The Language Of Contract Promises And Power In Union Collective Bargaining Agreements

The United Steelworkers used the density and strength of their union to establish a national bargaining relationship with International Paper (IP). In the past, the relationship between the union and IP was controversial, and negotiations between many regions and indigenous peoples were fragmented, but the union is now negotiating with IP two national agreements that set wages and benefits. One deal concerns 5,800 workers in 17 paper mills, the other agreement 4,700 workers in 55 boxing factories across the country. Location-specific issues are then negotiated at the local level. The union represents workers in about 70% of IP factories and 60% of IP boxing plants. In contrast, the union represents workers in only four of the 18 Kimberly Clark institutions, and the union has yet to win national negotiations at Kimberly Clark23.23 Unions can obtain certification of a national bargaining unit from a single employer and have negotiated a single collective agreement for all of that employer`s sites, or they can negotiate at the national level on the basis of several employers. Examples of these two examples follow. One of the best-known examples of national multi-employer negotiations that set standards for an entire industry is the Teamsters Master Freight Agreement, negotiated by Jimmy Hoffa in the 1960s.20 When it was first adopted, the Master Freight Agreement included more than 450,000 drivers, had literally hundreds of signatories and set standards for the entire truck industry. However, the agreement has been undermined by deregulation and consolidation of the sector. Nevertheless, the Teamsters are still able to conclude national agreements that raise standards for tens of thousands of freight industry workers.

The Master Freight Agreement includes YRC Freight, Holland and New Penn, which together employ approximately 24,000 truck drivers, dockworkers and office workers at more than 200 sites in the United States. In addition, the Teamsters have national agreements with ABF Freight, which covers more than 8,000 employees at more than 150 sites, and UPS Freight, which covers 12,000 freight drivers and dockworkers. Teamsters also represent nearly 300,000 package, air and access driver ups, as well as loaders, sorters and managers at 400 UPS sites – making the contract for these workers the largest collective agreement for the private sector in the United States.

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