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.

Use Your Educator Voice.

We are THE voice for educators in Vermont. See what membership can mean for you!
An educator stands with a sign that says, "A Pension is a Promise. Do the right thing!"

Ready to stand up for public schools?

Learn more about the issues and policies that impact public education, then take action to support students.

The Union of Vermont Educators

The Vermont-National Education Association is the union of Vermont educators, 13,000 professionals who teach the state's children every day. As the state's largest union, Vermont-NEA is proud to represent the people who make a difference in the lives of students in classrooms across Vermont.