Neither Side May Insist on Bargaining All Non-Economic Items to Agreement before Economic

During labor negotiations, the Company and union usually bargain all non-economic items first. These are parts of the contract that do not have a financial impact to the Company.

After those items are tentatively agreed to, the parties move to economic items.

Some things are clearly non-economic, like dress codes. While wages, health care, paid time off are obviously economic. And some parts of collective bargaining agreements float between the two and the parties decide when to negotiate those items.

This is just how it’s done. Labor negotiators understand this process.

But, a New York real estate company learned the hard way that you cannot refuse to bargain economic items until all non-economic items are resolved. A refusal to bargain is a hallmark violation of the National Labor Relations Act.

There is very little either side to labor negotiations can insist on. The insistence by the real estate company on resolution of all non-economic items before moving to economic issues was an unfair labor practice.

If the parties agreed before negotiations that they could not move to economic issues before all non-economic issues were resolved, that could have had a different outcome.

But to refuse to bargain over items is not permitted.


Matt Austin is a nationwide management labor lawyer. Labor laws govern virtually all private-sector employees regardless of union membership. Proactive management of labor relations is critical to maintaining flexibility and increasing profit.

Matt also runs Austin Legal’s HR Legal Compliance Program that, for a small monthly fee, ensures HR decisions are protected by the attorney-client privilege.

Matt’s experience is deeply rooted in helping manage many aspects of his clients’ businesses. To effectively manage labor relations, he must also manage budgets, forecasts, new growth areas, and projected market corrections. High emotional intelligence is also critical to negotiating union contracts and to properly advise HR Legal Compliance members through the nuances of the law, its application to their companies, and how it will be received by employees.

You can reach Matt via email at