Q: What is collective bargaining?
A: Collective bargaining is the negotiation
of matters regarding employees’ wages, benefits and other terms and conditions
of their employment. Collective bargaining occurs between the employer’s representatives
and the union, which the employees have selected to be their exclusive
Q: What law governs collective bargaining?
A: Most private employers are covered by
the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which is enforced by the National
Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Some businesses in the railroad and airline
industries are covered under the Railway Labor Act, and some very small
enterprises may not be covered at all. Civil servants in the federal government
are covered by the Civil Service Reform Act, and state, county and municipal
workers fall under state or local laws. Postal workers are covered under the
Postal Reorganization Act, the NLRA and the Labor Management Relations Act.
Public employers are also governed
by the state’s collective bargaining law, which, in Ohio, is enforced by the
State Employee Relations Board (SERB). State collective bargaining laws limit
the right of certain workers, such as police and firefighters, to strike. These
workers are subject to final offer arbitration, known in Ohio as conciliation.
Q: What must be included in a collective
A: The law does not dictate contract terms and
neither the NLRB nor SERB will impose terms upon the parties without their
agreement. Rather, the law provides a framework so management and labor can
negotiate a contract governing wages, hours and working conditions. The law
limits the unilateral power of employers, protects workers’ rights to organize
and engage in “concerted activity for mutual aid and protection” and prohibits
discrimination against workers who exercise these rights.
Q: What does it mean to bargain “in good
means that the parties must negotiate with honest intentions about the wages,
hours, terms and conditions of employment and provisions of a collective
bargaining agreement. Good faith is mutual obligation to meet at reasonable
times and places, and to bargain with the intention of reaching agreement or resolving
contract questions. “Hard bargaining” (taking a strong position on an issue)
does not violate the law, but the following approaches constitute bad-faith
bargaining and do violate the law:
surface bargaining (going through negotiation motions without intending to reach an
a “take-it-or-leave-it” approach; and
refusing to meet, delaying meetings or
failing to give the chief negotiator sufficient authority to make agreements.
If either party fails to bargain in
good faith, the other may file an unfair labor practice charge. Good faith is
determined based on the totality of circumstances.
Q: Must an employer bargain with the
employee’s union over everything?
A: No. The law recognizes these three types
of bargaining subjects:
subjects involve issues of wages, hours and working conditions. The parties
have to bargain over mandatory subjects.
subjects involve subjects other than wages, hours and working conditions (e.g.,
ground rules for negotiations, settlement of unfair labor practice charges or
pension benefits). These may be voluntarily discussed but cannot be bargained
to impasse, and either party may refuse to bargain over a permissive subject.
If the parties do reach agreement on a
permissive subject and incorporate it into a collective bargaining agreement, then
they must abide by that agreement.
subjects include any proposal that violates National Labor Relations Act
(NLRA), the Public Employees Relations Act (PERA), the Civil Service Reform Act
(CSRA) and/or any other federal, state, county or municipal law. Illegal
agreements/provisions are void and cannot be enforced.
Q: May an employer change employment conditions
Employers must maintain the “status quo” regarding existing wages, hours and
working conditions, even if a contract has expired—unless there is an impasse
in negotiations. An impasse means that neither party is willing to compromise further
to reach an agreement. If a legal impasse has been reached on an issue, the employer
may then unilaterally impose on its employees its last offer regarding that
issue. For certain public employees (e.g., police and firefighters), the
employer must maintain the status quo until an agreement is reached, either
mutually or through conciliation.
This “Law You Can Use” column was
provided by the Ohio State Bar Association. It was prepared by attorney
Margaret J. Lockhart, an OSBA Certified Specialist in Labor and Employment Law
who is associated with the firm of Marshall & Melhorn. Articles appearing
in this column are intended to provide broad, general information about the
law. Before applying this information to a specific legal problem, readers are
urged to seek advice from an attorney.
Labels: collective bargaining, employees, employment, unions