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Client Question: We have a union contract and typically negotiations are quite informal. Our Business Agent has told us that one of the contract provisions we want to change is standard language and can’t be modified. What do you think about this?

Answer by Dick Wessels: This is absolute nonsense! THE BA IS TRYING TO HOODWINK YOU. Literally everything is negotiable, and you have every right to discuss, make proposals, and bargain over all provisions of a collective bargaining agreement. There is a practical issue here, and we see this commonly in the construction industry. There, area-wide contracts tend to be the norm. There will be monumental resistance to changes in language. However, our experience is that in today’s world, unions are more willing to negotiate riders or special deals such as “project only” agreements. Keep in mind that you simply shouldn’t believe the union agent who says he can’t change existing language. He can, he just doesn’t want to!

Questions? Call Attorney Dick Wessels of Wessels Sherman’s St. Charles, Illinois office: 630-377-1554 or email him at

Readers are invited to submit their labor law questions for possible use in this column. Just email your questions to Dick Wessels at Your identity (and your company’s identity) will not be revealed if your question is selected by Dick Wessels for this column.

“Ask Your Labor Lawyer” is our very popular column written by Dick Wessels who is Founder and Senior Shareholder of Wessels Sherman. He is a nationally recognized labor attorney and has been honored as an Illinois Super Lawyer. Dick handles a wide variety of labor and employment law cases. His primary focus is dealing with labor unions, either on behalf of union-free companies or where unions already have representation rights. Dick has handled cases involving nearly all international unions for companies throughout the United States.

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