Collective Bargaining Process

What is Collective Bargaining?

When and if the union becomes your employees’ representative, a day is set for management and labor to meet and negotiate a labor agreement. This agreement will contain specific provisions covering wages, hours, and working conditions.

What exactly is collective bargaining? According to the National Labor Relations Act:

For the purpose of [this act] to bargain collectively is the performance of the mutual obligation of the employer and the representative of the employees to meet at reasonable times and confer in good faith with respect to wages, hours, and terms and conditions of employment, or the negotiation of an agreement, or any question arising there under, the execution of a written contract incorporating any agreement read if requested by either party, but such obligation does not compel either party to agree to a proposal or require the making of a concession.

In plain language, this means that both management and labor are required by law to negotiate wage, hours, and terms and conditions of employment “in good faith”. In a moment, we will see that the specific terms that are negotiable since “wages, hours, and conditions of employment are too broad to be useful in practice have been clarified by a series of court decisions.

What is Good Faith?

Good faith bargaining is the cornerstone of effective labor management relations. It means that both parties communicate and negotiate, that they match proposals with counter proposals, and that both make every reasonable effort to arrive at an agreement. It does not mean that one party compels another to agree to a proposal. Nor does it require that either party make any specific concessions (although as a practical matter, some may be necessary).

When is bargaining not in good faith? As interpreted by the NLRB and the courts, a violation of the requirement for good faith bargaining may include the following:

1. Surface bargaining: Going trough the motions of bargaining without any real intention of completing a formal agreement.
2. Inadequate concessions: Unwillingness to comprise, even though no one is required to make a concession.
3. Inadequate proposals and demands: The NLRB considers the advancement of proposals to be positive factor in determining overall good faith.
4. Dilatory tactics: The law requires that the parties meet and “confer at reasonable times and intervals. Obviously, refusal to meet with the union does not satisfy the positive duty imposed on the employer
5. Imposing conditions: Attempts to impose conditions that are so unreasonable as to indicate bad faith.
6. Making unilateral changes in conditions: This is a strong indication that the employer is not bargaining with required intent of reaching an agreement.
7. Bypassing the representative: The duty of management to bargain in good faith involves, at a minimum, recognition that ten union representative is the one with whom the employer must deal in conducting negotiations.
8. Committing unfair labor practices during negotiations: Such practices may reflect poorly upon the good faith of the guilty party.
9. Withholding Information: An employer must supply the union with information, upon request to enable it to understand and intelligently discuss the issues raised in bargaining.
10. Ignoring bargaining items: Refusal to bargain on mandatory item one must bargain over these) or insistence on a permissive item (one may bargain over these).

Of course, requiring good faith bargaining doesn’t mean that negotiations can’t grind to a halt. For example, Northwest Airlines wouldn’t let its negotiators meet with mechanics’ union representatives because, Northwest said, the union didn’t respond to company proposals during the last three times they met.

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