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What Is Collective Bargaining?

Collective bargaining is the process by which a group of employees, usually members of a labor union, negotiate with their employer on the terms and conditions of employment. This process empowers union members to assert their rights and interests in establishing fair working conditions.

Collective bargaining negotiations work to achieve agreements on various terms of employment. This includes wages, working hours, pensions, vacation time, and management rights. By engaging in collective bargaining, employees can actively shape their work environments.

Let's Make a Deal

Collective bargaining works to make a deal with management. Usually, the goal is to address a wide range of concerns in a particular workplace. This type of deal is a labor contract, often called a "collective bargaining agreement" or CBA.

Examples of topics covered in CBAs include:

CBAs also address issues ranging from worker safety to insurance. The nature of the subjects in these agreements varies depending on the industry or workplace.

Collective Bargaining Laws

The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) primarily governs collective bargaining rights in the United States. The NLRA is a federal law that empowers employees to join unions and engage in collective bargaining. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) enforces the NLRA. The NLRA addresses legal issues related to collective bargaining, labor law, and unfair labor practices.

Certain employers and industries fall outside the scope of the NLRA's coverage. Excluded sectors include government workers, agricultural laborers, and independent contractors. While private sector employees are generally covered by the NLRA, public sector, state employees, and those in excluded industries may be subject to state law or other specific regulations.

The 'Good Faith' Collective Bargaining Rule

As parties to a collective bargaining process, the employer and the employees must exercise "good faith" in their negotiations. Below are some examples of violations of the "good faith" standard:

  1. Refusing to meet and bargain with the opposing party
  2. Changing the terms of a bargain (or current working conditions) without proper input from the opposing party
  3. Engaging in "sham" negotiations with the opposing party. In this context, a sham is a negotiation in which one party attempts to mislead the other or actually deceives the other.

Unions' Duty of Fair Representation

A union must represent its members in a fair and equal manner. This is the duty of fair representation. If you feel your union has not upheld your rights as a member during the collective bargaining process, you might consider filing a complaint against your union with the NLRB. If pursuing help from the NLRB fails, it may be time to consult a labor attorney.

The National Labor Relations Board lays out procedures for handling redress of grievances. At the initiation of an attempt to redress grievances, a "charge" must be filed with the NLRB. A charge is when someone alleges unfair labor practices by their employer or labor organization. The NLRB reviews the allegations and then determines whether formal action is necessary.

Need Legal Help With a Collective Bargaining Issue? Find an Attorney

It is common for disputes to arise during the collective bargaining process. While these disputes may end up in the hands of the NLRB, labor relations can get more complicated. Unions usually offer legal representation to their members. But there may be cases where you'll need to find an attorney alone. Speak with an employment law attorney near you today to learn more about labor law and your rights in the collective bargaining process.

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