Fans of professional sports teams have no doubt heard the phrase “collective bargaining” with respect to union contracts negotiated on behalf of the players. The purpose of collective bargaining is to come to a collective bargaining agreement, also known as a CBA. CBAs typically contain certain clauses, which have long been recognized by courts as the proper and effective way to negotiate a contract between a union and an employer.
A CBA is important because it contains important terms that are used to ensure continuing employee work during the life of the contract. Specifically, some important terms in a CBA are:
- A recognition clause;
- A management rights clause; and
- A no-strike/no-lockout clause.
A recognition clause is a standard provision in a collective bargaining agreement wherein an employer formally recognizes a union, usually when there is National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) certification, as the exclusive representative of the employees in the bargaining unit. It also acknowledges the obligation of the employer to bargain only with the union over wages, hours, and working conditions of the bargaining unit employees.
In addition, many recognition clauses describe the employees or the job categories they occupy as being included in the bargaining unit and sometimes establish a procedure for incorporating new employees or jobs into the bargaining unit. It may define the bargaining unit to encompass multiple sites or, alternatively, may be drafted to include only a subset of the employees at a particular facility covered by an applicable collective bargaining agreement.
What is more, a recognition clause may be interpreted by an arbitrator to restrict the employer’s use of non-bargaining unit employees or subcontractors to perform bargaining unit work. This part of a recognition clause is often heavily negotiated and can sometimes be a deal breaker between the parties.
Management Rights Clause
A management rights clause delineates what rights management retains under the CBA. It is used to clarify any gray area with respect to management rights. It usually outlines management’s rights in conducting day-to-day operations of the business. It is particularly useful because it may avoid possible NLRB grievance actions when union employees complain of certain management action.
No Strike/No Lockout Clause
This clause can be a powerful defense against a serious economic weapon. Sometimes, an employer’s strongest weapon is the ability to lock out employees while the union’s strongest weapon may be a strike. When strikes occur, unions often use media to issue their grievances against an employer. This creates bad public relations for the employer and can hurt business.
Under this clause, both sides have an obligation not to lockout and not to strike. If the union employees strike when this clause is in effect, the union employees will not be protected by labor laws.
Note that courts found that arbitration clauses are construed as implied no strike/no lockout clauses because the parties can air their grievances with a neutral arbitrator.
Involved in a labor dispute? Contact HKM Employment Attorneys.