What is Collective Bargaining?

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The concept of collective bargaining refers to the process of a group of employees working together in order to negotiate with management regarding the terms of employment. A union may come to mind when you think of this type of arrangement, but the group can be any type of formalized body of people. The theory behind the concept is that many working together can have more leverage with regard to making deals or negotiating terms than individuals can on their own. Read on to learn about the ways in which this approach works, its advantages and potential obstacles.

The Concept

The concept is in the name. A “collective” of individuals works together in the process of “bargaining” to have the group’s concerns met by company management. It is a key component to many labor contracts that is often referred to as a collective bargaining agreement (CBA). These types of agreements usually center around very similar topics across industries. Most workers groups are concerned with issues of fair wages, benefits offered, hours worked, disciplinary issues, promotion opportunities and time off. There are certainly specific topics that could be included in a CBA based on the type of field or industry involved in the bargaining.

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Legal Aspects

There is legal oversight when it comes to unions and other such bargaining units so that the best interests of workers and employers are maintained. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is a federal agency that oversees court cases that involve labor disputes. It is also this agency that provides disciplinary actions when violations occur. Such violations usually fall under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). This federal law insures that workers are able to legally form unions and other bargaining units. There are some types of industries that do not fall under the protections of the act. Independent contractors are not covered under the NLRA. Nor are government workers and agricultural laborers. Those protected under the NLRA are accorded the right to organize and demonstrate on their behalf without interference from employers.

Good Faith and Fair Representation

National Labor Relations Board regulations require that “good faith” effort be demonstrated by all parties involved in labor negotiations. This means that each must demonstrate willingness to meet with the opposing party, make no attempt to change unilateral working conditions or engage in “sham” or non-genuine negotiations of any kind. The term “fair representation” is included in most employment law referring to bargaining. Fair representation means that unions or other bargaining collaboratives must work to treat their members equally and fairly. Should a union member feel he or she is not being represented adequately due to perceived bias of any kind, a grievance can be filed with the employer. If that is not enough to solve the problem, seeking assistance from an attorney who works in employment law is suggested. Filing action with the NLRB is a last-resort option in order to seek justice.

These points are a summary of what is involved with labor negotiations on behalf of employees as a group. Collective bargaining is essential to ensuring a level playing field between workers and employers.

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