Author: Joseph P. Paranac, LeClairRyan

Summary

  • Collective bargaining is a good-faith effort by an employer and union to engage in a give and take process to achieve a contract. See Introduction.
  • When parties engage in collective bargaining, they are required to put forth their best faith effort to reach an agreement setting forth wages, hours and other terms and conditions of employment for all employees in that union. See Elements of a Collective Bargaining Agreement.
  • There are three subject areas of collective bargaining: mandatory, permissive and illegal. Mandatory subjects of bargaining cover wages, hours, work rules, etc. Permissive bargaining subjects cover things the parties are permitted, but not required, to discuss. Illegal bargaining subjects are those that would violate the National Labor Relations Act or another statute. See Types of Bargaining Subjects.
  • There is certain employer conduct that is automatically defined as a refusal to bargain. This includes unilaterally changing work conditions without first bargaining with the union, refusing to discuss mandatory subjects of bargaining and insisting on a nonmandatory subject of bargaining as a condition to reaching an agreement. See Violations of Good-Faith Bargaining.
  • Good-faith bargaining is evaluated based on a party's total overall conduct during the negotiations, both at and away from the bargaining table. See The Good-Faith Bargaining Requirement.
  • Once the duty to bargain attaches, the collective bargaining process goes through various stages. Initially, the parties will exchange relevant information to assist the other side in preparation for bargaining. Once the parties have prepared for bargaining, each party is under an obligation to meet and confer regarding mandatory subjects. If the parties are unable to reach an agreement, they have reached an impasse. See Stages of the Bargaining Process.
  • An impasse is the point of negotiations where further bargaining is futile and "both parties have reached the end of their rope." Once an impasse has been declared, there is frequently a strike or lockout as a consequence. See Impasse.
  • When a collective bargaining agreement expires, the terms of the contract survive except for the arbitration provision and the no-strike clause. See Expiration/Termination of a Collective Bargaining Agreement.