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What is Collective Bargaining?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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Collective bargaining is a tool people use to end conflict and get things going again in business. Occurring in either continuous or periodic forms, its aim is to make things better for both the employer and employee overall, or to initiate social changes. The disadvantages such as expense and creating divisions in companies are significant, but this technique also provides some big advantages such as giving workers a safe way to voice their concerns and opinions.


The term collective bargaining refers to a good-faith business mechanism people use to reach an agreement. Through basic negotiation and other techniques, the people involved find solutions to work-related issues such as vacation time, pay, work hazards, training and work hours that ultimately benefit everyone. People call these processes “collective” because the opinion and well-being of the whole group, or collective, is involved. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights formally recognizes the ability of people to use this strategy.


The primary objective of this bargaining system is to improve conditions in some way to make things more efficient, economical, safe or enjoyable. Going through these processes therefore keeps employers or employees from being taken advantage of or hurt. In some cases, people use this strategy specifically to set a precedent and send a message about an overall social change they want to happen. In these cases, more than one company or group of workers might be involved.


Two types of collective bargaining are available: periodic and continuous. The first kind happens at irregular intervals as problems or needs come up. It doesn’t have a predefined schedule, and the business leaders and general workers pick representatives that best fit the immediate need. With the continuous or rolling style, both sides are always working to fix or head off issues, and there usually are permanent committees that represent both sides over many different areas.

Connection to Unions

Unions typically represent employees when there is a need for this mechanism. Leaders bring needs or wants to the attention of the employer. They carry responses from the employer back to the workforce and assist with putting together a draft of a formal contract called a collective bargaining agreement.


A major drawback to using this type of negotiation system is that, even though everyone gets a say in what happens, ultimately, the majority rules, with only a few people determining what happens to many. This means that a large number of people, particularly in the general workforce, can be overshadowed and feel like their opinion doesn’t really matter. In the worst case scenario, this can cause severe division and hostility in the group.

Secondly, it always requires at least two parties. Even though the system is supposed to pull both parties together, during the process of trying to reach an agreement, people can adopt an us-versus-them mentality. When the negotiations are over, this way of looking at each other can be hard to set aside, and unity in the company can suffer.

Collective bargaining can also be costly, both in terms of time and money. Representatives have to discuss everything twice—once at the small representative meetings, and again when they relay information to the larger group. Paying outside arbitrators or other professionals quickly can run up a fairly big bill, and when someone else is brought in, things often get slower and more complex because even more people are involved.

Some people point out that these techniques have a tendency to restrict the power of employers. Employees often see this as a good thing, but from the company’s perspective, it can make even basic processes difficult. It can make it a challenge to deal with individual workers, for example.

The goal of the system is always to reach a collaborative agreement, but sometimes tensions boil over. As a result, one or both parties might feel they have no choice but to muscle the other side into giving up. Workers might do this by going on strike, which hurts operations and cuts into profits. Businesses might do this by staging lockouts, which prevents members of the workforce from doing their jobs and getting paid, negatively effecting income and overall quality of living.

Lastly, union dues are sometimes an issue. They reduce the amount of take-home pay a person has, because they usually are deducted right from his paycheck. When things are good in a company and people don’t feel like they’re getting anything from paying the dues, they usually become unhappier about the rates.


Perhaps the biggest advantage of this system is that, by reaching a formal agreement, both sides come to know exactly what to expect from each other and are aware of the rights they have. This can decrease the number of conflicts that happen later on. It also can make operations more efficient.

Employees who enter collective bargaining know they have some degree of protection from employer retaliation or being let go from the job. If the employer were dealing with just a handful of individuals, he might be able to afford to lose them. When he is dealing with the entire workforce, however, operations are at risk and he no longer can easily turn a deaf ear to what his employees are saying.

Even though employers might need to back down a little, this strategy gives them the benefit of being able to deal with just a small number of people at a time. This is very practical in larger companies where the employer might have dozens, hundreds or even thousands of workers on his payroll. Working with just a few representatives also can make the issues at hand seem more personal.

Agreements reached through these negotiations usually cover a period of at least a few years. People therefore have some consistency in their work environment and policies. This typically benefits the company’s finance department because it knows that fewer items related to the budget might change.

On a broad scale, using this method well can result in more ethical way of doing business. It promotes ideas such as fairness and equality, for example. These concepts can spill over into other areas of a person’s life, inspiring better general behavior towards others.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a SmartCapitalMind researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon301014 — On Nov 01, 2012

I hear of some people who have supported unions at their work places and they loved it! They liked going to work.

I worked for Meijer for fourteen years and the union didn't help me worth a damn. I still got fired for trying to do what I can and not be lazy. Now I work for Walmart, which has no union, and there are no set standards for doing much of anything. It's kind of chaos working there. Meijers was more organized. Just pointing out the two differences.

By anon247458 — On Feb 13, 2012

Collective bargaining? Pffft! Since when did unions decided that it was okay to be slackers on the job by allowing themselves with obese benefits, huge pensions, and rich man wages, given the fact that their work ethic is crappy and pathetic on the spot.

Whoever thinks collective bargaining is like the golden goose of the American dream is likely living in the past. Back in 1890, it may had been more justified to have organized workers to demand union rights due to the terrible living conditions they were under.

But now these days, unions are living in a bubble: insensitive, lazy, selfish, and simple minded. What good is it to have a union if workers don't have dignity in life?

By anon180482 — On May 26, 2011

Get your facts right. NY fire personnel worked three days on, four days off, but this is a 24 hour day. understand that is 72 hours a week, not a 40 hour week like most workers.

By anon170255 — On Apr 25, 2011

The unions are just an arm of the Democratic party. They exist to control workers as much as to benefit them. Collective bargaining is just a made up word that just means "support for Democrats". The states that have a strong (bought off) Democratic legislature; therefore, do better then "red states" financially. The Democrats have learned that they really don't need unions anymore because the multinationals rule and they intend to crush the "unions", i.e., privatize. That's why the governor of CT is asking union members for $2 billion in concessions. Don't worry. Unions are going bye bye, and Halliburton and Blackwater and other boondoggles await with fangs ready, not just to take public sector jobs, but to build the extra prisons they are going to need.

By anon164363 — On Mar 31, 2011

they can't inflate the US out of debt. if there is collective barging and pay raises tied to inflation, they will do it to all programs and unions one at a time.

congress is nothing but thieves for the united states of corporate america. make the low life corporations pay their fair share. we pay $500 billion a year and our sons' and daughters' lives for their defense and the biggest is for oil, so what is the price of gas? $150 a gallon? in real price but the worst is the way they won't protect our way of life. we are a third world nation of scam artists. congress is no better than the pirates in somalia. at least they are honest about stealing.

By anon159495 — On Mar 12, 2011

I'm a union laborer from ohio. i read a lot of these posts and don't understand how some of you can downgrade union and know so little about them.

First off, do some homework on prevailing wages in different states, then look at the non union rates in the same states. Notice a pattern anywhere? Prevailing wage is higher the non union rate is higher. why is that? It's because unions help determine the pay scale for an area. if unions weren't formed, everyone would make $3.00 an hour with no benefits.

As far as my insurance being free, you're wrong! If i don't work enough hours in a quarter i pay $600 a month for health insurance. How's that for free? When i do work they take 4 percent, which is my contribution to my pension and insurance.

Yeah, maybe i do make more money have better benefits than some people and better work conditions, but it's all thanks to unions and if it weren't for them you wouldn't have all the labor acts and standards.

i bust my butt every day for the wages i earn. i come home muddy, head to toe, wet, cold, tired just like every other american out there trying to make a living and raise my family the best i can.

You think we are overpaid and underworked spend a week in my shoes and see how it is. Unions help set the standard for america and don't get me started on sick days. If I'm sick i stay home and don't get paid for it. I get no paid vacation, no dental or eye insurance. I am thankful for what we do have, so go do your homework before you downgrade me on here. Proud to be an American and proud to be union!

By anon159417 — On Mar 11, 2011

i have a problem with all this talk of heroes. i am an electrician if i go to my job and get shocked and die, am i a hero? no, so why is a police officer a hero if he gets shot? that is a job he chose with certain risks, as is mine

By anon159379 — On Mar 11, 2011

Don't firefighters work 24 hour shifts? Four days on is not four, eight-hour days.. it's 24/7 for those four days. It was only 10 short years ago we were shown tragically what our firefighters risk for us and now we complain that they've got it 'cushy' with their four days on/four days off benefits and retirement pensions. Well I guess if the job or its hazards doesn't kill them first!

And come on people, complaining about teachers? For the amount of education one has to obtain to be a teacher, they are severely underpaid. It is a thankless job. They spend unseen hours outside of the classroom on lesson plans and grading papers. So what if they spread their salary over a year? They are still making crap when you consider the education it takes just to get a job doing what they do.

Public employees aren't getting paid to do nothing. It appalls me that they are the target of all that is wrong with America. Really? Really?

By anon159230 — On Mar 10, 2011

Just wanted to make sure I understood what collective bargaining meant. Saw the opportunity to sign a petition for Democrats in Wisconsin. Are you crazy? Welcome to the private industry where we work well over 40 hours per week, pay for a large chunk of our healthcare benefits, set money aside for our own retirement, go without pay increases, etc. These people whining about the Wisconsin law are a big joke. You have taken enough taxes from the real, hard working Americans. Adios!

By anon159031 — On Mar 09, 2011

Will the person who keeps posting about 5,000 NYC teachers retire each year, please understand that your math is incorrect. What makes you think the city should pay you for just 10 months and not on a 12 month cycle? Has your "entitlement" disposition gotten the better of you? Just because you don't work during that time (thank you very much) doesn't mean they need to pay you for it. They have every right to extend those payments out for the year in which you are contracted. Even then, your math is amazingly inaccurate. If in fact, 5,000 teachers retire with the national average pension of $60k a year (New York is probably higher - ya think?) then that is a yearly bill of $300M. If you apply a 12 percent (yes, that's high) annual interest for the two months that you feel you got "robbed" by the state it would amount to something much less than $60M - (the actual math would be too complicated to explain so I make it a little easy). That amounts to less than 1/5 of one years worth of pension payments for the 5k workers you mention. Not "25 percent to the yearly pension of those yearly retirees for life!" Amazing, isn't it? It looks like you missed your calling - you should have been a politician. Then call the taxpayers "haters" when they try to point out your error. Nice work.

By anon159024 — On Mar 09, 2011

I've read a lot of these posts. To simply label them as "union haters" is too simplistic and a denial of years of evidence. To state that CEOs make millions is another topic and unrelated to the problem that unions have over-stepped their bounds and have a serious credibility factor. To not distinguish between private and public sector unions means that you must not understand the unethical quandary that public unions have over the political process.

Private sector unions are a very low percentage of the workplace because both employees and employers do not need or want them. Public sector unions are massive because their "employers" are the elected officials who take their campaign contributions and do their bidding while in office, which they can do because the "owner" (taxpayers) who have entrusted them with overseeing taxpayer assets and issues can be easily screwed over since they are not privy to the internal affairs of government. Individual taxpayers do not get an elected office re-elected. But Unions can. If all people were ethical then there's no problem. This is why government workers were not expected to be unionized - because of this ethical quandary. But private sector unions lost favor with both employers and employees they found a bigger pot to steal and they have been at it for years now. (Does stating the truth make me a union "hater"?)

And while I'm at it: The "I pay for my pension" statement comes from people who do not know how to add. Do the math people. You get all of your "had earned contributions (plus interest earned)" back in about 2.5 years. All of your union matching contributions (plus interest earned) in another 2.5 years. Life expectancy is about 80 years old now. That means - on average - someone else is paying for your retirement for about 15 years, 25 years if you take the option to retire early (50). And you are wondering why these pensions are underfunded? Seriously? And, finally, the firefighter / hero thing? Please.

Do you seriously think that the reason a firefighter job is the most sought-after job in the world is because of its danger or its "hero" status? I'll spell it out for you: It is the most overrated, overpaid job on the planet. I think you guys have enjoyed all the 911 fanfare we taxpayers can afford. It's time to come down now and take a look at the reality of your job for what it really is. Be fair. And show the same amount of respect for those who bust their butts to pay your bill every week. You certainly are no better a person than they are.

By anon157256 — On Mar 02, 2011

Pass a law preventing any union money going to any political campaign. this will require union leadership to rep. the workers, not the politicians. No union dollars to any politician!

Union leaders, apart from "business" expenses, should get the same salary as a senior union member! Pensions? What ever happened to investing a percentage of your paycheck, it grows, nobody else touches it, and after 25-30 years you get it back for life? It's your money!

The problem is with the "nobody else touches it" part, which is what has destroyed Social Security.

Contrary to popular belief, NYC teachers do not get a two month "paid" summer vacation. They work and are paid for 10 months (Sept-June). A calculated percentage is withheld from each monthly check by NYC and given back to teachers in July and August. However, the city keeps the interest! That's interest on 10 monthly checks for 100,000 teachers averaging $60,000 a year.

On average 5,000 NYC teachers retire each year. That yearly interest alone would contribute over 25 percent to the yearly pension of those yearly retirees for life! Like I said, the problem is the "nobody else touches it' part.

By anon157215 — On Mar 01, 2011

What is wrong with you people? I work for a fortune 500 company doing hvac. i am non union but i don't understand why you guys are busting everyone's chops.

obviously you guys have never worked for a living, getting off when they want you to leave. it's so easy for you guys to sit here and complain about this stuff on the computer when they said we were unable to get a raise this year but our ceo made $23 million dollars and shows up six times a year for a board meeting.

We need to start paying our middle class some real money. And for your info, volkswagen and mercedes are union and they have pensions, etc., and neither one needed handouts. I strongly support the union. You crazy union haters need to get a life.

By anon156992 — On Mar 01, 2011

I was technically a federal employee while I was in the Marine Corps. I worked 12 hours a day, five days a week, not counting the weeks at a time I would spend in the field training, working seven days a week. Then on deployments i spent 210 days working 12 or more hours a day in a combat zone getting shot at.

At three years in, i made 2k a month + my health and dental was paid for. So say for instance, my total benefits were like 2.5k/ month before taxes. While on deployment i made an extra 500 bucks a month in stipends. (Hazard duty pay, imminent danger pay) So on a year that i was deployed, i probably made 30 thousand dollars. I should have been a teacher.

By anon156900 — On Feb 28, 2011

Over the years I have watched unions. The roots of unions were to protect the workers from abuse, and this was good.

Today, they try to run a business that they have no clue on how to run. Look at GM, unions proved they cannot run a business. Now Unions have allied themselves with communists, socialists, radical muslims and host of other groups that promote violence. What is the chant? Change through violence? What is that terrorist loving George Soros creep doing? Funding and uniting terrorist groups, unions, communist groups, socialist groups throughout the USA and world for one purpose: Destroy the USA.

What is their slogan "American Dream" through radical progressive movement. Which means the end to our way of life!

I agree with the original intent of the unions, but today they destroy what they touch. So my vote is destroy all unions in the USA and world.

By BigBug — On Feb 28, 2011

Well, all I can say after reading these posts is "There is more hatred in America than one can believe"!

Take a look around, Americans. The 2010 Census has the population as 308,745,500-plus, of which less than 12 percent or 36,740,700 are union of some sort. I would like to let the "haters" know that union employees pay for their health care, and when they retire, the average cost is about $740/mo for one. If you are lucky enough to retire and enjoy the rest of your years, your pension averages 21/3100 per month (less your health care payment).

Can a banker say that? Does a professional athlete have that kind of pension? Does your Senator have that kind of pension? Oh you might not think the professional athlete is supported by you, but look again. Look at the clothes you are wearing, the shoes, the products you buy in the grocery store, "The Official Sponsor of the NFL" products, and let's not forget the beer we drink!

The majority of labor unions around the US get six holidays. Notice I didn't say paid? They are New Year's Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day, and that's it! Do the trade unions get sick days? No they don't. If they don't show up for work, they don't get paid. Not to mention if they work outside and it rains, they "might get" two hours show up time and then get sent home. Remember too, this is the winter, and a very small group of tradesmen get to work as you might expect.

I am appalled at the comment "Out of touch." That's all I have to say about union workers. What hatred?

Unless you walk in a teacher's shoes, you likely don't have a clue how many "thankless hours" teachers put in, trying to educate people like you. Why don't you take sick days off, if you're sick? Come to work sick and run the risk of making your co-workers sick? That's selfish! Since when do public employees have a 401K anyway?

Side note: Union workers do not make 6 figure salaries on average as the rumor states. Bankers, lawyers, pro athletes, doctors, public accountants, and of course, our political leaders do!

How about "send all the union people to jail"? What kind of comment is that? Why don't we send the real crooks to jail, like we finally got the guts to put Bernie Madoff in jail. You're paying for him to be in jail you know, compliments of your government. This is the same government that for as many years as I can remember mismanaged and misappropriated funding and blamed labor for the short fall.

Some of the largest corporations in the world are union, and labor represents only 9 percent of their costs. Why is that? Where are the rest of the costs? Executive salaries and bonuses for allowing companies to fail? I think so, but that's another blog.

In closing, I love my country, and wouldn't trade it for anywhere in the world. Yes, I disagree with some of the things the government does, but they do good things too!

What I would trade, is the people with so much hatred and they effort they make to shout it out about something they no little about!

Be careful people. Some day you might hurt your own family's feelings too.

By anon156647 — On Feb 28, 2011

Wow! I see lots of negative comments about Unions and their members. Some of which call them lazy and worthless. The comment that really bugs me is the one about the 90 year old man who died (God rest his soul) watching over union workers "catching guys sleeping on the job, stealing and having sex and not being able to fire them or transfer them is amazing." Why does this sound like our politicians?

And then there's the comment: "In NY firefighters are making over a 100k a year and work three days on, four days off. I don't think businesses should take advantage, but unions shouldn't either." When it comes to firefighters, just be quiet! Leave them alone! They "do" what you "can't do" and likely "won't do"! They care about everyone. Do you?

Unions have skilled employees. I don't care if they are ironworkers, carpenters, school teachers or firefighters, they are trained, end of story.

Why hasn't anyone commented on the outrageous salaries of the school administrators, politicians (and their retirement packages)? When was the last time you consulted a lawyer and he only charged you $5.00 to answer a question about a parking ticket? Oops, I almost forgot the doctor who charged me $170 (on my last stay) just to "pop-in" and say good morning. Wow! What a bargain!

All in all, each one of the occupations listed are skilled professionals, union or non union. Skilled professionals should be rewarded for their knowledge and experience, period! Wake up America! Less than 12 percent of the American labor force is Union today. If you think that 12 percent of the labor force is destroying our country, you'd better get some electricity in your home -- soon!

By anon156634 — On Feb 28, 2011

Out of touch. That's all I have to say about union workers. First of all, I know not a single person who works a 40 hour work week (including teachers). In addition, weekends off? Yeah, right. Sick days? Non-union people have them but don't dare take them. 401k's are taxed while we pay for the non-taxing of public worker benefits.

The companies where salary employees receive the pension and health benefits of the union employees cause us non-union employees who don't work for them to pay higher prices in goods and services to cover it.

Speaking of health benefits, union employees think they have given, given, given toward them. Has! Many of us non-union employees have been paying for a good portions of our health care for decades.

We have had to go to high deductible policies to lower the still high premiums. All the while, our taxes are going to cover the public employees' great health care. In addition, we don't have coverage through our company after we retire. Many union companies do.

The only exception I see in who should have the best benefits ever are people who put their lives on the line like police, firefighters, border patrol, veterans, etc. They run in to help and risk their lives every day to protect us.

By anon156631 — On Feb 28, 2011

All union members should be sentenced to prison for a least one tear with hard labor in a Chinese prison, all assets seized. family sent to China for one year to be reprogrammed all there retirement should go back to the government.

When they get out after a few floggings they should be paid the same as the chinese. That way we won't have to send our work to china if these spoiled union or ex union members complain send them back a chinese prion for five years.

Give the company owners and management raises and all the assets of these lazy union mafia members, back to the hard working owners and educated managers.

The government should build work camps for these lazy union members with very little heat or food enough to live on. They should work 365 days a week with no more vacations, sick leave or disability or retirement -- just good old fashioned work. Let the hard working mangers and owners have vacations and generous retirements.

No more welfare unemployment food stamps etc. Union (mafia reps )and family should be sentenced to life in prison. We would be a much better run, proud country again.

By anon156608 — On Feb 28, 2011

As a person who is unemployed, and no longer receiving benefits, i would like to see these union folk who still have work stop complaining about what they feel they are "entitled" to and remember how much better they have it than many individuals in this country.

I do not wish anyone to end up in my position but for pete's sake, be grateful for what you have, because it can all be taken away if the economy suffers even more. i would much rather just be working.

By Deeli — On Feb 27, 2011

@anon156524: Kasich can not take your pension away because you are a public government union worker and there are laws in place that what has already been contributed on your behalf as a public servant can not be taken away.

I am sure you already know that so, sorry not trying to be mean, but please no more whining. How about thinking of all the private sector jobs, union or otherwise, who have already lost most, if not all, of their pensions because they have not been given the same privilege as you.

People who were already retired and, if they can even find a job now, have to go back to work. Everyone needs to roll up their sleeves now and and that includes the unionized teachers.

The private sector has had to suck it up already. Being a government worker does not make you special or any better than the rest.

By anon156538 — On Feb 27, 2011

Collective bargaining and unions did not get us the 40-hour work week, the 8 hour day, and overtime pay. That was due to the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act. That law was passed during the Great Depression. The Roosevelt administration supported it because they wanted to increase employment. The idea was if workers worked fewer hours, employers would have to hire more. So that idea that the 40 hour work week and eight hour day are the "gift" of the unions is false.

As for working conditions being a "hellhole" before unions, Henry Ford in the early 1900's established the five-day work week and high pay for his assembly line workers. Part of the reason was to enable workers to have the money to buy his cars and the leisure to use them. His actions are credited with creating the large middle class that is the hallmark of America.

By anon156524 — On Feb 27, 2011

Unions started because of the poor working conditions. They have brought many positive things to the work place like the 40 hour week, five day work weeks, weekends off, sick days, 401K's, be able to speak your mind without oppressive consequences, etc.

I've been a teacher the past 27 years and it is disappointing when I hear about lazy union workers both for the private and public sector we are all affected by that.

Recently, Ohio has changed their retirement system so that teachers have to essentially work until we are 60 so if you start at 21 then you will have to work for 39 years. I pay nearly 50 percent of my retirement. I'm sure some school districts require less. I also pay for about 20 percent of my medical care.

Of the 27 years of contracts that I have been involved in, four of those I received 1 percent, three 0 percent, and the other years between 2-3 percent. The real reason that Kasich is going after our collective bargaining is he is after our pension. He also wants to crush the unions because they are the last of the major contributors to the Democratic Party.

So, we'll have huge class sizes, nobody will speak up, and our working conditions will get a lot worse, which will ultimately affect the kids.

By anon156464 — On Feb 27, 2011

Unions can financially bust the state with their cupidity--they are a collective extortion group.

By anon156420 — On Feb 27, 2011

You tell me if they get paid too much. My uncle is an iron worker in chicago and is in the union. He makes about 80k a year and full benefits. He laughs and said he has never worked more than four months a year. Though his job was to work on high floors. he said he has never gone above The second story. He says that it takes four people to watch one person who shovels who takes a cig break every 15 min. You tell me how well do they do.

In NY firefighters are making over a 100k a year and work three days on, four days off. I don't think businesses should take advantage, but unions shouldn't either.

By anon156301 — On Feb 26, 2011

As someone who has to manage staff who cannot do their jobs, and I have to spend my time writing them up, monitoring them and creating a large file before the union will even consider doing anything about them, we need to do something about this.

Why do we have teachers who are not performing and we can do nothing about it? Unions. These people do not have to be accountable and they know, and they milk the system.

By anon156145 — On Feb 25, 2011

My dad passed away last year at 90 and he worked for NY State overseeing about 75 workers.

How he lived so long after catching guys sleeping on the job, stealing and having sex and not being able to fire them or transfer them is amazing.

He was so stressed that after retiring at 66 he had to have heart surgery brought on by the stress.

Yeah I have a lot of respect for public unions! Protect the lazy, criminal or incompetent and bring the rest down to your level! Wake up America it is a Communist tradition and tactic that will destroy us!

By anon156101 — On Feb 25, 2011

Do what the rest of us do: work your butt off, perform at a high level, and when there's a problem explain that you can go somewhere else if they can't meet your needs.

If you lack the confidence to do that, don't take it out on everyone else. You'd better reconsider the situation if you are a public employee. You're bargaining with me, pal. I'm your employer. I'm the taxpayer.

By anon156089 — On Feb 25, 2011

I see the problem with collective bargaining tied closely to the difference between defined contribution and defined benefit retirement programs. With defined contribution plans, for as long as an employee works for an organization he/she receives a set percentage or amount of money that is deposited into a savings vehicle (IRA, Tax Sheltered Annuity, etc). That money continues to grow and when it comes time to retire, whatever that amount is belongs to the retiree. The total amount depends, among other things, on how well the money was invested. In any event, when the person retires, the organization no longer contributes to that person's retirement plan.

On the other hand, the defined benefit retirement plan identifies a fixed amount of money (and benefits)the retiree will have when retirement comes. If for some reason, the monies invested by the employer for this plan are less than what is needed to pay the defined benefits of retirees, action is taken to raise the required funds. In the case of public employees, this may mean increased taxes, layoff of current employees, or some other combination of cutbacks/tax increases.

When the defined contributions people lose money, no one is asked to bail them out. But when the defined contribution people (public service employees)lose, taxpayers foot the bill. Doesn't seem right!

By anon156054 — On Feb 25, 2011

Who then will speak for the employee and give them a central voice? The employer? As an employer I have been I through a six month union fight and I do not mean just legal. I do not love unions and the unions do create problems, but the employers have as much to blame for this mess by not treating employees equitably, and that included my firm.

By anon156026 — On Feb 25, 2011

The unions and democrats are very nervous. This could be the end of the free ride for both of them. For years, the unions have been "making deals" with the politicians (democrats) in return for pouring money into their campaigns. The unions are way too powerful. That is not good for our country.

By anon155982 — On Feb 25, 2011

My uncle worked for one of the big 3 and had his hand cut off at work by a fellow union worker who was drunk at the time and nothing happened to the drunk!

Unions have lost their focus, and they are antiquated! They were great when there were no laws protecting workers but that isn't the case today.

By anon155827 — On Feb 24, 2011

Seriously some people need to rethink this whole issue. Grow up and act like the adults you are and quit acting like children. There are issues on both sides of this debate that need to be resolved. I think the Republicans need to do the jobs they were elected to do just like the Democrats. Refusing to debate the topics is just as bad as refusing to show up. How mature.

By anon155810 — On Feb 24, 2011

My husband puts his life on the line every time he goes to work. He makes an average salary. He also works a part time job. We do what we have to just like everyone else in the working class. We are not making the money the Rep. want you to think we are.

Let see, though, Ohio's new governor bumped all the salaries of his staff. Example Comm. Director when form $89000 to $120000. Wow, and he states they are broke and need concessions? Start at the top. Why are the public officials exempt?

By anon155807 — On Feb 24, 2011

collective bargaining is a great tool. some of the things that have come from collective bargaining are overtime pay after 40 hours, vacation, health care, family medical leave, a fair wage be it minimum wage or more. These were all brought to the table by collective bargaining.

Work conditions where horrible in this country before collective bargaining. In most work places, if you where hurt or fell over dead you were shoved to the side and fired on the spot and someone else would step right in a take your place. Of course that would be the case today but they have not outlived their need.

it is a voice for all, union and non union alike. yes some people belong to a union and some of you believe the pay and benefits are too much but don't let that make you have blinders on. collective bargaining is a tool that helps all in the work force.

By anon155803 — On Feb 24, 2011

Public workers do not make outrageous salaries. They actually make less than private industry. Many people chose to go into the public sector for the benefits and pension, not the pay. Does that make them evil?

No enterprising capitalist would've taken those jobs before the economy tanked. Now the Republicans and the public in general are vilifying hardworking people for this choice. Democrats are supported by Unions, so of course they are on that side of the issue and have their own agenda.

Let's all open our eyes and see whats going on in politics. It's pitting hard working public and private sector middle class people against each other.

By anon155721 — On Feb 24, 2011

I am a Union member in the private sector, and let me tell you if you do not produce you will be out a job. In the public sector, it does not matter. You produce nothing. When times get hard, all the public Union members keep on going. Let's face it: public Union members get the money from taxpayers, and do not produce a profit or a product!

By anon155592 — On Feb 24, 2011

If collective bargaining is done away with, what will replace it?

By anon155554 — On Feb 23, 2011

collective bargaining is only about the payouts to democrats to keep them in office and to keep their the public workers outrageous pay and especially their unsupportable retirements. i wish the tax payers will wake up more.

By anon155495 — On Feb 23, 2011

i wonder if they get health care and everything else they want in the collective bargaining process- how much much better they will perform on the job? after all for teachers the ratings can't get too much worse-- 26th in the world's most industrialized nations. money would be spent much more wisely for advanced instruction for educators, no?

By anon155280 — On Feb 23, 2011

I can't afford to pay for my own health insurance. Why would i want to pay for teachers health insurance? Most make an excellent salary.

By anon155167 — On Feb 22, 2011

@anon154027: This is exactly what we did in WI. We voted in a Conservative Gov. to bring the spending back in line. He is trying to do just that and the unionized public workers don't like it. They want to "bring the govt. down".

By anon155135 — On Feb 22, 2011

As with most opinions, they are exactly that, and often come from either biased or misinformed people. There are problems with collective bargaining, stimulus bailouts, etc., etc.

This push recently on state employee unions is just the tip of the iceberg for states to get their hands on the retirement stash to bail out social security and line their own pockets. Ohio's governor ripped off $400 million from retirees for Lehman Brothers before getting elected. Let's not be so ignorant as to think that any elected official is any different.

Lotteries were supposed to help fund schools and are taking in record amounts. Why is every school district having budget deficits, asking for tax levies, having their funding cut by the state, and then more un-funded mandates levied by the officials cutting their funds? Hey, why not offer less money for more work? Works in China and Taiwan. Too bad we can't send our kids to school there. I'm sure they can do it cheaper with less corruption.

By anon155122 — On Feb 22, 2011

free ride is over, get back to work.

By anon155091 — On Feb 22, 2011

Lets send the unions out to bargain with these countries who out-negotiated the weak american apologists on currency exchange rates. If we could fix that and promote cheap energy (nuclear) (drilling in Alaska and offshore) the middle class wouldn't mind paying for early retirement and health care for everyone,

By anon155033 — On Feb 22, 2011

I'd like to set the record straight on some errors I have seen in the above comments. Federal employees cannot retire at age 55 under normal circumstances. I was able to retire at age 59 because of reorganization of our outfit and my position was abolished.

Second, a federal employee/retiree has also had to contribute to their retirement and health insurance. Third, federal employees must forfeit two-thirds of their Social Security if they collect a retirement from the federal government.

For example, my retirement is about $800 and I receive $78 a month social security (max), even though I paid the necessary contributions to social security. I am not complaining; just want the truth to be told. I support the Governor of Wisconsin since I believe a balanced budget is better than a bankrupt state.

By Deeli — On Feb 22, 2011

@anon153499: and a couple others stating similarly, I would like to point out that it depends on what type of government employee as to what your pension will be. As just one example, I have a couple of family members who worked 25 years in government positions, retired from that job at 45, went on to a private sector job and at 55 were eligible for their government pension of 60 percent of their government earnings 'while they continued for another 10 years in a private sector job'.

At age 65, they retired from the private sector job with the 60 percent government pension, their private sector pension and their social security retirement benefits along with assorted other government benefits connected with that position.

Personally, I am sickened that unions are allowed to represent 'any' public employee. Public employees are essentially my employees. If they can not negotiate themselves with their immediate boss (who is also my employee) like a private sector employee has to then find another job.

Also, as another poster mentioned, labor unions served their true and original purpose to protect but have outgrown their use. There are enough government employee protections in place now that unions are no longer necessary except for nanny state greed. Let's also mention how corrupt unions have become and are in bed with government officials. Anyone here remember Tammany Hall?

By anon154929 — On Feb 22, 2011

When a private sector business for into bankruptcy, another buys them and leans the business and makes it profitable once again. This happens in free market forces.

When a city municipality or county or state goes bankrupt, why can't another profitable municipality simply buy them and reduce the duplication of efforts?

Imagine combining the governments of the 72 Wisconsin counties into maybe only seven or even five counties with less middle management, etc.

By anon154910 — On Feb 22, 2011

The unions and the union members are only concerned with themselves. A business must be concerned with its employees, products, government regulations, etc. Without these companies, guess what? No jobs! Hence the fleeing of jobs oversees!

I really cannot believe that the unions and the liberals cannot see they are destroying businesses with their selfish, greedy desires. By the way, weren't these same unions and politicians not long ago telling private industry that we would have to tighten our belts and make concessions? Guess it doesn't apply to them!

Bunch of infantile babies and hypocrites! We should be able to fire the fleeing politicians, how mature! We need Reagan! He had guts!

By anon154873 — On Feb 22, 2011

@#36: I am a "white collar" worker in a municipality. Contrary to your belief, I have not had a raise for two years. This year, I received less of a raise than my fellow employees who hat are unionized. I also get fewer benefits up and done. I have also seen my workload increase as well as hours.

I am not complaining, just making sure you have some facts instead of generalizations that may not be correct. Fact is, there is a budget crisis in most areas due to reduced taxes due to the economy. At the same time, the cost of doing things continues to rise and will continue to rise. Municipalities are beginning to declare bankruptcy, states can't pay bills, and there is no money.

By anon154872 — On Feb 22, 2011

the bad guys are winning. I fear we are lost.

By anon154850 — On Feb 22, 2011

It's not right for a union to negotiate pay and benefits with a politician after the union has poured money into the politician's coffers. The politician will return the favor and thus a cycle of legal corruption is started.

By anon154750 — On Feb 22, 2011

It's not about reason, it's about agenda. You cannot reason with people who only think about themselves. The jobs were sent overseas and things have been in a downward spiral ever since. Nothing can be sustained here when you compete with overseas wages that wouldn't allow you to eat in this country. They have finally won; we're attacking each other.

By anon154578 — On Feb 21, 2011

I want to hear what federal, state and county white collar workers make, those from white collar federal workers (Congress, Senators, etc.) to state governors and their white collar workers to county executives and their white collar workers and all the benefits they get.

Most of those white collar government workers get what is voted on in those collective bargaining negotiated contacts. All I see is a lot of hypocrites! These people are getting paid too much!

By geTaylor — On Feb 21, 2011

I am in general agreement with #21(anon153950).

I have rarely seen the issue of "pensions" for elected officials discussed by anyone (candidates, "good government" advocates, or the "media" organizations and pundits), at anytime in the "political" cycle.

I'd wager that most of the participants in this thread (civil service pensions) are unaware of the after-service compensation granted by elected officials to themselves at the cost of taxpayers.

Not saying that their arduous and skillful efforts on behalf of the public weal has not earned the level of compensation they expect.

Is there anyone out there who can cite some specifics in relation to NY state or city?

By anon154525 — On Feb 21, 2011

'We' are not the govt that negotiates with the unions. 'We' should be, but the politicians that 'bargain' with the unions are pandering to their constituents that pay their wages and expect representation, and the unions that contribute (often)large sums of money to their campaigns, so that the unions stay strong.

i am an SEIU member. i do pay toward my benefits. i also pay towards my retirement. i will not, nor cannot retire at 55, as most government employees. my health benefits will be medicare and a supplemental insurance. social security benefits and my pension (my employer pays 6 percent of 25 percent of what I contribute) will have to sustain me. Retirement will happen at least 11 years later for me than for a government employee, who will pay taxes yes, but will not pay for health and will have around 90 percent of their pay for life.

i will pay for their comfort. You will pay for their comfort, all the while trying to pay for our own comfort. sorry, but i don't believe this is fair.

By anon154483 — On Feb 21, 2011

if you ain't happy with where you work, pay and conditions, find another job. You made the deal with the employer when you hired on, and it's his/her business he/she created.

Each individual worker can negotiate with the boss and get what they want, providing their skills really benefit the workplace. I did that close to 60 years without benefit of any union butting into my affairs and telling me i have to strike.

While workers at huge conglomerates may benefit from unions, small individually owned companies are at the mercy of some union thugs who want no more than union dues from workers. union labor is no better than non-union.

By anon154420 — On Feb 20, 2011

Why is the government in the education business? This sort of conflict would be avoided if education was handled by the private sector. Education might even improve.

By anon154370 — On Feb 20, 2011

@anon153950: Are you insane? No one has the right to retire! Show me in the constitution where it is written. Then show me where a businessman is guaranteed to stay in business and to not be sued for all their wealth when an employee makes a mistake.

I provide jobs because I enjoy helping people take care of their families like you teachers enjoy teaching kids.

Get back to work and stop taking everything for granted. Nothing can be guaranteed when governments are broke because they are overburdened with benefits!

Not many could retire prior to the 1970's. You make it sound like retirement has been around since the 1900's.

By anon154356 — On Feb 20, 2011

No matter what your position is, the voters put a Republican majority in the Senate, and if you really believe that the people are the government, then majority rules.

Let the Republicans have their way in WI. If it doesn't improve the economy then vote them out and go back to business as usual.

The Republicans' approach has not been used in WI so what will it hurt to give it a try, besides, as I said, majority rules.

By anon154341 — On Feb 20, 2011

I agree with one person who said that the governors of NJ and WI should not budge. Of course, if the union wants to meet and agrees to your terms, since for years it seems the governments have agreed to theirs, then I would say meet and listen to what they have to say.

Each state has X amount of money to spend. Tell the Union the bottom line and let the unions come up with the plan to make it happen. No increases in the future either.

I worked in the private sector for many years and one year they increased the CEO's annual salary by $1 million and that same year for everyone else the salary was cut by 10 percent. Another year I did not get any raise. Bad things happen. So you move on and do the best you can and somehow it all works out.

By anon154317 — On Feb 20, 2011

The unions job is to get the highest wages and the best benefits possible for its members. They have been successful in Wi. Union workers are better off than the ones who have to foot the bill.

The protesters should focus some of their hate at the idiots who got them their plush benefits who are running this country in the ground. Not at the ones who have been elected to fix a problem. Collective bargaining has given the union the upper hand at the bargaining table. The current fiscal situtation is the result.

By anon154261 — On Feb 20, 2011

Collective bargaining clearly impedes a critical element necessity for free markets to function efficiently.

Simply, the CB influence disenfranchises the incentive for maximum productivity. This isn't to say that some don't always give it their best, however, one is naive to believe the inefficiencies do not outweigh the efficiencies.

By anon154213 — On Feb 20, 2011

The government already pays you a pension when you become of age! it's called social security! oh, you want two? well, I'm not sure but i don't think we can afford it.

By anon154118 — On Feb 19, 2011

The unions were established at the turn or the century to combat poor working conditions and wages. The typical worker today in a non union situation, works in a safe, and well paid position but certainly contributes much more to their health care costs, and does not have a pension.

Free health care and pensions are sure budget busters. We no longer need unions because they have given unionized workers an entitlement attitude, to which they aren't entitled! Wake up! Ask your non union neighbor like me what they contribute toward their medical costs and if they have a pension. Quit crying, and start paying your fair share and let's balance some budgets.

By anon154050 — On Feb 19, 2011

Government union workers are the only ones that can sit on both sides of the bargaining table and proclaim "rats, my taxes are going up. Oh, wait I'm getting a raise, sweet health insurance plan for life and retire before age 60!" Nice, I like collective bargaining. Nonunion worker, sorry about your luck -- and your tax increase!

By anon154027 — On Feb 19, 2011

It seems that many people forget that government employees also are taxpayers and are considered "them" or "they". The benefits that are received have been agreed upon by both sides. The employer, in this case, is "the government".

Who is the government? You! As a voter, you have elected officials that represent your voice as the employer. They, up until this point, at least, have bargained and agreed to the terms of employee contracts. It's a 2-way street, just like every other job.

Contact your representatives and let them know how you feel. As "the employer", do you think it is the responsible thing to adapt a "take-it-or-leave-it" attitude or is it the responsible thing to adapt more of a team attitude. You decide. You vote. You let your representation know.

By anon154017 — On Feb 19, 2011

OK. then with state laws protecting the rights of employees, "Labor"seems the unions don't trust their own union employees at the top level. Kevin R, Rahway NJ

By anon153950 — On Feb 18, 2011

@anon153209: so teachers, police officers, fire fighters, etc. are all lazy? They need to put in the full time it takes for them too retire to collect those so called benefits for life you speak about. Whereas our elected officials put in one term and lose their next run at the office and receive their pension and benefits.

If you want to fix this, then make the officials get real jobs after they are no longer representing us! They are the ones who need to take the cuts not the people who go through college and work for 30 years or more to gain their right to retire and get those benefits or have to put their lives on the line in the hopes that others will not infringe on your rights and freedoms.

I say the governor in WI is typical of all the blind business men out their in their opinion that others are put on this earth to serve them and line their pockets so they can decide what John and Jane Q public should have or not have. I applaud the WI democrats for leaving town and delaying this union busting bill!

By anon153902 — On Feb 18, 2011

I would like to know specifically where the cost comes from in collective bargaining.

By anon153805 — On Feb 18, 2011

if these unions are not brought under control it will bankrupt the country and our children including government. how is lobbying not illegal and how is obama in their pocket? this country is going down unless there is a revolution!

By anon153770 — On Feb 18, 2011

The only thing employees should be able to bargain for is the right to find another job if they don't like the one they have. I am 70 yrs old, a blue collar worker, and have refused to ever join a union.

By anon153716 — On Feb 18, 2011

To the comments made by anon153209: while federal workers may not pay as much for health insurance as the average private sector employee, it is by no means 'free'.

As far as retirement, government workers hired after 1984 pay into a 401k type plan that has a five percent match, much like most private sector employees have.

And while govt workers do receive a "pension" of 1 percent of pay for every year worked, averaging the 3 highest years of pay, they too still have to lean on social security, just like private sector employees. It is a decent retirement, but for everyday average govt workers, it is not 'lucrative'.

By anon153684 — On Feb 17, 2011

Lazy government employee? Do you think teachers are lazy? Do you think they don't deserve heath care? And lucrative pensions with taxpayer money? These people pay taxes too!

By anon153593 — On Feb 17, 2011

Being from Wis, and being part of a small business in the construction field, I have greatly learned to dislike Unions in the roles they fill today. The state is so Pro-union, it makes it hard for us as a small business to get jobs because of all the hoops, paperwork, and hassle that was created by unions. Let's not forget that because of the greater pay union laborers demand (30-60 percent more), a lot fewer construction happens because companies cannot afford to build.

The problem with unions is that they are a 'business' and ran like one (for profit), but they have special privileges in this state.

Unions hurt small businesses, and they hurt the economy. Look at all the factory work that has been shipped over sea's due to union's demanding too much money. Look at the lack of construction happening because it costs 20 percent more for a project over what a merit shop would cost. Unions have outlived their usefulness in today's market, and are detrimental to the economy.

By anon153499 — On Feb 17, 2011

I beg to differ with the previous poster. As a former Wisconsin State Employee, I can assure you that my health care was not free, nor was it "for life". My retirement pension was also not any more lucrative than my husband's in the private sector.

As in any large organization, there are those who do not pull their own weight. However, there are many who work very hard, and I resent the idea that all government employees are freeloaders. You have no idea what you are talking about, so cease spouting your inaccuracies and your nastiness.

I agree that the Wisconsin budget needs to be brought into line, and I absolutely detest what the teachers are doing here today. However, this does not make all public employees 'freeloaders'.

By anon153481 — On Feb 17, 2011

Looks like the only people not represented by collective bargaining are the people who pay the tab, as in the government employee unions!

By anon153209 — On Feb 16, 2011

It time to abolish the government employee unions. they are too costly and takes advantage of free taxpayers' money They get free health care for life, a very lucrative retirement pension all at the taxpayer expenses, where the majority of the John and Jane Q Public does not get anything as close to what those lazy Government Employee Workers gets! Rock on Governors of NJ and WIS!

By anon128053 — On Nov 18, 2010

can the attitude of participants in collective bargaining affect its outcome?

By anon67509 — On Feb 25, 2010

In the days of competitive economies, the collective bargaining has lost its hold and has been replaced by productivity bargaining. Unions no more bar the gain and collect.

s. madhavan

By anon66051 — On Feb 17, 2010

The article is enlightening and very educative for sure. But is it possible that the workers and the employer may get into negotiations without the representation of a union and employer representative?

By anon56332 — On Dec 14, 2009

Do you believe that collective bargaining has contributed to the prosperity of Trinidad & Tobago and industrial peace in Trinidad & Tobago?

By anon48033 — On Oct 09, 2009

does the minority have a say when it comes to collective bargaining?

By anon47349 — On Oct 04, 2009

What are the major stakeholders involved in collective bargaining.

By anon44337 — On Sep 07, 2009

hi. your article is great. can there be a selection of a member to be on the collective bargaining committee when he is from both sides of employers and employees alike. Maybe you have a company but according to the rules you put up to run your company. Are you paid a salary like your employees.

By anon41907 — On Aug 18, 2009

how are the employers' interests protected? it seems that employers enter agreements under duress since unions employ adverse and extreme tactic like strikes and the like, leaving employers with no option.

By anon41000 — On Aug 12, 2009

Hi, The article is very interesting, but i want you to differentiate between negotiation and collective bargaining for me. Thank you

By anon35211 — On Jul 03, 2009

Can both the dispute of right and interest be bargained in the bargaining council?

By anon21336 — On Nov 14, 2008

who are the members of collective bargaining meeting?

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