Back in October, I wrote about the “long game:” how negotiations are a process, and one that sometimes feels as if it could go on forever. Here we are in March and I know you’re all feeling the frustration of the process. So am I. So is the whole team.
My first retail bargaining session after being elected, though…that one ran for almost two YEARS. The one after that, same. The one after that, a year and a half. And this one, so far, eight months. In other words, this isn’t unusual.
This isn’t because people aren’t trying or because we aren’t making progress. Even something basic like finding dates for meetings can be complicated and time-consuming, as evidenced by the 7-8 weeks it took the employers to pick from among our 22 possible dates that we gave them before Christmas!
Also, when we reach a significant disconnect in expectation (more on that in a moment), everything slows down even more.
I’m writing you this column right after the 9th meeting with the employers, which took place on February 22nd. After nine face-to-face meetings we’ve come to several tentative agreements thus far (including that excellent minimum hours guarantee) and we’ve made huge strides on certain language issues, but we still have other language issues and health and welfare to resolve, not to mention the primary issue we’ve been facing: a difference in understanding of economic circumstances.
That “difference of understanding” is incredibly simple. We, your bargaining team, believe you deserve a living wage. Your employer doesn’t agree that much beyond a token increase is warranted.
The employers have been loudly praising their “very good offer” but let me tell you this: it wasn’t anywhere near what you deserve and your bargaining team knew that.
With this being said, we remain committed to continuing to bargain in good faith and to find solutions to our differences.
There is nothing any of us can do to speed the process along other than to remain alert, aware, and focused, cooperate with one another, and continue speaking out loudly about what we deserve. Keep wearing your equity buttons and sign those wage petitions (if you haven’t already). Let the employers know that we will do what it takes to get a fair contract and that we’re not going to give in.
One good job should be enough. When we speak with one voice, we will win.