It’s Not Just the “Union Contract”
Don’t be misled by the term “union contract.” Understandably, people call it that because the union negotiates it. But every contract is a deal struck by two parties and is binding on both. In the case of a collective bargaining agreement, this means that your employer and your union have gone through a process of give and take. At the end they reached an agreement under which employees and the employer have both rights and obligations. So it’s not really just the “union contract,” it’s the “union and employer” contract, and both sides have to live by it. Understand, too, that a union contract is fundamentally different from other contracts you’re used to, say a contract to buy a house. A collective bargaining agreement reflects the relative power between the union and the employer. You and your union may not be pleased with some of the terms in a contract settlement, but you may not have the wherewithal to reject a deal on those terms. Sometimes all that can be done is to take the deal this time and organize more effectively for the next round of bargaining. Always remember this: without fail, the stronger the union, the stronger the union contract.
—Adapted from The Union Member's Complete Guide, by Michael Mauer