Nonprofit labor-management relations for dummies?
October 27, 2016 9:16 AM   Subscribe

I work in a small public library system. In advance of upcoming contract negotiations, our tiny Staff Association is trying to get our act together. Somehow I was elected as an officer(!), and I don't have a good understanding of our current contract and how it affects various employees (part-timers especially). Help!

Besides getting VERY familiar with the current contract (and the details of past negotiations), I need to learn more about the general issues involved and a LOT more about negotiation in these circumstances. In cursory searching, a lot of the info I've found has to do with big unions negotiating with big companies, so not directly applicable to our small Association negotiating with a library board.

Here's what I could use:
- Library-specific or non-profit specific labor resources
- General contract negotiation resources
- Any tips for providing leadership in these discussions/making sure all parties' concerns are fairly considered? We have a wide range of pay and circumstances within our small group, and we want everyone to have fair input.

No resource too basic or simple - although I've been working as a librarian for awhile, I'm a noob about these issues. Thanks for any help you can provide!
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (2 answers total)
Having worked as a school librarian for over 30 years, I have also been a member of our
union, have served as our union president for four years and as a negotiator for 15 years.

What I have learned in bargaining is this:

Everything is a quid pro quo, if you want something, you have to offer something to the other
party to get it. One example: No wage increase this year? We'll accept keeping our medical benefits
at the same level they are now, then.

Keep in mind that if you are negotiating for a group, your first duty is to your constituents.
Be sure to have a preliminary meeting with those you represent, to get a sense
of what they want from management. Maybe one member is being treated unfairly in some
manner, whether not being paid for overtime, not getting lunch breaks etc. Be sure that you
are aware of this problem and bring it to the table. It's helpful if it becomes part of your
contract language, because once it's written down on paper and both parties have agreed to
it in writing, you have a fallback, a precedent for how to proceed when things go awry.

Since you are dealing with several pay grades and positions, can you make a block salary
schedule, dividing it by pay and longevity? It helps a lot if you can set a goal to negotiate
for wage increases distributed fairly across the schedule. Excel is your friend for this!

The key to successful negotiation is to find something that is acceptable to both your
constituents and to the other side, because if you create a scenario that is seen as a
win by both sides, you're more likely to achieve what you want for your members.
posted by Lynsey at 10:02 AM on October 27, 2016

Former President and negotiator for a public library: look at all grievances - at least since the last contract negotiation ans see if there are any systemic issues that can be dealt with by having clearer language in the contract. Anonymous, confidential surveys of staff - what do they want to see changed, list some common items (wages, benefits etc) and ask them to prioritise the list. Make sure there are "wins" for part-timers, even if at the expense of full-time staff.

Get people enthusiastic about negotiating - lots of meetings (even if hardly anyone comes), weekly bulletins (keep in mind management will read them too), swag if your Association has a budget. Reach out especially to the Part-timers who often feel excluded. Keep in mind all of your communication can be discoverable in a lawsuit or grievance so keep EVERYTHING professional. try not to ever email someone about negotiations without having at least one other person cc'd to aid transparency and accountability.

See the other side as people; they may have an agenda (just like you do!) but they are fulfilling a role and may present items that are being pushed on them by their funding source (and hopefully they recognise you are playing a role as well).

Reach out to others who have been in the same situation. You are between a rock and a hard place and it is often a thankless job. Good luck.
posted by saucysault at 10:28 AM on October 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

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