A sample of CDA negotiations work currently underway and our style while representing management is provided below.  For an expanded sample of services provided, please see the information located under the Specialized Services Tab.

Chief Negotiator

CDA is presently serving as chief negotiators for over 100 collective bargaining agreements and, over the last twenty years, have been considered the go-to management negotiators for employers who seek an alternative to being represented by labor and employment lawyers at the bargaining table.

Public Sector

The CDA labor contract negotiations work has often been within the State of Washington, on behalf of management in the public sector, under the jurisdiction of the Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC), e.g. cities, counties, fire districts, transit districts, airports and other special purpose districts.

Private Sector

CDA also often negotiates labor agreements involving a number of private sector unions who are under NLRB jurisdiction nationwide.  CDA’s most recent private sector clients include Cascade Natural Gas and Zenith American Solutions, the largest third party administrator (TPA) of health and pension plans in America. Recent negotiations projects have been completed for offices in Chicago, Denver, Las Vegas, Milwaukee, Phoenix, Seattle, and Spokane. CDA has also represented the Port of Everett, a quasi-public, quasi-private entity and the Everett Events Center operated by Global Spectrum/Comcast based in Philadelphia.    .

Sample Employee Groups.

CDA team does numerous negotiations involving a variety of employee groups, e.g.:

  • Law Enforcement Officers
  • Electrical Workers
  • Firefighters
  • Paramedics
  • Custody Officers.
  • Chemical Workers.
  • Public Works and Utilities Employees
  • Clerical and Administrative Support Employees
  • Building Inspectors, Engineers, Planners
  • Emergency Dispatchers
  • Professional and Managerial Police and Fire Personnel

Collaborative & Interest Based Bargaining.

Over the years, CDA has developed a collaborative style to dispute resolution.  CDA has completed interest based bargaining training with either Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (“Collaborative Negotiations”), Cornell University (“Mutual Gains Bargaining”) and/or Harvard University (“Interest-Based Bargaining”).  Our experience has shown that identifying issues and concerns of both the employees and management, analyzing those issues, and then working to find solutions has proven to be the most successful approach to gaining agreement.  While CDA sometimes does not use “interest based bargaining” in the pure definition of the term, the style most commonly employed is centered on trying to identify key issues and interests of the parties.  This includes forcing oneself to step back from situations, focus on objective criteria for settlement and look at issues from the other side’s point-of-view.  Although the collective bargaining process can be adversarial, the preservation of positive long term relationships is a high priority.  A collaborative approach in the long run helps to preserve that relationship.

Selection and Evaluation of Comparables

CDA is often considered the go-to consultants and authority in selection of comparables and identification of labor markets.  CDA has been deeply involved in this specialty in preparation for negotiations, mediation and arbitration for law enforcement officers, firefighters, corrections officers and other employee groups.  This involves selecting the criteria for making those comparisons such as population, number of employees, assessed evaluation, and other criteria that fit within the “similar size” criterion of a statute.  This includes total cost of compensation comparisons, as well as issue by issue comparisons.  CDA makes extensive use of Excel spreadsheets in making such comparisons to assure a fair market position and proper management of the cost of economic packages.

Grievances and Contract Disputes

With a number of employers, CDA is often chiefly responsible for responding (or advising those who are chiefly responsible) to grievances filed against the employer.  CDA involvement therefore, has been extensive and includes advising supervisors on how to handle difficult situations and people, conducting internal investigations, acting as an in-house arbitrator and helping to prepare cases for arbitration that could not be resolved within the preceeding steps in the grievance procedure.  CDA finds that very few grievances that become part of our caseload go to arbitration.  Most of the time our team is able to negotiate the grievances to resolution with the Unions and the employees.  Sample issues are jurisdiction over work, skimming, medical insurance, layoffs, hours of work, overtime, and promotion of junior over senior employees based on abilities and qualifications.

Compensation Systems

CDA has designed and revamped a number of compensation systems, mostly for a variety of public sector clients.  CDA has been assigned the development and implementation of an entire new job classification system, use of a point factor job rating system and the development of compensation and pay practices.  CDA has conducted job classification studies for clients and negotiated new pay plans as a result of previously uncompleted classification work.  CDA is conversant with most job classification techniques although this is not a mainline sub-specialty of our consulting practice.  CDA has also had experience negotiating job classification changes, if necessary, through the bargaining process when staff is not available.  In addition to the above, CDA has acted as an independent hearing officer (jointly selected by labor and management) for King County and Snohomish County in hearing classification appeals and grievances from employees.

Medical Insurance

As part of the management team, CDA has led efforts to completely overhaul the entire medical benefits program provided for employees.  This included the introduction of cost containment strategies, modernizing plan design, increasing co-payments and deductibles and introducing wellness and employee assistance programs.  As a part of this activity, CDA has taken the lead in communicating proposed changes to employees and negotiating these proposed changes with unions.  This has often been accomplished through the use of an extensive employee involvement and/or committee process in studying alternatives and in making plan design changes.  The results have saved the tax payers and shareholders hundreds of thousands of dollars while continuing to provide the employees with excellent consumer-driven medical and dental benefits.  This often involved striking a reasonable balance between what the employer pays and what the employee pays for health insurance premiums.


CDA represents public employers in a variety of Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC) proceedings:  mediation, questions concerning representation, unit clarifications, election procedures, unfair labor practice proceedings.


CDA represents private employers in NLRB and Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) mediation proceedings.

Interest Arbitration

CDA has been involved in approximately 80 interest arbitrations, involving public safety personnel (i.e. law enforcement officers, firefighters and corrections officers), under Washington State Collective Bargaining Act Ch. 41.56 RCW.


CDA is well versed in application of Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA) laws, rules and procedures outside and within the context of labor contract negotiations.  However, CDA team members are not employment lawyers and defer to special counsel on FLSA issues and updates from time to time.

Family Leave, Affordable Care Act, ADA, Harrassment

CDA members are dealing regularly with such laws, rules and procedures in both non-unionized and unionized environments.  CDA often teams with the employer’s legal counsel in addressing special issues.

Contract Language Writing

The development of contract language is a natural result of working in the labor contract profession for a number of years.  As much as possible, language must be clear and understandable to the parties with the avoidance of excessively legalized phrasing.  However, this must be balanced with insight and knowledge regarding the meaning that certain phrasing has been given by hearing boards and arbitrators.  Collaborative drafting of contract clear and concise language at the bargaining table helps to produce results that are meaningful for the parties, easy to administer and likely to prevent problems of interpretation for the future.  CDA members make extensive use of Microsoft WORD and .PDF documents in the development of contract language for review and editing.

Style and Strategy

We work hard to develop trust and long-term relationships with our clients and in getting along with unions representing employee groups.   We are fair and firm.  We cannot always make everyone happy, particularly unions that have interests that conflict with management rights.  However, most of our client relationships are on-going and we have positive relationships with union representatives.  In developing issues for the bargaining process, we rely heavily on internal departmental staff, the direction of policy makers and our own experience.  This must also be a collaborative exchange if the outcomes of negotiations are going to reflect the needs of the organization.  Focusing on issues, providing facts and justifications as to why a particular proposal is needed and working from a basis of trust and concern tends to encourage win-win resolutions.  In addition, the strategy of engaging employee representatives in joint problem solving has also helped bring about resolutions that are more acceptable to the employees.  However, this is not always possible.  At such times perseverance and patience are called for in working issues until a balanced agreement can be reached.  This needs to be done without overlooking the legitimate interests of the parties.  How hard to push issues of concern is a matter of listening to the desires of the client, offering professional advice and trying to keep one’s own ego in check.  However, the overriding consideration in collective bargaining in our opinion is to preserve a high level of trust and productivity among employees, to ensure that the tax paying public or corporate shareholders are getting a fair exchange for the resources expended and that the legitimate interests of both parties are being met.


CDA has been in the forefront of developing costing models that assess the cost impacts on concessions on an issue-by-issue and total compensation basis – for one, two, three, five and 10 years.  This allows us to advise our clients as to the impacts of the decisions under consideration, before it is too late.  Again, CDA makes extensive use of Excel spreadsheets in assessing the short and long-term (i.e., bow-wave) impacts of proposals and counterproposals.

Legal Aspects

While working with labor and employment attorneys, we are constantly exposed to a wide variety of legal issues, precedents and solutions in the context of negotiations and human resource management.  We often work away from the bargaining table with the employer’s legal counsel of choice and as needed.