What is a collective bargaining agreement?

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A collective bargaining agreement (CBA) is a written legal contract between an employer and a union representing the employees. The CBA is the result of an extensive negotiation process between the parties regarding topics such as wages, hours, and terms and conditions of employment.

There are three different categories of subjects that are part of a CBA: mandatory, voluntary or permissive and illegal subjects.

Mandatory subjects are those topics required by law and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Those subjects include items like wages, overtime, bonuses, grievance procedures, safety and work practices, and seniority, as well as procedures for discharge, layoff, recall, or discipline.

Voluntary or Permissive subjects may be negotiated but are not required and include topics such as internal union matters and the make-up of the employer's board of directors.

Illegal subjects that would violate a law are prohibited, such as closed shops (when an employer will hire only members from a union) or illegal discrimination.

It is important to note that once a CBA is reached, both the employer and the union are required to abide by that agreement. Therefore, an employer should retain legal counsel before participating in the collective bargaining process.


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