Skip Navigation
We use cookies to offer you a better browsing experience, provide ads, analyze site traffic, and personalize content. If you continue to use this site, you consent to our use of cookies.
NEA Toolkit

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.
Collective Bargaining Art Build
Published: June 2020 Last Updated: June 2022
This resource originally appeared on

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.  

NEA higher ed members
NEA higher ed members make their voices heard together.

Speak Up For Students and Public Schools

When we act together and lift our voices together in unison, we can improve the lives of children.
Members march down the street wearing red and carrying signs.

Together we're stronger. Together we're heard.

You belong in the movement! Join today to belong to the movement of educators and school staff fighting for the pay and working conditions we all deserve.

Keeping the Promise of Quality Public Education

The Oregon Education Association (OEA) is a union committed to the cause of providing the basic right of great public education to every student. OEA represents about 41,000 educators working in pre-kindergarten through grade 12 public schools and community colleges. OEA’s membership includes licensed teachers and specialists, classified/education support professionals (ESPs), community college faculty, retired educators, and student members. OEA members also belong to the 3.2 million members of the National Education Association (NEA).