Rules Governing Collective Bargaining For A Contract

If a union is selected as the representative of employees, the employer and union are required to meet at reasonable times to bargain in good faith about wages, hours, and other mandatory subjects. Even after a contract expires, the parties must bargain in good faith for a successor contract, or the termination of the agreement, while terms of the expired contract continue.

 

History has shown that organization has been an effective way for working people to change their social environment and to protect their interests. The story of workers' efforts to form labor organizations is long and filled with struggles. From a legal point of view, labor organizations have moved from being outlawed as criminal conspiracy in the nineteenth century to being highly regulated by law today.

01

What Is a Labor Contract?

A labor contract is a private agreement entered into by an employer and a labor organization for the purpose of regulating certain work-related issues. The provisions of the labor contract are binding on both sides for a mutually acceptable period of time and are enforceable through procedures such as the grievance procedure, arbitration, the National Labor Relations Board, or finally, state or federal courts.

 

This agreement takes the form of a legal contract for several reasons. Employees need to know in advance about wages, fringe benefits, discipline proceedings, and other matters. Employers need to know the same things, plus want protection from strikes for a certain period of time.

04

The Basic Rights of Employees

The National Labor Relations Act clearly states the rights of American workers:  Employees shall have the right to self-organization; to form, join, or assist labor organizations; to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing; and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection....

 

Section 7 protects workers' rights to join labor unions which will best represent their interests and/or to take other collective action to defend their rights in the workplace. Taft-Hartley amended this section by adding that employees "shall also have the right to refrain from any or all such activities."

02

If There Is No Labor Organization, Can One Be Started?

Yes, workers in any place of employment are free to join an existing organization or start their own. Workers could join an international union, an area association, or start an organization in just one work site.

 

 It is an unfair labor practice for an employer to control or favor a particular labor organization. "Company unions" are definitely against federal law. Labor organizations must be free, independent, and worker controlled.

05

Wages, Hours, and Fringe Benefits

 A labor contract is a private agreement entered into by an employer and a labor organization for the purpose of regulating certain work-related issues. The provisions of the labor contract are binding on both sides for a mutually acceptable period of time and are enforceable through procedures such as the grievance procedure, arbitration, the National Labor Relations Board, or finally, state or federal courts.

 

This agreement takes the form of a legal contract for several reasons. Employees need to know in advance about wages, fringe benefits, discipline proceedings, and other matters. Employers need to know the same things, plus want protection from strikes for a certain period of time.

03

Does the Employer Have to Bargain with the Union?

 An employer is required to bargain in "good faith" with the certified labor organization representing the employees. Collective bargaining can be divided into three separate areas: the duty to meet and confer; the duty to bargain in good faith; and the duty to cover certain subjects.

 

The employer is not required to agree to any particular contract provision, no matter how reasonable or fair it appears to the union. However, refusing to meet at reasonable times; refusing to discuss grievances; refusing to discuss wages, benefits, or other mandatory subjects of bargaining; "take it or leave it" bargaining; or attempts to make deals behind the backs of the negotiating committee would be unfair labor practices.

06

Health and Safety

An increasing number of unions are negotiating health and safety provisions into their contracts. Typical provisions might establish the right of a union health and safety committee to make inspections and examine records, or the right of a worker to refuse unsafe work.

07

Grievance Procedure

Because contracts cannot foresee every problem that will arise at work, most collective bargaining agreements include the establishment of a mutually agreeable procedure to settle differences in contract interpretation. Furthermore, the grievance procedure is usually the means a worker has of enforcing the contract.

Discipline

Contracts usually include a clause reserving the right of the employer to discipline workers by firing, suspension, notation on work records, and other forms of reprimand. Labor organizations traditionally try to limit this clause by requiring that "just cause" be shown for the discipline. Unions also work for procedural safeguards such as notice, hearings, and review in an attempt to protect the employee. These safeguards are often written in conjunction with the grievance procedure. The goal of the discipline clause is to insure that all facts are heard and that the punishment is not arbitrary or unfair.