Labor Relations: Collective Bargaining in Community College Districts

Table of Contents

College District

Last Updated: 10-14-2016

This workbook is designed for the community college administrator, supervisor or manager who is involved in labor relations on a day-to-day basis.

College administrators, managers and supervisors often are faced with issues raised by union activity in the workplace.  This workbook is intended to instruct administrators and others in appropriate conduct when faced with union activity.  Our intent is to address the functional, philosophical and professional considerations inherent in the exercise of management's basic rights within the proper parameters of employee and organizational rights.

There are a number of fundamental principles in labor relations of which the manager/supervisor should be aware as he or she pursues a positive relationship with employee organizations.  Most of these principles originated in the private sector.

The law which governs community college district (and K-12 district) labor relations in the State of California is the Educational Employment Relations Act (EERA).  The EERA is based on fundamental precepts contained in federal statutes and governs the relationship between schools or community college districts and their employees.  The EERA is similar to the federal National Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 151-169, also known as the NLRA, that governs labor relations in the private sector.  Other public agencies in California, such as cities, counties and state agencies, are subject to different collective bargaining laws.  A copy of the EERA may be found in Appendix E of this workbook.

It is important to note here that the liability of the district extends to the acts of the employer's "agents."  In effect, this means the district may be held responsible for what one of its supervisors does, provided the supervisor is acting within the scope of his or her employment, (i.e., in the line of duty).  It is therefore important for the supervisor to be sensitive to his or her responsibility as the agent of the district in these matters.

A founding principle of labor relations is that employees have a right to organize into employee organizations (often referred to as associations or unions) and to bargain collectively with their employers relative to working conditions.  Once representation has been established, there are obligations which the union must assume, the most important of which is its obligation to fairly represent the members in the bargaining unit.  A union which has been designated and certified as the exclusive bargaining agent must represent all members of the unit without exception whether or not they are members of the union itself.

Handling grievances at the early stages of the grievance procedure is considered part of the supervisor's role in labor relations.  A valid and effective formal grievance procedure contributes to the orderly and peaceful redress of employee complaints.  This process is preferable to, and seeks to avoid, protracted legal actions, work stoppages and other confrontational experiences at the work place.  A positive management attitude, which respects the integrity of the grievance process, clearly serves the best interests of both labor and management and facilitates the ability of the administrator/supervisor/manager to work effectively under the provisions of the bargaining agreement and with representatives of the local employee organization.  We hope the contents of this workbook will assist first line supervisors and middle managers to meet their dual responsibilities of fairly and effectively implementing a grievance procedure and preserving and maintaining management's basic rights.

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Disclaimer: This document is provided as a benefit to Liebert Library subscribers and cannot be shared outside of their organization. The information contained within is a template only and is not designed to address the specific and unique issues, internal rules, practices, and/or governing documents that might be in place at your organization. You should always consult with legal counsel prior to implementation of any documents.
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