HR Support on the Collective Bargaining Process

Editor's Note: Union employers should remain reasonable throughout the bargaining process.

Melissa BoyceOverview: Part of the labor management process might include engaging in the collective bargaining process. If a union is declared the exclusive representative of a group of employees, a bargaining obligation arises, and the employer may no longer attempt to strike deals with individual employees. The employer and union must instead negotiate a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) in good faith that will govern the terms and conditions of employment for the unionized employees. Once the CBA is in place, the parties must then bargain to change any of its terms.

The collective bargaining process requires that the parties, including those that qualify as joint employers, negotiate in good faith. This means that both parties must enter the bargaining process with a real intent to reach a fair written agreement and use their best efforts to achieve this goal.

This includes:

  • Meeting at reasonable times and in reasonable locations;
  • Adequately responding to union requests for information relevant to its role as a bargaining representative; and
  • Conferring on mandatory bargaining subjects such as wage and hour, benefits, discipline and other terms and conditions of employment.

Neither party can request or require the other party to agree to any terms that violate the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and/or federal or state antidiscrimination laws.

Trends: Under the NLRA, union and non-union employees cannot be disciplined for engaging in "protected concerted activity" for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection. Recently, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has been going after union and non-union employers for any workplace polices or practice that restrain employees from engaging in protected concerted activity. Employee complaints about work, supervisors, the employer, salaries, or other co-workers on a social networking site, may be deemed to be protected activity by the NLRB.

Author: Melissa Boyce, JD, Legal Editor

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