Collective Bargaining Agreements

What are Collective Bargaining Agreements?

Collective bargaining agreements are agreements reached between an employer and members of a labor union at that employer. These agreements establish the terms and conditions of employment, and prevent employers from taking advantage of their workers or establishing unfair or unsafe working conditions. Individual employees are not a party to collective bargaining agreements; the union negotiates the terms of the agreement with the employer. Once the agreement is in force, it protects any employee who chooses to be a part of that union. Generally, collective bargaining agreements will specify dispute resolution procedures that both the employer and the union must follow. It is most common for those procedures to suggest binding arbitration as a final method of resolution, instead of the courts. However, there are still some circumstances where individual employees may be able to use a private lawyer to assist them in disputes under the agreement. Our Austin collective bargaining lawyers can help you navigate these situations and will advocate for you in disputes involving your collective bargaining agreement.

As Billy Bragg Says, "There is Power in a Union"

There are many benefits to collective bargaining agreements. Most importantly, they help to correct the power imbalances between employers and employees that enable unfair conditions in the workplace. Without the ability to negotiate as a group, employees can be forced to accept substandard or even dangerous conditions at their jobs with little recourse short of filing a lawsuit. Workers who are able to collectively bargain, by contrast, have the strength to demand more equitable terms and conditions of employment. Unionizing allows employees to establish standards for wages, working hours, breaks and vacation, working conditions, and other benefits. Employees under collective bargaining agreements almost always benefit from more rights and protections than at-will employees do.

Common Disputes Involving Collective Bargaining

Unionized employees have far more power and influence in the workplace than non-unionized employees to negotiate and set the terms of their employment. Because of this, it is not uncommon for employers to attempt to prevent their employees from collectively bargaining. Employers often do so by attempting to limit discussions about the workplace (e.g., comparing pay) or retaliating against employees who promote unions, for example by assigning them undesirable tasks or threatening them with termination. This behavior is illegal. Under the 1935 National Labor Relations Act, employers are prohibited from interfering with or restraining employees' attempts to organize, form, or otherwise promote a labor union for collective bargaining purposes. For example, your employer cannot say that your benefits will be cut if you join a union, or promise you additional benefits in exchange for not joining that union. They are also prohibited from punishing you for filing unfair labor practice charges, participating in an NLRB investigation, or attempting to organize in the workplace.

If you file a complaint against your employer alleging that workplace conditions are unfair, and you are then given more difficult or less desirable responsibilities, your rights as a worker may have been violated.

It is also important to note that labor unions also have a duty of fair representation to their members. They cannot attempt to prevent you from exercising your rights by restraint or coercion, and cannot engage in arbitrary or discriminatory conduct towards their members.

What to do if You are Concerned

If you are concerned about a dispute relating to a collective bargaining agreement in your workplace, we may be able to help. The attorneys in our Austin office have experience with employment law and can help you protect your rights during a workplace conflict. If you feel that your rights to collectively bargain in the workplace has been violated, you are in a dispute with your employer, or you are otherwise concerned about your collective bargaining agreement, you can get in touch with one of our Austin collective bargaining lawyers by filling out our intake form or calling our office at (512) 271-5527.

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