When we asked our Unity Negotiation Team members what was most unexpected about the bargaining process so far,
there were two responses that recurred very frequently. One was surprise at the lack of interest that the employers showed in the lives of our members. Having this catch some folks unaware makes sense to me because we are all likely to judge companies by those who represent them, and some of our members work with a considerate or engaged grocery store manager. To learn, therefore, that the companies behind it all think of us as just a number (or, even worse, as an inconvenience) can be an unpleasant shock.
The other typical response was a realization of just how long this process takes. I’d add that it takes even longer than some team members may realize, when you factor in the years of planning that bring us to this point.
It’s easy to think that all we need to do is show up and put our collective foot down. (I wish it were that simple!) The procedures of a negotiation, though, are remarkably complicated, and I am so grateful to everyone on the team, especially our members, for taking the time to experience and learn this process.
70% of our Unity team members are with this negotiating group for the first time and, as such, bring fresh ideas and an invigorating perspective. Between members who have done this for several rounds already and staff members with deep backgrounds in negotiations, the remaining 30% of the team brings some 140 combined years of heavy-duty experience. I think that’s pretty darn impressive.
I bring this up because this stage of a negotiation is when it feels as if it will never end. But, of course, that’s not the case. Negotiations will eventually be completed and we will prevail. Our years of previous work and unity—whether it be five years of legislative wins in Salem or past contractual emphasis on strengthening our retirement and health and welfare plans— will culminate in a Unity bargaining contract we can all be proud of.