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Sound Principles for Effective Bargaining

1. Analyze every proposal to determine its economic and human costs. 2. Offer counter proposals to diffuse the offending parts of the employers position and float trial balloons to test the validity of different solutions. 3. Clarify the terms of agreement to avoid misunderstandings later. 4. Defend your rights as a union and those of your members. 5. Avoid using terms such as our last, best and final offer or this is a strike issue unless you are willing to stake your reputation as a negotiator on the outcome. 6. Bargain in good faith. But remember that good faith bargaining does not require you to agree to any proposal that is not in your best interests. You never give up your right to say No. 7. Consider that the other team has to save face if it is to maintain the support of its constituents. Make it clear to them that your face is worth saving too. 8. Keep in mind that the contract is of no value if it cant be enforced. Anticipate grievances on every issue and decide whether your position can be sustained in arbitration before you sign-off. 9. Evaluate all offers carefully. Conditional offers are permissible. If a package of counter proposals is offered with the understanding that rejection of any part of the package means rejection of all of it, dont try to pick and choose the things you like. 10. Choose your words carefully. Say what you mean and mean what you say. 11. Understand the law and rules of procedure in your jurisdiction. Are there strike notices required? What are the mediation deadlines or impasse procedures? The law is not always your friend, but if you dont know how it works, it will be your enemy. 12. Communicate with your bargaining unit to be sure your positions reflect the needs and desires of the membership. Remember that whatever you agree to will have to be ratified. 13. Know just how far the membership will allow you to go in your search for an agreement. Fall-back positions are part of the process. It is rare that your original proposals survive the bargaining process. 14. Prepare for the worst, hope for the best. The entire strategy to be used by the team, from ground rules to ratification, should be well thought out. Be flexible, but know what the ultimate outcome is likely to be. If a strike is possible, prepare as early as you can. Be so well prepared that the employer will not be willing to test either your strength or your resolve. 15. Remember that the goal is to get a contract and to build the union. Perfect agreements are seldom achieved. The art of compromise is not pretty. But it is better to have a solid foundation of which to build membership support than a splintered bargaining unit with divided loyalties.

AFT Union Leadership Institute