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August 30, 2019

Discounts on PCs, printers, and more for UFCW members

As a member of our UFCW family, not only do you get a contract that provides important benefits, like job security and quality, affordable health care—you are also eligible for a number of exclusive discount programs.


Save up to 35% or more on a full assortment of PCs, printers and accessories and more through the HP Employee Purchase program. Not just for Hewlett Packard employees, all you need is a special company code, which you can access by logging into the UFCW Discount Portal and searching for “HP.”

Get HP Discounts


Shop Lenovo’s Back to School sale and save up to 76% on tools that make the grade like Think, Idea, and Lenovo branded PCs for your rising student. Door busters deals with additional savings will be available so check back often. Discount code available in the UFCW Discount Portal by searching for “Lenovo.”

Get Lenovo Discounts

August 27, 2019

Union contracts empower workers to make positive changes

Satisfaction at work depends on more than just wage increases, and one of the great things about having a union contract is the ability to have a say not only in wages and benefits, but the other policies at work that can have a big impact on the lives of working men and women.

Union contracts make jobs safer

UFCW Local 21 members at a cannabis company in Seattle, WA got it in writing that their employer form safety committees to meet regularly to discuss concerns at the workplace. The committees must include a union member, which helps ensure that both management and workers’ perspectives’ are included. Safety committees not only help make sure issues are addressed in a timely way, but that worker concerns are addressed without fear of retaliation.

Union contracts improve pay

Union contracts are especially beneficial for women and minority workers because they help ensure equal pay for equal work. On average, unionization raises women workers’ wages by over 11% – almost $2.00 per hour.

Beyond just improvements to hourly wages, unions can also make sure employees get paid fairly for the time they spend on the job. UFCW Local 1529 members who work at a poultry plant in Laurel, MS got it in writing that they are paid for the time it takes to put on, and take off, job-required equipment and attire.

Union contracts improve scheduling

In today’s changing workplace, employees are looking for more than just compensation, they are looking for ways to help maintain a healthy work-life balance. A recent study found eighty-seven percent of hourly workers consider having control over their work schedules to be extremely important, while fifty-five percent said they would leave their job if they didn’t have control over when they worked.

Though scheduling is consistently ranked as one of the most important issues for hourly workers, many employers still fail to give workers adequate notice of their schedules for them to plan their personal lives. Often even if there are policies on advance notice for employees, there are frequently few consequences for managers who repeatedly break those policies.

In their union contract, UFCW Local 75 members who work at superstores in Kentucky and Ohio got it in writing that their store must give 10 days advanced notice for employee schedules. Having advance notice helps workers maintain work-life balance, and is one of the best examples of how a simple change in policy can have a dramatic impact on the lives of working men and women.

Union contracts support families

Grocery workers at UFCW Local 1776KS in Pennsylvania got it in writing that their company set up a Dependent Care FSA — and contribute $50 per month to each employee’s account. Dependent Care FSAs allow employees to set aside money pre-tax for childcare and dependent expenses such as such as preschool, summer day camp, before or after school programs, and child or adult daycare.

Working men and women who are juggling the responsibility of caring for a child or a spouse or a relative who is physically or mentally incapable of self-care, already have enough on their plates to worry about. Dependent Care FSAs can help provide some relief by making it easier to coordinate care while balancing the needs of their jobs.

What can go in a contract?

Anything the union members feel is important and that can be successfully negotiated with the company is fair game. This usually covers the basics like wages, raises, processes for discipline and termination, safeguards against favoritism, scheduling, retirement benefits and health care, but can also include creative language for concerns specific to the unique needs of the bargaining unit such as language protecting LGBTQ workers’ rights, weather-related policies, rules regarding accommodations for religious beliefs, or policies regarding the impact of online sales or automation.

This is one of the main advantages of having a union contract instead of just relying on labor law alone – getting a law passed is time-consuming and may result in rules that aren’t even appropriate for all worksites. A contract gives you more control to make enforceable rules that are more of a custom fit solution rather than one-size-fits all.


August 26, 2019

Who gets left behind by a cashless society?

Many companies are making big promises about cashless payments: You’ll soon be able to buy whatever you need with just the tap of a button, scan of your phone, or swipe of a card. But in our collective hurry to spend more money with greater speed and ease, we’re leaving millions of Americans behind and millions more at risk – and benefiting only a few at the top.

Looking in from the outside

Who gets left behind when you can’t make purchases with cash? People who are already vulnerable in one way or another – making a shift to cashless just one more addition to the growing divide between the wealthy and everyone else. And it’s not a small number of people – millions of Americans are excluded when you require them to pay with a card or app.

One in four Americans are unbanked or underbanked according to the FDIC. This includes people who don’t have a bank account of any kind or don’t have access to some banking services. These consumers primarily use alternative financial services – check cashing, money orders or rent-to-own – rather than traditional banking.

Many people fall into this group because of issues with their credit history, through a mistake or misfortune. For example, around two-thirds of bankruptcies are caused by medical issues. Some consumers’ credit history is impacted by their choice to not participate in the traditional banking system.

The result is that these households don’t have the reliable access to credit or debit cards needed to participate in a cashless system and this means that many of these consumers are shut out by this technology.

Immigrant communities can be especially vulnerable to the discrimination that results from cashless payment options. In Sweden, the country that has moved the furthest away from cash, immigrants are feeling the impact. Swedish bank account requirements for residents are making it hard for immigrants – regardless of documentation – to participate in this growing part of their economy. An increased reliance on electronic, regulated, transactions means that government regulators could easily exclude millions of immigrants from large swaths of the economy through a minor regulatory change.

Seniors are another group of consumers excluded by cashless. Smartphone taps may seem like the quickest way to buy something for many people, but with some stores going beyond cashless and also requiring an app, the barriers are even higher for older consumers. Seniors are the most likely to be excluded by these businesses. Only a quarter of those over the age of 65 even have a smartphone and the elderly write checks as their preferred payment method more than any other age group.

Risky behavior

One of the primary concerns that prevent consumers from adopting mobile and cashless payment systems is a lack of trust in the safety of the systems, with many shoppers worried about the control their data. Recent data breaches at major companies have shown that consumers have good reason to be concerned. Some of the most devastating hacks have involved the technology that would be the backbone of any cashless transaction system.

A total of 147.9 million accounts at Equifax, the credit scoring bureau, were hacked in 2017. It took the company almost three months to discover the hack and they waited another three months before they told consumers that their personal information had been stolen.

Several retailers have also been victims of massive data breaches targeting their payment systems, including stores that now want you to use their cashless payment systems. These include companies like Target (110 million credit and debit card numbers), T.J. Maxx (94 million accounts), and Uber (57 million users).

Who benefits?

Shoppers and workers are not the ones benefiting from cashless. The real winners are the big banks and credit card companies who process your payments. That’s because while a cash transaction is between you and the merchant, an electronic payment means that big financial transaction companies get a cut of your spending. That’s why the CEO of Bank of America says “we have more to gain than anybody” in the move to cashless.

The shift to cashless also means an overall increase in prices we pay every day as the costs of processing these payments is passed along by businesses to consumers. Small businesses, in particular, struggle with these small fees because larger businesses have more resources to negotiate lower costs and can bear the burden of the overhead more easily.

A future without cash

Our country’s economy has always been driven by innovation and new technology. But with so many workers and families being left behind by the cashless retail push, we need to decide if this is the future we want. If you to protect good-paying jobs and an economy where everyone can participate, you may want to think twice about where you shop and how you pay on your next trip to the store.

August 23, 2019

Apply for the 2020 Union Plus Scholarship Today – These Five UFCW Members and Family Members Did, and Won!

The 2019 Union Plus Scholarship awards were recently announced, including five members and family members of our UFCW union.

This year’s UFCW winners are:

Scholarship winner Payton AmendPayton Amend of Soper, Oklahoma. Amend, whose father, David Amend, is a member of UFCW Local 540, has been awarded a $1,000 scholarship.

Payton is an occupational safety and health major at Southeastern Oklahoma State University (SOSU). She expects to graduate in 2021 and hopes to be an advocate for employee safety. Payton was 2018 salutatorian at Soper High School (SHS) in Oklahoma. While at SHS she concurrently took courses at Murray State College and Eastern Oklahoma State College. Payton is a ranch hand on a southeastern Oklahoma ranch and maintains her own small herd of cows and goats. Her father, who has nearly two decades of union membership and is also a former member of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers’ International Union (BCTGM), has spoken often of times when the union has supported members at local plants, including efforts like negotiating benefits and fair pay. “Companies know that unions like UFCW are mighty organizations that look out for the best interests of their members,” Payton said. “Being a union member means a lot for my dad. His grandparents and father were also union members, and it’s an honored family tradition.”

Guadalupe Godinez of Chicago. Godinez, whose mother, Silvia Godinez, is a member of UFCW Local 1546, has been awarded a $4,000 scholarship.

Marisol Gomez Marrufo of Muleshoe, Texas. Gomez Marrufo, whose father, Carlos Perea, and mother, Christina Perea, are members of UFCW Local 540, has been awarded a $1,000 scholarship.

Marisol is a 2019 graduate of Lazbuddie [Texas] High School (LHS). She plans to major in nursing when she starts college this fall and hopes to work with underserved people at a rural health clinic. While in high school, she took dual-credit courses at nearby South Plains College. Marisol said UFCW has greatly impacted her life and that she was especially thankful for her parents’ union membership when her sister sustained a knee injury two years ago. “My parents were able to take the necessary steps to ensure a full recovery due to the medical insurance offered through UFCW,” Marisol said. “I am thankful for the many roles UFCW plays in my life, without which I would not have been afforded the many opportunities that I have throughout my life.”

Brittany Martinez of Granville, Ohio. Martinez, who is a member of UFCW Local 1059, has been awarded a $3,500 scholarship.

Julia Walli of Lombard, Illinois. Walli, whose mother, Jennifer Walli, is a member of UFCW Local 881, has been awarded a $1,000 scholarship.

The Union Plus Scholarship Program, now in its 28th year, awards scholarships based on outstanding academic achievement, personal character, financial need, and commitment to the values of organized labor. The program is offered through the Union Plus Education Foundation.

Union Plus Scholarship awards are granted to students attending a two-year college, four-year college, graduate school, or recognized technical or trade school. The selection process is very competitive, and this year over 7,100 applications were received from 65 unions and all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia and two U.S. territories, representing an almost 20% increase in applications from 2018.

The new 2020 application for the Union Plus scholarship is now available.

The application is entirely online, allowing students to complete their application over time and save their responses.

Learn More about the Union Plus Scholarship and eligibility here.

Apply Now


August 22, 2019

Black Women’s Equal Pay Day

This year August 22nd is Black Women’s Equal Pay Day—the day when black women’s pay finally catches up to what caucasian, non-Hispanic men were paid last year.

While black women make substantial contributions to the U.S. economy, they face considerable disparities in the labor market. On average, black women are paid less than Caucasian, non-Hispanic men, and are over-represented in jobs with little job security, few benefits, and limited opportunity for advancement. These poorer quality jobs, combined with restricted access to unions in the states in which black workers are concentrated, hinder access to economic security and overall well-being.

Leveling the playing field

According to a study by The Economic Policy Institute, union membership is one of the key factors that can help determine if black women are paid fairly for their work:

“Black women have traditionally faced a double pay gap—a gender pay gap and a racial wage gap. EPI research has shown that black women are paid only 65 cents of the dollar that their white male counterparts are paid. However, unions help reduce these pay gaps. Working black women in unions are paid 94.9 percent of what their black male counterparts make, while nonunion black women are paid just 91 percent of their counterparts.”

What UFCW members have to say about Black Women’s Equal Pay Day


August 19, 2019

Member Spotlight: Kenny Newsom

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) is the world’s largest voluntary health agency dedicated to finding cures for blood cancers. The UFCW has been a longstanding partner with LLS since 1982. Together, UFCW members have raised over $86 million through participating in Light the Night walks and other fundraising efforts.

UFCW Local 1059 president Randy Quickel with Local 1059 steward Kenny Newsom

One such member is Kenny Newsom, a UFCW Local 1059 member who works at General Mills in Wellston, Ohio as a building maintenance electrician. UFCW Local 1059 members at General Mills work hard to produce Totinos pizza rolls, but in his spare time Newsom enjoys using his carpentry skills to build furniture that he donates for the yearly UFCW Local 1059 auction to raise money for Light the Night.

“It’s been four years now,” says Newsom. “One year I was making an Ohio State table, it’s got the block o and buckeye leaf and all that in it. My union rep stopped by one day when I was in my workshop working on it and I said, ‘Hey, would Randy like to have this to auction off for Light the Night?’ and that’s how it got started.”

Newsom’s donations have raised over for Light the Night since he first got involved. Over the years, he’s made end tables, an indoor bar, a poker table, and an outside furniture set.

“I took workshop in high school, but then I worked for a cabinet factory for 29 years before I worked for General Mills. The cabinet factory shut down, but I learned quite a bit there. But mostly I learned from my father. He did that as a hobby like I do, and I just picked it up as I got older. I enjoy building it all. It’s a hobby for me so I just enjoy doing it.”

Newsom works nights at the General Mills plant, but doesn’t let that stop him from getting involved. In addition to being active with Light the Night, he also has been a steward for the past five years.

“After my first year or so was up I said, it’s about time to get involved. There was a position that opened up and I went to see my union rep and said ‘I want to be a steward’ and he said ‘ok’ and I’ve been there ever since. Negotiations are probably my favorite part. That and helping people when you can.”

“I work from 10:30 at night until 6:30 in the morning. I don’t think it’s a barrier to being involved, it’s just a matter of being disciplined. Coming home and getting in bed and getting your sleep. But I’m also a union steward there also and I go talk to new hires all the time about what I deal with as a union steward and try to give them a little education in what the union’s all about for them.

I just wish there were more education for younger people to know what a union can do for them. I try to tell them I worked non-union for 29 years, it’s ‘either our way or see ya,’ you know what I mean? It’s like you get a 5 cent raise this year and you either stay working or you go find something else. At least with the union, you’ve got a voice.”

If you would like to get more involved like Kenny Newsom, Light the Night has a website just for the UFCW. Visit to find information on a Light the Night Walk near you, register your Local Union’s Light the Night team, or set up your team’s fundraising page:

If you are interested in participating in the walks, talk to your local to see if there is already a Light the Night team. If not, ask about forming one and make sure your local’s team is registered on the UFCW Light the Night page. After your team is registered, you can recruit walkers and send them to your team page to register.

The UFCW Light the Night website will track our fundraising progress as well as keep a list of the top-performing UFCW locals and fundraisers. So be sure to check it often.

Funds raised by your team will go towards discovering breakthrough therapies and cures for people suffering from blood cancers like Leukemia, Lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease, and Myeloma.

“LLS is very proud of our partnership with the UFCW, whose members have supported LLS relentlessly by raising essential funds needed to fight blood cancer,” said Louis J. DeGennaro, Ph.D., LLS’s president and CEO. “The UFCW is helping LLS make it possible to accomplish more than any other cancer nonprofit to advance cutting-edge research and cures for patients.”

For more information about the LLS, please visit www.LLS.org.


August 19, 2019

Mississippi Cottonseed Co-op Workers Join ICWUC

Group of Cotton Seed Co-op-workers stand together, smilingOn June 25, Cottonseed Co-op Corporation workers in Jonestown, Miss., joined the ICWUC.

Cottonseed Co-op was previously known as Delta Oil Mill and was represented by the ICWUC until its bankruptcy and closing approximately five years ago. The cottonseed processing facility reopened approximately two years ago under the name Cottonseed Co-op, and the company rehired many of the previous employees from Delta Oil Mill.

When the workers came back to work without a union contract, they found that many of the benefits and protections they once had when they were members of the ICWUC were now gone.

These hard-working men and women knew they had earned and deserved better, so they reached out to their former union representative, Regional Director Ricky Lawrence, in early May. Lawrence sent them cards to sign to see how much interest there was at the facility and in a couple of weeks they had mailed him back signed cards for approximately 80 percent of the current employees. Organizer Ernest Perkins visited with the workers, and then contacted his organizing colleague, Lance Heasley, to come assist in the NLRB petition process.

During the petition process, the organizing team gave the company the option of having a neutral third party count the cards rather than go through with the NLRB election process. The company agreed to have a neutral third party and on June 25, the neutral party determined that 47 of the 57 employees had signed cards. The company then voluntarily recognized the ICWUC as the bargaining agent for the Cottonseed Co-op employees and agreed on a date to begin negotiating a contract.

The ICWUC is proud to welcome back these workers and looks forward to working with them in negotiating their first contract.

August 12, 2019

Reliable Consumer Credit Counseling Advice and Discounts for Union Members

UFCW families can turn to Union Plus Credit Counseling through the non-profit Money Management International (MMI). Certified, experienced consumer credit counseling advisors listen to you and your needs, then help you develop a plan of action for debt repayment that you can follow to help eliminate your debt.

No confusing gimmicks or overwhelming options. Just sound advice that’ll help you stop collection agencies from controlling your financial life.

Budget Analysis and Credit Counseling

You can get a FREE consumer credit counseling session, budget analysis and money management advice to get back on the road to financial recovery. Complete a confidential request for consumer credit counseling online or call 877-833-1745 — available 24/7.

Your Free Session Covers:
  • Complete financial review, including budget analysis and credit management counseling.
  • Assistance in budgeting or advice on sources of additional income.
  • Advice on how to work with creditors
  • An Action Plan that summarizes your financial situation, provides a budget and timeline for reaching your debt management and repayment goals, and restates action items.
  • Referral to a social service organization in your area, if appropriate.
  • Referral to Union Plus Legal Service or Union Plus Mortgage Assistance program, if appropriate.



Consumer credit counseling is currently available in the United States, but not available in Puerto Rico, Guam, Virgin Islands, and Canada.

Who is eligible?

  • Dues-paying labor union members of participating unions
  • Retired labor union members
  • Spouse, domestic partners, and children (age 18+) may be included. (Not eligible for monthly DMP fee rebate but will get the reduced set up fee.)
  • Widows/widowers of union members
  • Union Plus credit cardholders
Debt Management Plan (DMP)

After the initial credit counseling session, if you need additional assistance to eliminate debt, your counselor will develop a customized debt management plan (DMP) for you. With the Union Plus Debt Management Plan (DMP) grant, you don’t need to pay any of the DMP set-up fees. Union members who complete one year on a DMP are also eligible to apply for reimbursement of the monthly fees.

In short, a DMP allows you to make one simple monthly payment to MMI, and authorizes MMI to pay each of your creditors on your behalf based on the debt repayment plan terms negotiated with them.

MMI also works with creditors to stop collection, waive or reduce interest charges, and eliminate finance charge or late fees, wherever possible.


July 31, 2019

What you can do right now to prepare for a hurricane

With August as the month with the second highest number of hurricanes and September just ahead topping the list, now is the time to make sure you have a plan in place to protect your home and family.

What you can do right now to prepare for a hurricane

1.) Build an emergency kit

2.) Make a family communications plan

3.) Make a shopping list of what you’ll need to pick up before a storm hits

Experts recommend having a 3 day supply of non-perishable food as well as 3 gallons of water per person. Having your shopping list ready to go well ahead of time can help you make sure you aren’t forgetting anything last minute.

4.) Make a to-do list of last minute home preparations

Include last minute to-do tasks like making sure rain gutters and downspouts are clear or loose outdoor furniture is tied down. Having a clear list will help you have a realistic understanding of how much time you need and who needs to do what.

5.) Assess the flood risk of your home

Learn the elevation level of your property and whether the land is flood-prone. This will help you know how your property will be affected when storm surge or tidal flooding are forecasted. Identify levees and dams in your area and determine whether they pose a hazard to you.

6.) Research flood insurance, home and property insurance

Look into flood insurance, if you don’t already have it, to cover damage in case of a storm. Also, check out your current insurance coverage to determine if hurricanes and other natural disasters are covered under your policy.

7.) Plan your evacuation

Learn community hurricane evacuation routes and how to find higher ground. Determine where you would go and how you would get there if you needed to evacuate.

8.) Know how you will protect your windows

Permanent storm shutters offer the best protection for windows. A second option is to board up windows with 5/8” marine plywood, cut to fit and ready to install. You don’t need to wait for a storm to have plywood cut and ready to go. If you don’t have the storage space for cut plywood, you can still measure your windows, make a list of how much plywood you would need to buy, and make sure you have the means to cut it to size and affix it in place. You don’t want to be learning how to secure your windows for the first time with a storm looming. Don’t forget to reinforce your garage door, too. If wind enters a garage it can cause dangerous and expensive structural damage.

9.) Reinforce your roof to reduce the likelihood of your roof being blown off during a storm

Install straps or additional clips to securely fasten your roof to the frame structure. This will reduce roof damage. If retrofitting your house with straps turns out to be too difficult, you can still reinforce your roof with construction adhesive.

10.) Be sure trees and shrubs around your home are well trimmed so they are more wind resistant

11.) Install a generator for emergencies and make sure you know how to use it safely

July 31, 2019

What is a “union contract?”

In a non-union setting, the employer makes all the rules. They may promise to listen to employee input, but at the end of the day, they aren’t required to take any of that input seriously and ultimately still get to decide what the final policies are. But in a union setting, the rules are negotiated by the union and the employer with the union representing the best interests of the workers and the employer representing the best interests of the company.

The union has the right, as well as the legal obligation, to speak with one voice for all the employees that make up what is known as the “bargaining unit,” or employees covered by a particular contract. When we talk about having a “union contract,” what we mean is the official rules that have been agreed upon by the employer and the union, and that have also been voted on and accepted by the majority of the union membership covered by the contract.

How do contracts help a workplace run smoothly?

Contracts can help ease possible tensions between you and your managers by making it really clear what the agreed upon rules are, as well as what to do when they are violated. Confronting your manager one on one can end up feeling like a personal attack or criticism with someone you have to work with every day and maintain a good relationship with. In the end, many people just decide to let minor problems go rather than risk creating an uncomfortable situation or even just seeming like they aren’t a team player.

With a written contract and union representation you have someone to call who isn’t your boss who can help you get the issue resolved if a problem comes up. It can also help you make sure you’re taking advantage of all the benefits you are entitled to by clearly spelling them out.

What does a union contract cover?

So what goes into a contract? Anything the union members feel is important and that can be successfully negotiated with the company is fair game. This usually covers the basics like wages, raises, processes for discipline and termination, safeguards against favoritism, scheduling, retirement benefits and health care, but can also include creative language for concerns specific to the unique needs of the bargaining unit such as language protecting LGBTQ workers’ rights, weather-related policies, rules regarding accommodations for religious beliefs, or policies regarding the impact of online sales or automation. This is one of the main advantages of having a union contract instead of just relying on labor law alone – getting a law passed is time-consuming and may result in rules that aren’t even appropriate for all worksites. A contract gives you more control to make enforceable rules that are more of a custom fit solution rather than one-size-fits all.

How are contracts formed?

Many times unions use pre-bargaining polls or surveys to take the pulse of what the hot button issues for the membership are, but they often also have a pretty good sense of what’s been going on just from the kinds of grievances and other issues that have come up since the last round of negotiations with the company.

Exactly how the negotiations or bargaining process takes place is often determined in the individual contracts, but in general, a team of representatives from the union is pulled together who will be the ones responsible for sitting down the employer and going over proposals. This team is referred to as a “bargaining committee.” Because negotiations themselves are time-consuming and require a tremendous amount of effort from everyone involved, they are often necessarily small teams that can act efficiently and get work done while still remaining large enough to represent the needs of the unit as a whole.

Formal negotiations often begin with the union bargaining committee presenting the initial proposals to the company at an official negotiations session at a time and location agreed upon by both sides. Either at that same session or in a future negotiations session, the employer then presents their proposals. The process always includes face-to-face formal discussions with notes taken so there is a record of what was said in case there is a dispute later on. Sometimes negotiations are led by a single representative who acts as a spokesperson the whole time, or alternatively there may be multiple spokespeople for different issues within the contract.

Both sides go over point by point all the proposals in the contract, which can be quite time consuming, but when both sides reach a tentative agreement about what the final rules should be, there’s still the question of having them formally adopted by each side. For the employer, this might mean having it voted on by their board of directors or some other type of approval from a higher up in the company. For the union, this means taking the final contract to the members for a vote. Actual voting can take place through ballots in the mail or at in person meetings.  We call this vote to accept a contract a “ratification” vote.

If the majority of the bargaining unit votes to reject the contract, however, sometimes it’s back to the drawing table and the union and the employer continue trying to work out a solution that will work for both sides. If common ground can’t be found, a neutral third-party mediator may be called in. Worst case scenario, the union may vote to go on strike if the employer continues to refuse to budge. The employer version of this is called a “lock out,” which is when the employer closes the facility.

Both strikes and lock outs are rare as both sides have quite a bit of incentive to avoid them, but often negotiations only start to get news coverage if there is a strike or a lockout, which can lead to a false sense of how common they really are. Annually, only about 1% of negotiations end in strikes. Smooth labor negotiations rarely make the news, even when they result in significant improvements to wages and benefits.

Contracts usually have a specific amount of time that they are good for before they expire, generally around 2 to 5 years. Once that term is up, it’s time for the union and the employer to sit down at the table again and negotiate a new contract, usually taking the old one as a starting point. The whole process starts over, ending with the members ratifying the new, hopefully-improved contract.

Without unions, workplaces operate like dictatorships: decisions are made by an elite few while workers bear the consequences of policy decisions. Democracy can be a sometimes messy process, but the end result is worth it – better workplace policies that fairly take into consideration the needs of both the employer and the employees.