Chicago, IL asked in Business Law, Contracts, Employment Law and Workers' Compensation for Illinois

Q: Can you negotiate a new union contract before the old one has expired if it is in the best interest of the workers ?

I am part of a labor union in Illinois. Since COVID, we have lost many co-workers and applicants to higher-paying non-union jobs in our field. Our contract is not up until January, but if it keeps going this way, we will have no labor force left by then because we cannot stay competitive pay-wise. Being understaffed in turn leads to the employees having to take on more than their original role to keep the company moving and the employer making comments about wanting to pay more to hire more people but their “hands are tied”.

Are there any options as far as renegotiating a union contract before the old one has expired if it is in the best interest of the union members and the company at large?

1 Lawyer Answer
Charles Candiano
Charles Candiano
  • Workers' Compensation Lawyer
  • Chicago, IL
  • Licensed in Illinois

A: This is a contract law question. Workers' Compensation is an area of law that deals with work-related injuries. Whenever BOTH parties to a contract WANT to make a changes (irrespective of reason), they certainly may.

The Union's response should be "Your hands are NOT tied because we release you from the term of our present agreement." My sense is that the company was disingenuous about "wanting" to increase payroll. Few employers "want" to increase labor expenses. If your contract expires 1-1-22, why aren't you at the table now? There are only 10 weeks left in the contract. Once you are in negotiations, it would be the perfect opportunity to discuss each other's needs. You should also consider a less rigid or a shorter contract if the present contract caused the problems that you detail. Moreover, it is a logistic nightmare to get members together over the Holidays to discuss/ratify a contract. Far better to get it done, now. Good luck.

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