$page_title = "What goes in a Contract?";
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Trade Unions and Labor
What goes in a Contract?
Since many people have little experience with contracts, I thought it might be helpfulto some to outline what goes into them. Legally, I should say that every contract is theproduct of negotiation, so that it is possible that a contract could look completelydifferent than the one outlined below.
That said, a few generalizations: most contracts are about 25-30 pages long, and, whileboring to read, are not so difficult to understand. They usually last between 3 and 5years. Contracts are to be taken as the minimum compensation for employees: if an employerwanted to suddenly introduce a stock option plan that is not in the contract, the employeris free to do so--but not as a substitute for anything in the contract. The following listof stuff is typical in contracts. I've worked under several and have read a dozen. All ofthem contained these provisions:
- Union Shop - A provision that states that all employees must belong to the union as a condition of employment. Exceptions to this are granted for religious reasons and in "right to work" states. (States, mostly in the South, where union shops are illegal.)
- PAC contributions - this is NOT compulsory, but employees who wish can give money to a union political action committee. By the way, this is where unions get their money for political activities, as union dues may not be used for such activities.
- No discrimination policy - employers cannot discriminate against employees because of union membership, age, creed, color, sexual preference, religion, etc.
- Seniority - the seniority system is spelled out. Basically, seniority is used to determine in what order employees are laid off in the event of a lay-off, in what order employees are called upon to work holidays, etc.
- Grievance procedure - one of the cornerstones of unionism. This system provides a way for all conflicts between management and employees to be peacefully resolved. If an employee feels he or she has been wronged and cannot resolve it with management, a union representative will meet with a management rep. and try to resolve the issue. If that fails, another attempt is made with the management representative's superior. If that fails, an outside arbitrator is called in, whose word is binding.
- Hours & Overtime defined - usually 40 hours at 8 hours a day. If more than 8 hours in one day or 40 hours in one week are worked, overtime must be paid.
- Work breaks defined - usually two 15 minute breaks per 8 hours worked.
- Union Stewards - union stewards are simply employees who are elected to represent the union on the job site. They make sure the contract is not violated, help employees that have problems with management, etc.
- No strike/no lockout - during the duration of the contract, the union may not strike and management may not lock employees out of the workplace.
- Appeal from discharge - in the event that an employee is fired, he or she can appeal to the union for help within 30 days.
- Management rights - a provision that states that anything not covered explicitly in the contract remains the sole domain of management.
As I mentioned, the above was standard in the contracts I read or worked under. Whatfollows, however, varied from contract to contract. This is the section where employeeswould have to prioritize what they would like to go after in a contract as it is unlikelythat, in a first contract, all of this stuff would make it in.
- Wages - the biggie! Union contracts will usually define what the base rate of pay is. If a union simply cannot secure a direct raise, there are other options available in getting better compensation for employees. Such as...
- Raises - Contracts will lay out the raise system for the life of the contract.
- Shift differential - unpopular/inconvenient shifts can be awarded a slightly higher wage - either a flat rate (so much per hour) or a percentage of the employee's normal wage per hour. (Often 10%)
- Sunday premium pay - compensates employees at a greater rate for working Sunday. Usually a flat rate.
- Birthday as a holiday - Happy Birthday! Take the day off!
- Health care - union health plans are among the best in the nation. Most unions will work to insure that the employee has no monthly contribution.
- Pension fund - the contract states that the employer will contribute so much per month to a pension fund. This amount usually increased as the employee gains more seniority.
- Quality of Work Life Committee - representatives for management and the employees meet in a committee monthly to work together to determine the best path for the store or plant to take.
There are many other things that can and do go into contracts: they are tailored foreach industry, shop, factory, etc., but this should give you some idea of what contractscover.
Once more, I should mention that a union cannot guarantee anything in a contract. But,if you read a few contracts, you do begin to see the many things that unions usually dosecure for employees. If you have questions, feel free to contact email@example.com, orcontact a local union representative.