Good Faith Negotiations #
AJP standards require that employers negotiate with employees, and buyers negotiate with sellers, in good faith. What does that mean? The AJP standards define good faith as follows:
Good faith: Honest intent to act without taking an unfair advantage over another person or to fulfill a promise to act, even when some legal technicality is not fulfilled.
In general terms, negotiating in good faith means bargaining fairly, honestly, and in a forthright manner with the other party. It means committing to see the process through to a mutually beneficial conclusion. The National Labor Relations Board and the courts have set out more specific legal guidelines for negotiating in good faith with a union, which generally mean that an employer has to
- Meet with worker representatives with no unreasonable delays and at reasonable times;
- Work genuinely towards reaching an agreement;
- Bargain over terms and conditions, including wages and hours, safety practices, disciplinary rules and process, work assignments, etc.;
- Put agreements in writing;
- Avoid unilateral changes to working conditions;
- Provide information to worker representatives about the business on request;
- And so on.
Most employers will probably not find themselves in formal negotiations with a union, but the principles remain the same for any employer whose workers want to negotiate with them.
Freedom of Association & Collective Bargaining #
Relatedly, the AJP standards also require employers to respect their workers’ freedom of association and rights to collective bargaining.
Freedom of association refers to the right of workers to act together and join or form organizations as they choose, without interference or reprisal. Closely related is collective bargaining, which refers to workers’ right to collectively raise work-related concerns, negotiate terms of their employment, and lodge complaints or grievances without any employer reprisals. Negotiations may be on an individual basis, in small groups, or collectively. It can be informal, such as workers simply coming to the employer or supervisor with concerns or requests, or formal such as unionization and related contract negotiations, or anything in between - all based on the wishes and decisions of the employees themselves. Under AJP standards workers may also choose to include third-party worker advocates in any meeting with management, including negotiations over working conditions and terms of employment.
These are minimal principles of workplace democracy and, crucially, are guaranteed by law for most workers: the fact that farmworkers and domestic workers are excluded from these rights is a legacy of racial apartheid across the South. These requirements do not mean that an employer forfeits control over their business. Rather, an employer must be responsive and receptive to the needs and desires of workers. Any employer who cares about the well-being and safety of workers, or wants employees to invest their energies in the business’s long-term success, will benefit from these practices.
Further reading #
- For one farmer’s appreciations of negotiation and collective bargaining, see Jim Cochran on negotiating a union contract at Swanton Berry Farm.
- See our synopsis of the popular book Getting to Yes by Fisher and Ury, which offers helpful tips for trying to negotiate agreements that offer benefits to each party. Includes notes about the book’s shortcomings.