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The 5 Stages of Collective Bargaining

Collective bargaining is about more than ensuring economic security. It's about winning better conditions for student learning and development. Here's how to make it work for you.
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Published: 06/2020 Last Updated: 06/2022

Collective bargaining is a process through which the union and employer exchange proposals, share ideas, mutually solve problems, and reach a written agreement.  

Most times, bargaining occurs when an existing contract is going to expire. But sometimes, a local will be negotiating a first contract after organizing a new bargaining unit. Both sides form bargaining teams and gather information.  

The resulting approved contract legally binds both parties. Each round of successor negotiations allows the parties to revisit existing agreements.  

While there are many local variations, here is how the collective bargaining process commonly unfolds in public education.  

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The National Education Association (NEA), the nation's largest professional employee organization, is committed to advancing the cause of public education. NEA's 3 million members work at every level of education—from pre-school to university graduate programs. NEA has affiliate organizations in every state and in more than 14,000 communities across the United States.