Contract bargaining takes place when a party to a contract changes the terms of the agreement, forcing the other party to renegotiate the terms of the relationship.

What Should a Union Do When the Employer Announces a New Policy or Changes An old Policy or Past Practice?

When an employer changes an old policy or announces a new one, the union must be willing to act on five major points including:

Promptly Submit a Written Request to Bargain to the Employer

Does Filing A Grievance Constitute A Request to Bargain?

Filing a grievance may be possible, but it does not represent a request to bargain.

What Should the Written Request to Bargain Include?

The written request to bargain must inform the employer that until it has bargained with the union, it cannot make any changes to past practice or policy.

If possible, File a Grievance

When Can the Union File a Grievance?

The union can file a grievance if the new policy and work rule are not the same as the one in existence to challenge the change in the established procedure without any consultation.

What Can You Do Other Than Filing a Grievance?

In addition to filing a grievance, the union can also:

  • Go on strike.
  • Seek arbitration.

Is Arbitrating the Issue Better Than Filing a Grievance?

Arbitration is often a last resort, especially if the union believes the outcome of arbitration will not be in its favor. However, it can be the best option if the union has a solid case to prove.

The Local Should Request That the Employer Provide Any Information That Will Aid Its Position During Negotiations.

What Kind of Information Should Management Provide the Union?

According to the National Labor Relations Board and State Labor Relations Boards, employers are required to give the union access to all the information that will enable it to negotiate from a position of strength. These include all information regarding the management's decision to make the unilateral changes.

Go to the Negotiations with a Well-Prepared Wish List

What Should the Union Be Able to Discuss When Bargaining?

The union must be well prepared to discuss its expectations of the management.

The union must have a viable alternative for employee safety if the management insists that a drug test will become mandatory on safety grounds. The union must bargain doggedly and ensure management is given a tough run for their money.

Galvanize Members to Fight If That's What it Takes

Can the Union Strike During the Middle of the Contract?

It might not be possible for the union to strike while still in a contract, but members can mobilize themselves and show their defiance to management.

Can a Concerted Action Violate the Contract?

Concerted action shouldn't violate the contract. The union only needs to cooperate to make their grievances known and make management realize that unilateral action without bargaining will undermine future relations. What is required is some inventiveness on the part of the union members. You can't afford to look away during mid-contract after investing heavily during contract negotiations.

What Issues Does Management Have to Bargain over?

According to the NLRB and state Labor Relations Boards, the management is required to bargain over issues known as mandatory subjects while issues the management may not bargain over are referred to as permissive subjects.

Generally, the NLRB holds that the bargaining rule comes into effect only if the impact of the change on employees is significant. For example, changing resumption time by two hours can be considered significant but delaying lunchtime by five minutes may not qualify.

What Is a Permissive Subject?

A permissive subject refers to a subject which the employer is under no obligation to bargain over, but can if the union can force them to or they decide to.

Should the Union Bargain over Work Rules and Absentee Policies?

The long-standing position of the union on company work rules and absentee policies has always been that disciplinary action must be based on the discipline clause of the contract. To the union, each case of indiscipline must be treated on its merit and under the contract's section on "Just Cause."

However, the NLRB and courts have drastically reduced the rights of unions. The current position of the NLRB is work rules, and absentee policies are subjects which the management should bargain over with union. In that regard, the employer is empowered to follow either the negotiated rules or its own rules where both parties cannot reach an agreement.

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