Legal issues surrounding union representation and collective bargaining
Frequently Asked Questions: Legal issues surrounding union representation and collective bargaining
No. During the life of a negotiated agreement, terms can only be changed if both the university and the faculty union mutually agree to renegotiate. If mutual agreement exists, any contractual provision may be renegotiated at any time. Unilateral changes are a violation of law and a collective bargaining agreement is legally enforceable.
If we form a faculty union, must we defend a faculty member who is unfit to continue in his/her position?
No. The concept that everyone must pay union dues where a union exists is frequently misunderstood. To begin, several definitions are in order.
A "fair share" arrangement, also sometimes referred to as an "agency fee" or "union security" provision, is an agreement that is specified by law or negotiated into a collective bargaining agreement and, therefore, is mutually agreed upon by the employer and union, and ratified by employees. Such a provision requires that all employees in the particular bargaining unit who are covered by the collective bargaining agreement must pay their "fair share" of dues to the union.
The premise is this: since a negotiated agreement covers all employees in a bargaining unit, and as such the benefits of the collective bargaining agreement and union representation are enjoyed by all employees in the unit, all employees should pay their "fair share" to help defray the costs associated with collective bargaining and union representation.
Additionally, in a typical collective bargaining situation the union becomes the "exclusive representative" of employees for the purpose of collective bargaining. As a result, the union is obligated to represent all bargaining unit members regardless of their membership status. If, for example, a non-union employee covered by the contract is disciplined or discharged and requests union representation in a grievance, the union must represent that employee as it would a member. A union cannot require union membership even if a union security agreement exists. However, where a union security agreement does exist an employee may be required to pay their "fair share" of dues to help defray the costs of representation.
Finally, where an employee covered by a union security agreement opts against joining the union, they can only be required to pay the portion of union dues, calculated through periodic audits or determined by state laws, that goes towards the cost of collective bargaining representation activities as defined in law. This means that fees cannot be required to cover the costs of political or non-collective bargaining related activities.
In some states there are also legal exemptions for those with demonstrable and bona fide religious objections to unions. In these cases, an equivalent sum must be paid to a charity other than ones religious organization.