The process of negotiations between a union and employers follows a legal process. When two parties cannot reach an agreement and cannot make any further progress in discussions, they reach what is called “impasse.” A lot of back and forth discussion must happen before negotiations can reach a point that would be called impasse, and reaching this point would not happen suddenly or unexpectedly. When negotiations have stalled, either side has the option to request third-party mediation from federal or state mediation bodies. These third parties can act to restore negotiations that are approaching an impasse to a place that is acceptable for both parties. Both sides must agree in order for a third party to mediate.
Prior to reaching impasse, employers issue a “last, best, and final offer,” a specific type of legally binding agreement offer. Employers are legally required to implement the terms of this offer in full moving forward, even if the union does not ultimately accept the offer. If negotiations have reached a point of impasse, a union might regroup and discuss with its membership how best to proceed and make decisions about its next steps accordingly. At this point, the Negotiations Committee and Guild leadership would reach out to the membership to review priorities and discuss strategies on how to proceed, which could include overt membership actions.