Question: What is collective bargaining?
Answer: Collective bargaining is the process in which an employer and a union representing the employer's employees negotiate over the employees' wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment.
Question: How frequently are an employer and a union required to meet when they are engaged in collective bargaining?
Answer: The law does not require any specific frequency of meetings. It simply requires that the parties "meet at reasonable times and confer in good faith."
Question: Does the law require the parties to complete their negotiations within a certain period of time?
Answer: No. It often takes a year or more to negotiate a first collective bargaining agreement. It took 23 months (October 2011 - September 2013) of negotiations for SEIU Local 1984 to negotiate the first collective bargaining agreement for the adjunct faculty it represents in the Community College System of New Hampshire.
Question: Does the law require the parties to eventually reach an agreement through their negotiations?
Answer: No, there is no legal requirement that the parties reach an agreement. In fact, the law expressly states that the obligation to bargain in good faith "does not compel either party to agree to a proposal or require the making of a concession..."
Question: If the parties cannot reach agreement, does the law provide for interest arbitration to settle the negotiations?
Answer: No. The National Labor Relations Act has no arbitration mechanism through which an arbitrator will review the parties' proposals and impose an agreement upon them. The law does allow the parties to seek assistance from a federal mediator in reaching an agreement. However, that mediator has no authority to make the parties agree to each other’s proposals.
Question: Do newly formed unions ever fail to reach a first collective bargaining agreement with an employer?
Answer: Yes. One study found that a first collective bargaining agreement is reached in only 20% of all instances where a union files a petition for a representation election. See John-Paul Ferguson and Thomas A. Kochan, MIT Sloan School of Management Institute for Work and Employment Research (March 2008) "Sequential Failures in Workers' Right to Organize."
Question: What happens to employees' pay and benefits while the collective bargaining agreement is being negotiated?
Answer: Typically, they will not increase because as a general rule, wages and benefits will be subject to bargaining and cannot be changed without mutual agreement of the employer and the union.
Question: If part-time faculty at Northeastern chose to be represented by a union, what would the law require Northeastern to do?
Answer: The law would require Northeastern to bargain in good faith with the union about the wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of the part-time faculty's employment.
Question: Would SEIU negotiate better pay and benefits for part-time faculty at Northeastern if SEIU became their representative?
Answer: There are three possible outcomes in collective bargaining. Part-time faculty can get less than they had before the negotiations began, they can get the same as they had when the negotiations began, or they can get more than they had when the negotiations began. Simply put, there are no guarantees in collective bargaining.
Question: Will dues be discussed during collective bargaining?
Answer: Probably. At George Washington University and American University, the SEIU negotiated provisions regarding union dues, agency service fees, and a process for deducting these dues and fees directly from faculty members' pay checks.
Question: Would a collective bargaining agreement give part-time faculty greater rights to choose what courses they will teach?
Answer: This is unlikely given what SEIU has negotiated at other institutions. In their contracts with George Washington University and American University, SEIU agreed that these schools would retain broad discretion to determine what courses are offered and who will teach them, including language stating “Decisions regarding who is taught, what is taught, how it is taught and who does the teaching involve academic judgment and shall be made at the sole discretion of [the school].”