Collective Bargaining Agreement History
February 14, 2023

Collective bargaining agreements, or CBAs, are legal documents that outline the terms and conditions of employment negotiations between labor unions and management. The history of collective bargaining agreements dates back to the early 20th century, when the labor movement gained momentum in the United States.

Prior to the rise of collective bargaining, workers had few protections against exploitation by their employers. Wages were low, hours were grueling, and workplace safety was often overlooked. As the labor movement gained strength, workers began to organize and demand better conditions. In 1935, the National Labor Relations Act was passed, which gave workers the legal right to join a union and engage in collective bargaining.

The first collective bargaining agreements were simple and straightforward, often covering just a few basic provisions such as wages and hours. Over time, these agreements became more complex, covering a wide range of issues such as health care benefits, pensions, and job security. Today, CBAs are typically hundreds of pages long and cover every aspect of the employment relationship.

One of the most significant events in the history of collective bargaining agreements was the passage of the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947. This law gave management greater power to resist union demands and limit strikes. It also required unions to file detailed financial reports and prohibited certain types of union activity.

Despite these setbacks, the labor movement continued to grow and gain strength throughout the 20th century. As unions became more powerful, they were able to negotiate better CBAs on behalf of their members. In the 1960s and 1970s, for example, many CBAs included provisions for affirmative action and equal pay for women and minorities.

More recently, CBAs have become a topic of controversy in the NFL and other professional sports leagues. In 2011, the NFL owners locked out the players in an attempt to gain leverage in negotiations for a new CBA. The dispute lasted for months and threatened to cancel the entire 2011-12 NFL season.

Despite these conflicts, collective bargaining agreements remain an essential part of the employment relationship for millions of workers across the United States. They provide a framework for fair and equitable negotiations between labor and management, and ensure that workers are able to earn a fair wage and enjoy reasonable working conditions. As the labor movement continues to evolve and adapt to changing economic and social conditions, it is likely that CBAs will remain an important tool for workers and their unions for many years to come.