Once a union is elected as the exclusive bargaining representative, it has the right to request from the employer information that will help it understand collective bargaining issues. However, a request for information from the union must be made in good faith and for the sole purpose of helping the union perform its bargaining duties.
An employer's obligation to bargain under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) includes the requirement to confer in "good faith" with the employee representative on issues such as wages, hours of work, and other terms and conditions of employment. Here are some of the areas about which a company may be required to supply information to the union for purposes of collective bargaining negotiations:
- Wages and related matters, such as incentive pay plans and merit increases.
- Seniority data, such as dates of hire for all the employees in a particular unit, if it is necessary for the negotiation of seniority clauses.
- Health and safety data.
- Names and addresses of employees in the bargaining unit.
- Information regarding subcontracting.
- Information regarding the sale of the business.
One area of concern for employers is releasing company records on the health of employees. According to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), a labor union can require an employer to provide all general company records regarding the health of employees as well as the generic names of all chemical compounds the employer uses. The NLRB takes the position that a union cannot be expected to bargain effectively regarding health and safety matters, which are mandatory bargaining subjects, if it does not know previously identified health problems related to the working environment or substances to which employees are exposed.
An employer may refuse to give the union data that is considered confidential and detrimental to the employer's security, such as confidential trade secret information. During collective bargaining, the union may request information relating to the employer's financial position. While financial information generally is considered to be proprietary, there may be times when the employer will be required to provide it. However, the union must first demonstrate that such information will be relevant to the collective bargaining process. Before refusing to turn over information, it is always prudent to consult legal counsel.
If an employer fails to comply with union requests for information that is deemed necessary for collective bargaining negotiations, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) may find the employer to be in violation of the NLRA's good-faith bargaining requirements.