ENDING CONCESSION CULTURE
When Equity negotiates an agreement with an employer, both sides sit down at the bargaining table. They say what they want, we say what we want, and then we spend the time hammering out our differences and reaching a deal. It's often said that in order to accomplish anything at the negotiating table, you have to be willing to give something up—that's often the nature of good faith bargaining. But the table is where those conversations should be had, and once the deal is done and hands are shaken, it's over. The contract is the contract until we meet again.
Except, not really. Because day after day, Equity is inundated with requests for contract concessions.
What's a contract concession? It's basically when an employer comes to Equity AFTER contract negotiations have ended, asking for something new. Usually in exchange for nothing. "We know we had a deal and shook hands and signed on the dotted line, but we'd like something else too, please."
And believe it or not, we have a culture at Equity of saying yes. A lot.
This has to change.
Now, I can't say that I've never voted in favor of granting a concession, because I have. Sometimes special circumstance arise, and the request that comes from an employer is actually mutually beneficial for both the producer and our members. I don't have any problem with that. If a concession request comes paired with an offer of better terms for our members, that's absolutely a conversation worth having. I see that as simply asking for a small reopening of negotiations.
But what has troubled me from the outset of my time on Council has been a culture of willingness to accede to the demands of employer for concessions because "one size doesn't fit all." Or because "our contracts aren't widgets." Or because "it will help us keep a good relationship with the employer." We undercut ourselves when we do this.
When our employers negotiate with us—whether as an independent producer or a member of a multi-employer group—they have every opportunity at the bargaining table to achieve the contractual terms they want. THAT is the time to ask—not after the fact, and certainly not for free.
"Concession culture" at Equity weakens our bargaining position, because it teaches our employers that they don't need to ask for what they want at the table, when they can just get it later—and for nothing in return. A union-wide willingness to deny most concessions will lead to significantly better outcomes for our members in negotiations.
As Eastern Regional Vice President, I've led the charge against concession culture. I will continue to do so.