What is Collective Bargaining?

The right to collective bargaining is the right of individual employees in a workplace to come together and to choose a representative, based on a majority vote, who will then negotiate with their employer over terms and conditions of employment.

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Subjects of Bargaining

The reality of the modern workplace is that individual non-union workers typically lack the bargaining leverage needed to achieve the wages and benefits that they deserve, and as “at will” employees they often have no meaningful protection against unfair discipline or termination. Only through collective action can workers truly level the playing field with their employer and gain a meaningful voice in the workplace and protection against unfair decisions by management.

National Labor Relations Act

Toward that end, the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”) provides most private sector employees with the right to form or join a union, which then has the right to engage in collective bargaining with the employer. Through the exercise of collective bargaining rights, union-represented employees tend to have higher wages, benefits, and better working conditions than non-union employees.

Labor Contracts

Once a group of employees have formed or joined a union, Section 8(d) of the NLRA requires their employer to bargain in good faith with the union for an enforceable labor contract. Further, Section 8(d) designates wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment as “mandatory subjects of bargaining” that must be negotiated upon demand by employees. Other mandatory subjects of bargaining include health insurance, bonuses, commissions, schedules, pension and profit-sharing plans, seniority, grievance procedures, and procedures for discipline and discharge.

All other subjects, except those that are illegal, are considered permissive subjects of bargaining. Examples of permissive subjects of bargaining include: internal union affairs, the settlement of pending lawsuits, grievances, or unfair labor practice charges; expanding or reducing the scope of the bargaining unit; and interest arbitration.

Experience in Collective Bargaining

The attorneys of Miller O’Brien Jensen, P.A. have decades of experience in collective bargaining on behalf of labor unions in all industries from the initial stages of proposal formulation to the final steps of contract ratification. We regularly advise our clients regarding bargaining strategies and legal issues that arise during bargaining, always with a goal of achieving the best possible contract for the union’s members.