C. Employee Rights to Organize and Bargain Collectively

Section 2 of the Law provides that employees have the following rights: The right of self-organization and the right to form, join, or assist any employee organization for the purpose of bargaining collectively through representatives of their own choosing; The right to engage in lawful, concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection, free from interference, restraint or coercion; and The right to refrain from such activities.

Table of Contents

1. Concerted, Protected Activities

The following sections provide further detail on situations in which the CERB has found that employees were engaged in concerted, protected activity:

a. Union Activities

  • Being an active union president, member of executive board and negotiating committee, and filing/processing/participating in grievances.[167]
  • Sending an email to encourage picketing, attending a school committee meeting, and voting to abstain on reports relative to a core subject of the ongoing contract dispute.[168]
  • Discussing union activities during work time when an employer permitted discussion of other non-work topics during work.[169]
  • Writing a letter to supervisors to complain about terms and conditions of employment and working conditions.[170]
  • Publicly protesting working conditions.[171]
  • Asking a union vice president about using vacation time.[172]
  • Soliciting union authorization cards.[173]
  • Non-disruptive picketing of school committee meetings, homes and businesses of school committee members, and distributing leaflets to parents in support of union organizational or bargaining objectives.[174]
  • Wearing union insignia during work hours.[175]
  • Conducting a vote of no-confidence in a supervisor by mail ballot among union membership and membership of interested union, where the vote was clearly directed at improving terms and conditions of employment.[176]

b. Grievances or Complaints

  • Initiating a grievance under the collective bargaining agreement.[177]
  • Filing grievances and publicly criticizing how the school committee handled employee complaints.[178]
  • Meeting with and asking a union for help with a grievance.[179]
  • Prosecuting a grievance outside of the context contractual grievance procedure.[180]
  • Acting in an intemperate manner while presenting a grievance if provoked by employer.[181]
  • Appealing a disciplinary action to the Civil Service Commission.[182]
  • Voicing an individual complaint about working conditions which have an impact on the bargaining unit as a whole.[183]
  • Joining together to investigate wages through the Department of Labor and Industries.[184]

c. The Right to Representation at an Investigatory Interview

An employee is engaged in protected activity when requesting union representation at an investigatory interview that the employee reasonably believes will lead to discipline.[185] For further information on an employee’s Weingarten rights, see Section III(F)(1)(a)(2).

d. Other Concerted, Protected Activities

  • Testifying at a DLR proceeding.[186]
  • Speaking out at a town meeting against the town’s proposed budget.[187]


[167] Sheriff’s Office of Plymouth County, 39 MLC 41 (2012).

[168] Andover School Committee, 40 MLC 1 (July 2, 2013).

[169] Bristol County Sheriff’s Department, 31 MLC 1 (2004).

[170] Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department, 27 MLC 155 (2001).

[171] Town of Bolton, 32 MLC 20 (2005).

[172] Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 24 MLC 106 (1998).

[173] Town of Wareham, 3 MLC 1334 (1976).

[174] Southern Worcester County Regional Vocational School District, 2 MLC 1488 (1976), aff’d sub nom. Southern Worcester County Regional Vocational School District v. Labor Relations Commission, 377 Mass 897 (1979).

[175] Dighton School Committee, 8 MLC 1303 (1981).

[176] City of Lawrence, 15 MLC 1162 (1988).

[177] Newton School Committee, 35 MLC 9 (2008).

[178] Athol-Royalston Regional School Committee, 28 MLC 204 (2002).

[179] Quincy School Committee, 27 MLC 83 (2000).

[180] Harwich School Committee, 2 MLC 1095 (1975).

[181] Town of Westborough, 5 MLC 1116 (1979); compare City of Boston, 6 MLC 1096 (1979) (egregious and offensive conduct can lose its protected status).

[182] City of Newton, 32 MLC 37 (2005).

[183] Id.

[184] Luana’s Mexican Hat Restaurant, 8 MLC 1207 (1981) (CERB found violation under Chapter 150A).

[185] Town of Hudson, 29 MLC 52 (2002), aff’d sub nom. Town of Hudson v. Labor Relations Commission, 69 Mass. App. Ct. 549 (2007).

[186] City of Boston, 4 MLC 1033 (1977).

[187] Town of Tewksbury, 19 MLC 1808 (1993).

2. Unprotected Activities

The following are examples of conduct which the CERB has determined is not protected under the Law:

  • Discussions with employer about working conditions absent evidence that the employee was acting on the authority of, or in concert with, other employees.[188]
  • Improper tactics intended to coerce the employer into accepting the union’s position, or illegal activities, such as vandalism.[189]
  • Conduct which is physically intimidating, egregious, or disruptive of the employer’s business.[190]
  • Threatening behavior toward a union member who speaks out against a union.[191]


[188] Massachusetts Port Authority, 35 MLC 61 (2008); Town of Southborough, 21 MLC 1242 (1994).

[189] City of Fitchburg, 2 MLC 1123 (1975).

[190] City of Boston, 6 MLC 1096 (1979) (CERB will balance the rights of employees to engage in concerted activities, and the rights of employers not to be subjected to egregious, insubordinate, or profane remarks that disrupt the employer's business or demean workers or supervisors).

[191] Town of Bolton, 32 MLC 13 (2005).

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