A federal law, known as the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute of 1977, establishes the rights of employees to engage in a collective bargaining process. Under this statute, guidelines for union representation, employee involvement and processes for settling disputes outline the rights and responsibilities of union representatives, employers and employees within the collective bargaining process.
Collective bargaining processes provide a way for employees to negotiate their conditions of employment in a structured, organized fashion. Under federal law, employees have the right to organize a union made up of representatives who speak on their behalf in matters concerning employment conditions. Employment conditions can include issues concerning personnel policies and practices or any conditions that affect employee work environments. Once a union is formed, management personnel are obligated to meet with union representatives at reasonable times to address issues affecting employees in the workplace.
An employee union acts as a bargaining unit on behalf of the employees in a company. Union representatives consist of a selected group of employees who represent the various levels and departments within employee ranks. In turn, unions or bargaining units are obligated to represent the rights of all employees, meaning all employees have the right to expect a fair representation of their issues and concerns. Union representatives also have the right to attend any meetings held by management that affects a particular employee or department of employees or affects their working conditions. Within the course of negotiations, union representatives have the right to request employee, policy or procedural data that relates to the topic of discussion on behalf of an employee’s or department’s interests.
The National Labor Relations Act protects the rights of employees who wish to discuss, organize and participate in a labor organization, or union. In effect, the law prohibits employers from banning discussions about unions or penalizing employees for doing so. Employees also have the right to participate or not participate in a union as representatives of the union or as union members. Employees who choose not to participate in a union are still entitled to union protections under the National Labor Relations Act.
As part of a collective bargaining agreement, companies and unions decide on a system for resolving grievances within the collective bargaining process and for handling individual employee disputes. Grievances may concern working conditions that affect one or more employees within one or more departments. Grievances may also exist between employees and the union or the union and management whenever a breach of contract between employer-employee, employer-union or union-employer occurs. Contract breaches involve claims that employer-stated policies or union-stated policies were not followed. An employee has the right to attend grievance meetings and represent his own interests in cases where an employment issue pertains to that employee. In cases where a grievance process does not resolve an issue, all parties involved are subject to the rulings of a neutral, third-party arbitrator.