Frequently Asked Questions
Associations are the principal means for workers to organize and protect their rights on the job. The associational contract or “collective bargaining agreement” establishes the basic terms and conditions of work. Associations give workers a voice with employers and provides the means to gain a measure of security and dignity on the job. Most associations maintain a paid professional staff to manage their activities. Associations pursue strategies and activities that serve the interests of their members. These include representing members and negotiating with employers, recruiting new members and engaging in political action when necessary to support policies that improve working conditions for all workers.
Collective Bargaining, covers a wide variety of subjects and involves hundreds of thousands of associations members in the process. Representatives of labor and management negotiate over wages, benefits, hours, and working conditions. The settlement reached is spelled out in a written document or contract. The contract normally contains a grievance procedure to settle disputes. It is the association’s responsibility to enforce the contract on behalf of the members. It has not been easy to establish collective bargaining as a permanent part of American life. The efforts of associations to establish the concept of collective bargaining are little known, but a very important part of American history, involving great sacrifice and bitter struggle. Historically, management took the position that because they owned the means of production, they had the sole right to determine the conditions of employment. Collective Bargaining forms the cornerstone of industrial democracy.
As a worker, you have a federally guaranteed right to form or join an association, and bargain collectively with your employer. WOWFED organizers and/or stewards are the representatives of the association who help workers deal with unfair treatment, discrimination, and with other workplace issues. This helps balance the power that an employer has over individual employees. Belonging to an association gives you rights under the law that you do not have as an individual. Once you have formed an association, your employer must bargain with your association over your wages, benefits, hours, and working conditions. Association workers, on average, earn higher wages and get more benefits than workers who are not represented by an association.