preparation and suggest areas that many local unions may wish to pursue in greater detail in their unique setting.