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Negotiating for Unions in the ‘No-Strike Zone’

May 5th, 2016

no-strike-zone-philadelphia-law-firmIf two people were to play a word association game and one player said, “union,” the other might answer, “strike.” Movies, popular literature, and political discourse have so denigrated labor organizations in recent years that to many, speaking of unions prompts images of picket signs, disgruntled workers, and factories grinding to a gloomy halt. These are the decades-old images that color our beliefs surrounding what happens when union workers disagree with their employers about the standard of living their hard work yields.

But what happens to union employees in the public sector who do not have the right to strike? Many unionized workers, such as police officers and firefighters, do jobs so vital to the welfare of the community that striking would prove disastrous. In most states, Pennsylvania included, it is actually illegal for critical public sector workers to strike.

This is why effective collective bargaining is especially important for employees with a strong ongoing duty to the community. As in other sectors, public sector unions strive to ensure that their members are sufficiently compensated, have access to high-quality health care, and have decent pension benefits. In the case of police officers and firefighters, however, there are even more serious considerations. Adequate budget allocations for safety measures and state-of-the art protective equipment have to be carefully negotiated with employers to mitigate the high risks that come with these dangerous jobs.

When entering into collective bargaining negotiations, it is important for a union’s legal team to do an in-depth analysis of the fiscal health of the employer. What is the employer’s true ability to pay? A knee-jerk reaction that employers often have when unions ask for additional pay and benefits is to reply, “We have no money for that.” But are the coffers truly empty? Or do the people making budget decisions simply feel that such expenditures are excessive and unnecessary? Employers can feel threatened when told how to spend money, so it is crucial that hard facts are meticulously gathered and a knowledgeable legal team represents the union at the negotiation table.

That said, it is important to tailor a union’s approach to the prevailing economic times. In a recession, for example, a conservative approach might be more likely to produce results than an aggressive one.

Ultimately, collective bargaining exists for the protection of the rights and welfare of all involved. The goal of these types of negotiations is to develop a mutual understanding and promote fairness between employers and employees.

We believe fiercely in defending our clients’ rights to a decent standard of living. The laws that regulate the conduct of labor unions on the federal, state, and local levels are intricate, with more complexities being added each passing year.

If your union needs help with a labor dispute, contact the labor attorneys at Willig, Williams & Davidson. Our experienced labor lawyers focus exclusively on unions and employees who offer critical services to the community, such as police officers and firefighters.

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