How to negotiate: tips from the US labour movement

Submitted by AWL on 28 July, 2009 - 6:02

Tips from The Troublemakers' Handbook, a publication from Labor Notes in the USA, http://www.troublemakershandbook.org.

* Negotiating committees that are not sufficiently linked to members often make the mistake of thinking the force of their arguments along will help them win... Member solidarity is the most important element in successful bargaining.

* In almost every negotiation there is a moment when the boss gets up and yells. Committee members should be told to anticipate that moment, and when it actually happens they will not be intimidated.

* The company must trust the negotiating committee. They don't have to like you, but they do have to respect you. Sneakiness is not good; your word has to be good at all times. You can, however, surprise them.

* The people who are negotiating for the company often do not have a real understanding of how the company operates on the ground. Bringing people in to testify can have a large impact.

* The most common mistake [novice] negotiators make is to bargain against themselves. For example, the negotiator will say, "We'll take 50 cents". When the company says no, the negotiator will then say, "Okay, we'll take 25 cents". A better strategy is to make an offer and leave it on the table. Wait for the company to make a counter-offer.

* Communicating with the membership about the process of negotiations is crucial, but the committee should not make the company's arguments for it. Report what the company says, but don't make their arguments for them.

* If you cannot recommend the contract, do not recommend it.

* Negotiators who've sweated through bargaining sessions have a natural tendency to put the best possible face on the... offer... [But] members should get a true picture of the contract, warts and all, and have plenty of time to discuss it... Negotiators should provide members the entire proposed contract... This is easily done online, but make enough paper copies for those who want them too.

* If you recommend rejection... you'll need a clear alternative plan: keep striking... go on strike, keep negotiating, inside strategy [i.e. work-to-rule or similar tactics]...

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