A labor union or trade union is an organized group of workers who unite to make decisions about conditions affecting their work. Joining together in unions enable workers to negotiate for higher wages and benefits and to improve conditions in the workplace. Unions often engage in negotiations over employee rights, working conditions, or fair compensation or better benefits. These talks often result in labor contracts or other formal agreements that establish a set of terms and conditions for the relationship between an employer and the union, in a process known as “collective bargaining.”
Find out more about what collective bargaining is and how it works below.
How the Process of Collective Bargaining Works/Unfolds:
The technical and legal aspects of each collective bargaining process can vary depending on the industry or sector and by the exact circumstances of a given employment scenario or labor dispute. However, the overall process typically follows the same basic format.
A trade or labor union — an organized group of workers — serves as an exclusive representative for an employee who wishes to enter a negotiation with his/her employer regarding salary, working hours, workplace safety conditions or even how to perform job duties. The union participates in these discussions on behalf of the worker or workers, who are prohibited from directly negotiating these issues with the employer. An employer is also legally required to negotiate with a union regarding employment terms and conditions. However, workers are not obligated to join a union or to pay union fees that are unrelated to the workplace, even if the approved contract dictates they must do so.
First, a union will outline its proposal for furthering workers’ rights and interests, while an employer will also put forward its plan. Both sides must bargain in “good faith” throughout the process, which essentially means the union and employer are required to vow they intend to reach a basis for mutual agreement. Otherwise, either party could face penalties. An employer is also prohibited from unilaterally amending the conditions of a collective bargaining agreement. For instance, an employer is not permitted to implement a wage increase until it receives permission from the union, unless the collective bargaining agreement specifically states the latter party doesn’t need to allow this.
Employers are also required to provide union members with any information that is pertinent and essential to the given discussion topic, except for confidential data like a company’s profits and losses. The only situation in which an employer might disclose this type of data would be if it claims to be financially incapable of meeting a union’s demands.
When an employer and a union fail to reach an agreement on a topic, this is known as an “impasse.” In this case of deadlock, a union may launch a strike or use picketing to fight for its demands or address its grievances. Similarly, an employer may impose a “lockout” on union representatives or even go as far a hiring emergency replacement workers. Two of the most common ways to resolve these types of disagreements include arbitration and mediation. One party can accuse the other of engaging in “unfair labor practices.” If the corresponding government regulatory agency concurs with this assessment, the guilty party can become subject to restrictions.
The reasons unions and employers enter into collective bargaining can generally be categorized in three ways: mandatory, permissive and illegal. Learn more about each type below.
What are Mandatory, Permissive and Illegal Collective Bargaining Topics?
Mandatory issues refer to topics like worker pay (i.e. wages and benefits) that both a union and an employer are required to discuss if one side asks to negotiate about these subjects. Overtime working hours, sick days, job duties and promotions also fall under the category of mandatory issues.
Permissive issues of collective bargaining are subjects that either party is allowed to request to negotiate even though the other side is not obligated to discuss the given topic. A company considering the use of a union’s label on its products or an organization weighing whether job applicants must submit to screening procedures like drug testing before being hired are both examples of permissive issues. Discussions about pensions for retiring members are also included in this category.
Illegal — or “prohibited” — issues are subjects that neither an employer nor a union is permitted to discuss. Examples of such topics include plans to allow employees to refuse to handle goods manufactured by non-union firms or efforts to discriminate against workers of a certain gender, race, religion or sexual orientation.
Where/How to Find Information About Collective Bargaining
Contact the personal injury attorneys at The Brown Firm for more information about how to initiate collective bargaining with your union or employer or if you are seeking legal representation concerning this process. The Brown Firm’s lawyers have an open door policy and offer free consultations to individuals who have been injured in car accidents or other incidents — like slips and falls — that resulted from another entity’s negligence. A licensed Georgia attorney will review your issues and needs extensively and supply you with frequent case updates rather than simply suggest a quick settlement as a solution.