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Collective Bargaining Agreement

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What is a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA)?

When a workplace has a union, negotiation between employees and employers defines the terms that govern certain aspects of the workplace. The legal contract that defines these terms is called a collective bargaining agreement (CBA). This document defines the terms of condition of employment and includes details about things like wages and hours.

How Collective Bargaining Agreements Work

Collective bargaining agreements make employer-employee negotiations legally binding. They are helpful to both parties because they define, in writing, the terms of employment that are required from each.

The process for coming to a collective bargaining agreement varies, but generally the timeline looks something like this:

  • Need for Negotiation : The event that triggers a need for collective bargaining agreements is a need for contract negotiation . This might entail a dispute between employees and their employers regarding wages, hours, or some other aspect of the job. Agreements can also expire, prompting a meeting for a new collective bargaining agreement.
  • Preparation : When meetings occur for collective bargaining agreements, each party chooses someone to represent them. This could be an appointed member of a board or an appointed employee. Employment lawyers or labor lawyers are also options for representation. During the preparation phase employees prepare their demands and employers prepare their negotiations.
  • Ground Rule Determination : Each collective bargaining agreement meeting is conducted based on pre-determined ground rules that both parties agree on prior to the meeting. These rules might include where and when a meeting will take place, what types of negotiations are acceptable, and how long a party has to inquire or respond.
  • Negotiation Begins : The negotiation stage of a collective bargaining agreement is essential to change in the workplace. Bargaining subjects fall under one of three categories: mandatory , permissive , or illegal . Mandatory subjects, such as work hours and compensation, are required parts of the negotiating process by federal law. Permissive subjects, such as internal company affairs, are optional. Illegal “closed shop” clauses, where companies will only hire members of a union, are examples of illegal subjects.
  • Tentative Agreement Reached : Once negotiation concludes and both parties agree on resolution, a tentative agreement is reached. This is drafted into the collective bargaining agreement and gives specific details about the matters discussed and the agreed-upon solution for each. At this stage, the union will review and either approve or deny the agreement. If the agreement is approved, the collective bargaining agreement is signed and certified. If it is denied, one of two things will happen: negotiations will resume, or members will take action, such as organizing a strike. This stage may not occur until several rounds of negotiation are completed first.
  • Union Members Vote to Ratify : When an agreement is approved and certified by the labor union, union members sometimes must vote to ratify the agreement. Since both parties often choose a representative to speak for their interests during negotiations, this step ensures that the proposed solution to disputes is in alignment with the employees’ desires.

Check out this article to learn more the collective bargaining agreement process.

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Examples of Collective Bargaining Agreements

Collective bargaining agreements are valuable tools to have in any workplace. They ensure that employees are treated fairly and that employers understand their role in prioritizing their workers’ needs.

Here is an example of a successful collective bargaining agreement:

The employees at JJ’s Grocery Store do not received paid vacation. The employees are all a part of a labor union and decide to come together to demand paid vacation time from the company’s upper management.

First, the employees go to the labor union board to explain their demands and to ask for help. Then, with the help of labor lawyers , they bring their demands to upper management. They explain that they want a minimum of three weeks’ vacation for all full-time employees with extra vacation days given to those who have more tenure in the company.

The grocery store’s management decides that paid vacation time is a reasonable request from their employees, but that the company’s budget does not include enough money to compensate for three full weeks of vacation. Instead, they propose that each employee will receive two weeks.

Employees of the grocery store review the negotiations and agree to the two-week vacation time offer. The measure is finalized and placed into a collective bargaining agreement to be filed and certified so that it can be legally binding.

For more examples of collective bargaining agreements, check out this webpage .

What’s Included in Collective Bargaining Agreements

Collective bargaining agreements include a wide range of different objectives and solutions within. Since they are documents meant for the improvement of processes and rules for the benefits of employees, all of the objectives within deal with different aspects of an employee’s role with the company. There are also several parts of a collective bargaining agreement that operate to set the expectation for certain events, such as termination or disciplinary procedures.

Here are some examples of what collective bargaining agreements might detail:

  • Hours and wages
  • Employee benefits
  • Strikes and lock-outs
  • Working conditions
  • Management rights
  • Disciplinary procedures
  • Termination and layoff policies
  • Holiday pay
  • Employee benefits
  • Leave policies
  • Retirement benefits

Find out more about what’s included in collective bargaining agreements here .

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Are Collective Bargaining Agreements Legally Binding?

Collective bargaining agreements are legal contracts that make it illegal for employers or employees to violate the terms within. Having a legally binding aspect to a CBA is essential since these agreements are created with the employees in mind.

Consequences to Violating Collective Bargaining Agreements

When a collective bargaining agreement is violated, there are consequences. This is beneficial to both parties of the agreement since it reinforces the necessity to obey the agreement. However, violations unfortunately do still happen. Luckily, with a collective bargaining agreement in place, legal recourse can be taken against the offending party.

  • When employees violate an agreement : The most common legal recourse that can be taken against a violating employee is a disciplinary measure. This might include a probationary period, a suspension, and even a termination. Some companies opt for a strike system, where an employee has a limited number of violation occurrences before a disciplinary action is taken.
  • When employers violate an agreement : Collective bargaining agreements also include information about what happens when an employer violates an agreement. Some companies set up a review board that takes employee complaints and investigates them. If the complaint is substantiated, employers have their own disciplinary processes that are often similar to that of the employees. If an employee is unsuccessful in getting a resolution within the company regarding a violation, collective bargaining agreements are sufficient contractual proof to open a formal legal case against the offending party.

Check out this webpage for more details about collective bargaining agreements and their legality.

Get Help with Collective Bargaining Agreements

Are you ready to start negotiating a collective bargaining agreement? You need professional labor lawyers or employment lawyers on your side to help walk you through the process. Post a project on ContractsCounsel today to get connected with employment lawyers and labor lawyers who understand your needs and are standing by to help.


ContractsCounsel is not a law firm, and this post should not be considered and does not contain legal advice. To ensure the information and advice in this post are correct, sufficient, and appropriate for your situation, please consult a licensed attorney. Also, using or accessing ContractsCounsel's site does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and ContractsCounsel.


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