1. Voluntary Recognition
Section 4 of the Law allows a public employer to recognize an employee organization designated by a majority of the employees in the bargaining unit as the exclusive bargaining representative without the DLR conducting an election.
If an employer and an employee organization have accomplished a voluntary recognition according to DLR Regulation 456 CMR14.06(5), it bars an election (except for good cause shown) in that bargaining unit or a portion of it for 12 months. For further information, see Section III(E)(4)(e).
An employer may voluntarily recognize an employee organization that represents a majority of employees without following DLR regulations, but such voluntary recognition does not bar an election within 12 months after the voluntary recognition.
 For more information on the DLR’s procedures in determining bargaining representatives, see Section II(B).
2. Representation Petition and Hearing
The DLR requires that all interested parties be given notice of representation proceedings. The petitioner must provide the DLR with information regarding other organizations that may represent any employees affected by the petition.
In Union Representation Petitions, the following showing of interest is required:
- A petitioner seeking to represent a proposed bargaining unit of employees who are not currently represented must submit a showing of interest of 30%.
- A petitioner seeking to represent a bargaining unit of employees who are currently represented must submit a showing of interest of 50%.
- If an additional union, other than the petitioning union or incumbent, wishes to intervene, it must submit a showing of interest of 10%.
The sufficiency of the showing of interest is a DLR administrative determination and the parties to a representation petition cannot litigate it. Once the DLR has made its showing of interest determination, it does not allow bargaining unit members to revoke their authorization.
The definition of “employee organization” in Section 1 of the Law is purposely broad and does not require any specific type of organizational structure. Instead, the CERB analyzes whether the organization:
- Assists public employees in improving their wages, hours and conditions of employment;
- Is able to adequately and independently represent employees in those concerns; and
- Is not the product of employer domination or control.
The CERB has found that the following do not undermine an organization’s status as an employee organization:
- The organization does not have by-laws, constitution, officers, dues, or any prior history of bargaining.
- The organization has not complied with Sections 13 and 14 of the Law (although compliance is required before the DLR allows it to appear on the ballot).
- The petitioning organization is financially supported, or dominated, by another employee organization.
When an employer receives the DLR’s Notice of Hearing in a representation case, it is on notice that there is a question of representation. The employer must then maintain strict neutrality, which includes not bargaining with the incumbent union during the pendency of the representation petition. The failure to comply with this duty is a violation of Section 10(a)(2) of the Law.
An employer may file a representation petition when one or more unions claim to represent a substantial number of employees in a bargaining unit.
Employees who wish to decertify the incumbent union may file a petition requesting that the DLR conduct a decertification election. The DLR requires:
- A petitioner seeking to decertify the incumbent collective bargaining representative must submit a showing of interest of 50%.
- The appropriate unit in cases involving employee petitions to decertify an existing bargaining unit must correspond with either the unit previously certified by the DLR or the one recognized by the parties.
If an employee organization wishes to intervene, the following showing of interest is required:
- An incumbent employee organization may intervene without filing a showing of interest.
- Any other intervenor employee organization must file a 10% showing of interest.
The failure of an incumbent employee organization to timely file a motion to intervene is treated as a disclaimer of interest in representing the petitioned-for employees, and the incumbent organization will not be on any ballot or be considered a necessary party to a consent agreement for election.
The parties to a representation petition may waive a hearing and stipulate to a bargaining unit by executing a Consent Election Agreement, which must be approved by the DLR. The DLR generally accepts the Consent Election Agreement unless the stipulated unit conflicts with the Law or established policy.
If an employee organization affiliated with the AFL-CIO petitions to represent a bargaining unit currently represented by another employee organization affiliated with the AFL-CIO, any party may request the DLR to defer processing of the petition for 30 days to permit the employee organizations to pursue the settlement provisions of the AFL-CIO procedures.
 456 CMR 14.05(2).
 456 CMR 14.05(3).
 456 CMR 14.05(4).
 Bristol County Retirement Board, 27 MLC 124 (2001).
 City of Cambridge, 29 MLC 134 (2003) (if bargaining unit members have changed their minds, they will have the opportunity to vote for the representative of their choice in the election).
 Commonwealth of Massachusetts (Unit 6), 10 MLC 1557 (1984).
 Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, 36 MLC 125 (2010).
 Commonwealth of Massachusetts (Unit 6), 10 MLC 1557 (1984).
 M.G.L. c. 150E, § 4.
 456 CMR 14.05(3).
 456 CMR 14.05(4).
 456 CMR 14.18(1).
 456 CMR 14.11.
Town of Manchester-By-The-Sea, 24 MLC 76 (1998); Cf. Barnstable County, 26 MLC 183 (2000) (DLR rejected parties’ stipulation that the switchboard operator should be included in the proposed bargaining unit because of established DLR practice to not place clerical employees in the same unit as maintenance employees).
 456 CMR 14.17.
3. Written Majority Authorization
A majority of employees in a petitioned-for, appropriate bargaining unit may designate an employee organization as their exclusive representative by signing authorization cards, petitions, or other suitable written evidence.
4. Bars to Processing Petition
Except for good cause shown, the DLR does not process a petition for an election in any bargaining unit represented by a certified bargaining representative when the DLR has issued a certification of representative within the preceding 12 months. The certification year begins on the date of initial certification.
The principle purpose of the one-year certification bar is to insulate a newly-certified union from the disruptive pressure of outside organizing or petitions for decertification, giving the certified union time to establish a new bargaining relationship with the employer. In cases applying the certification year bar, the DLR balances the right of the newly-certified bargaining representative to a reasonable period of good faith negotiations, with the right of employees to freely choose their representative.
- Open Period
The contract bar doctrine prohibits the DLR from entertaining an election petition if a valid collective bargaining agreement is in effect, except for good cause, unless the petition is filed during the “open period” of no more than 180 days and no fewer than 150 days prior to the expiration date of the collective bargaining agreement. The purpose of the contract bar rule is to establish and promote the stability of labor relations and to avoid instability of labor agreements.
The following are guidelines regarding the open period:
- A successor contract that is negotiated and ratified prior to the open period for filing petitions under the existing valid collective bargaining agreement does not operate as a bar to a petition that is timely filed under the existing contract.
- A petition must actually be received at the DLR’s office within the 180-to-150 day open period. A petition filed on the 150th day is considered timely.
- Petitions filed during the open period may be amended after the end of the open period if the amendment does not claim a unit larger or substantially different from the unit originally sought.
- The petition is not considered filed until it is accompanied by an adequate showing of interest.
- Generally, the DLR allows a petitioner to amend its petition to correct any defects, but such amendments do not enlarge the open period for contract bar purposes.
A CAS petition that was filed at a time when no contract was in effect is not barred by the subsequent execution of a collective bargaining agreement that retroactively covers the time period when the petition was filed. The DLR entertains a CAS petition filed outside of the 180-to-150 day open period when it seeks to alter the composition or scope of an existing unit by adding or deleting job classifications that have been created or whose duties have been substantially changed since the effective date of the collective bargaining agreement.
- Complete and Final Agreement
For a collective bargaining agreement to bar the processing of a petition, the evidence must establish the existence of a complete and final agreement signed by all parties prior to the filing date of a rival petition. Specifically:
- To be complete, an agreement must contain substantial terms and conditions of employment and may not be conditioned upon further negotiations.
- If an agreement is contingent upon ratification, it must be ratified before the rival petition is filed for the DLR to determine that the agreement is final.
- Informal memoranda may suffice to show the contractual terms, so long as the evidence establishes the existence of a complete and final agreement to which all parties have acquiesced by their written signatures or initials.
- A contract need not have been funded by the legislative body in order to constitute a bar.
- Appropriate Unit
A contract must cover an appropriate unit in order to serve as a bar to a petition. However, the DLR does not test the appropriateness of the unit by the same community of interest standards it considers initially to determine an appropriate bargaining unit.
If the petition seeks an appropriate unit, the DLR does not dismiss it merely because some of the petitioned-for employees also share a community of interest with other employees (not petitioned-for) who are covered by an existing contract.
- Contract Filing
A copy of any executed written collective bargaining agreement or Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) must be electronically filed with the DLR within 30 days of its execution by the employer, exclusive bargaining representatives or any other person. The copy of any MOA must include an electronic copy of the agreement it amends. For more information about contract filing, please see 456 CMR 12.12 (7).
- Good Cause Exception
The DLR’s application of the contract bar doctrine is discretionary. Exceptions to the contract bar rule are rarely found and generally require evidence of substantial disruption in bargaining relationships and threats to labor stability.
A party may waive the contract bar doctrine, and the DLR decides whether to apply it or waive it depending on the facts of each case with a view toward fairness for the parties and the stability of bargaining agreements.
The contract bar will not apply unless the parties have complied with the DLR rules requiring that they file an electronic copy of the contract with the DLR and the employee organization has properly filed its Forms 1 and 2. For more information on Employee Organization Information Reports (Form 1) and Employee Organization Financial Reports (Form 2), see 456 CMR 16.05 (1), 456 CMR 16.05 (2) and 456 CMR 14.06 (1)(c).
There is a good cause exception that allows the incumbent employee organization and/or the employer, after notification by DLR, 30 days to cure the failure to comply with these requirements. 456 CMR 14.06 (1)(e).
- Three-Year Limit
No collective bargaining agreement may operate as a bar to a petition for a period of more than three years. The three-year limit serves both to protect a public employer and the incumbent employee organization from too-frequent challenges and to preserve the opportunity for employees to re-examine their choice of bargaining representative at least every three years. The following are guidelines in considering the three year limitation:
- A successor contract that is negotiated and ratified prior to the open period under the existing valid collective bargaining agreement does not bar a petition that is timely filed under the existing contract.
- An incumbent employee organization's expressed desire to negotiate changes and revisions in the existing contract, which is received by the employer immediately preceding the automatic renewal date provided for in the contract, prevents that contract's renewal for contract bar purposes.
- An expired contract does not bar a representation petition even though the parties agree to continue its terms during negotiations.
For information regarding the Withdrawal/Disclaimer Bar, please see 456 CMR 14.06(2) and Section II(B)(1)(d)(2). There is no case law that further clarifies this regulation.
For information regarding the Election Year Bar, please see 456 CMR 14.06(3) and Section II(B)(1)(d)(2).
The DLR does not process a petition for an election in any bargaining unit where a recognition agreement that complies with the requirements set forth in 456 CMR 14.06(5) has been executed in the preceding 12-month period, except for good cause shown.
Because the recognition year bar rule places some limitations on employee free choice, there must be some evidence that the employer has recognized the employee organization as the exclusive representative of an appropriate bargaining unit of employees. Specifically, the DLR requires that the employer:
- Have a good faith belief that the employee organization has been designated as the freely chosen representative of a majority of the employees in an appropriate bargaining unit;
- Conspicuously post a notice on bulletin boards where notices to employees are normally posted for a period of at least 20 consecutive days advising all persons that it intends to grant such exclusive recognition without an election to a named employee organization in a specified bargaining unit. If the employer usually communicates to its employees by intranet or email, the employer should forward a copy of the notice to all affected employees using those methods;
- Not extend recognition to an employee organization if another employee organization has within the 20-day period notified the employer of a claim to represent such employees and has prior to or within the 20-day period filed a valid petition for certification that is pending before the DLR; and
- Set forth in writing the recognition and a description of the bargaining unit, which is to be signed and dated by the employer’s representative and the employee organization’s representative.
The employee organization also must be in compliance with the applicable filing requirements set forth in Sections 13 and 14 of the Law and the employer must verify compliance with the DLR.
Once the employer and union have negotiated and executed a recognition agreement, a copy of that agreement must be filed with the DLR no later than seven days after its execution.
If a petition is filed challenging the recognition bar because of a failure to comply with these requirements, the Department will notify the voluntarily recognized employee organization and the employer of the pending petition and of the non-compliance. The employer will have a period of no more than 30 days to cure this failure to comply. If the employer cures its failure to comply within the 30 period, the recognition bar will then attach as if there had been compliance.
There is a good cause exception to the above requirements.
Any party to a representation petition may file a motion requesting that a pending prohibited practice charge block the conduct of an election. The moving party must show:
- The conduct alleged in the prohibited practice charge has occurred;
- The alleged conduct violates the Law; and
- The alleged conduct may interfere with the conduct of a valid election.
In determining whether a prohibited practice charge should block an election, the DLR considers the following factors:
- The character and scope of the charge and its tendency to impair the employees' free choice;
- The size of the working force and the number of employees involved in the events on which the charge is based;
- The entitlement and interest of the employees in an expeditious expression of their preference for representation;
- The relationship of the charging parties to the labor organizations involved in the representation case;
- The showing of interest, if any, presented in the representation case by the charging party; and
- The timing of the charge.
If the DLR decides that a prohibited practice charge blocks a representation petition, the following occurs:
- The pending representation petition is "inactive" until resolution of the underlying prohibited practice complaint.
- While inactive, the petition is not considered to raise a question concerning representation and does not bar the employer and the incumbent union from fulfilling their statutory obligation to bargain in good faith.
- If the prohibited practice complaint is dismissed or withdrawn without issuance of a remedial bargaining order or settlement agreement requiring bargaining, the petitioner may file a motion requesting that the representation petition be reactivated.
If the prohibited practice complaint results in issuance of a remedial order or settlement agreement that requires the employer to bargain with the incumbent, the petition is dismissed.
 456 CMR 14.06(4).
 Springfield Housing Authority, 37 MLC 106 (2010).
 Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 19 MLC 1069 (1992).
 Springfield School Committee, 27 MLC 20 (2000).
 456 CMR 14.06(1)(a). For petitions filed under Chapter 150A, the open period is no more than 90 days and no less than 60 days prior to the contract’s expiration. Hudson Bus Lines, 4 MLC 1630 (1977).
 City of Springfield, 35 MLC 56 (2008).
 City of Springfield, 35 MLC 56 (2008).
 Town of North Reading, 5 MLC 1209 (1978).
 Commonwealth of Massachusetts (Unit 4), SCR-2100 (1977) (unpublished).
 Chief Administrative Justice of the Trial Court, 6 MLC 1195 (1979).
 Commonwealth of Massachusetts (Trial Court), 10 MLC 1162 (1983).
 Massachusetts Organization of State Engineers and Scientists, 19 MLC 1778 (1993).
 456 CMR 14.06(1)(b).
 City of Boston, 35 MLC 53 (2008).
 Id.; Cf. Town of Burlington, 14 MLC 1632 (1988) (side letter negotiations that were tangential, rather than integral, to the main contract need not necessarily have been completed for a contract to be a bar).
 Id.; Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 7 MLC 1825 (1981).
 City of Boston, 36 MLC 194 (2010).
 Bristol County Sheriff, 37 MLC 132 (2010).
 Boston Water and Sewer Commission, 6 MLC 1601 (1979).
 University of Massachusetts Medical Center, 12 MLC 1643 (1986).
 Chief Justice of the Administration and Management of the Trial Court, 29 MLC 10 (2002).
 Easton School Committee, 2 MLC 1111 (1975); Compare Chief Administrative Justice of the Trial Court, 6 MLC 1195 (1979) (the initiation of reorganization during the certification year did not lead to such a massive frustration of the collective bargaining processes that would justify waiver of the usual contract bar rules) with Chief Justice of the Administration and Management of the Trial Court, 29 MLC 10 (2002) (good cause to waive the contract bar rule where a different party had previously filed a CAS petition over the same position, and that petition was pending during the term of the contracts affected by resolution of the unit placement issue).
 City of Springfield, 35 MLC 56 (2008).
 University of Massachusetts, Boston, 2 MLC 1001 (1975).
 456 CMR 14.06(5).
 Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, 36 MLC 125 ( 2010).
 456 CMR 14.06(5).
 456 CMR 15. 11.
 New England Police Benevolent Association, 37 MLC 27 (2010).
5. Elections: Procedures, Challenges, and Objections
The DLR directs that a secret ballot election take place either in person or by mail.
An employee who has a reasonable expectation of continued employment on the eligibility cutoff date specified in the DLR’s order directing an election and on the date of the election is eligible to vote.
To determine whether an employee is a regular employee and eligible to vote, the CERB examines the employee’s work history for the 13 weeks preceding the eligibility date.
Any party may challenge, for good cause, the eligibility of any person to vote in the election. The following guidelines apply:
- The DLR impounds the ballots of the challenged voters.
- If the number of challenged ballots is sufficient to determine the outcome of the election, then within seven days after the tally of ballots has been furnished, each party must file a short statement of its position concerning the eligibility of each challenged voter. Such statement shall include a recitation of the facts alleged by the party to be determinative of the challenged voter's eligibility.
- The DLR may require the parties to submit further evidence or argument, in order to determine whether a hearing is warranted.
Within seven days after the DLR furnishes the tally of the ballots, any party to an election may file objections to the conduct of the election or to conduct affecting the result of the election. A party cannot avoid the seven day time limit by amending previously filed objections more than seven days after the tally of ballots to add allegations that could have been timely raised. Absent extraordinary circumstances, a party may not subsequently raise objections in a collateral proceeding at the DLR.
Upon receipt of a party’s objections, the DLR takes the following steps:
- Determines if any of the objections merit further proceedings.
- Dismisses some or all of the objections if there is not probable cause to believe either that the alleged conduct occurred, or that the alleged conduct materially interfered with the conduct of the election or election results.
- If the DLR does find probable cause, conducts further investigation and/or hearing as appropriate.
The following are specific examples of election objections:
- The DLR does not set aside an election on the ground of misrepresentation unless a party has substantially misrepresented a highly material fact, the truth of which lies within the special knowledge of the party making the misrepresentation.
- Even if there is misrepresentation, the DLR does not set aside an election if it finds that the voters have independent knowledge with which to evaluate the misrepresentation, or if there was no substantial impact on the election.
- The DLR overturns an election because of misrepresentation if either the timing or nature of the statement precludes an effective response by another party, and the statement is likely to have interfered with the outcome of the election.
- Access to Campaign Literature; No Solicitation/Distribution Rules
- Employees have the right to distribute union literature and the right to observe and read that material.
- Although an employer may promulgate rules regulating the distribution of union literature , the rules must be neutral and non-discriminatory so that employee access to union information is not improperly restricted.
- Although employers are not required to grant union access to the employer’s premises for union meetings, objections based upon the employer’s denial of access is evaluated to determine whether the employer’s policy unduly restricted union access to employees and thereby interfered with the election.
- Circumstances Surrounding the Conduct of the Election
- DLR does not permit campaigning in the polling areas. However, the presence of non-observers at an election site is objectionable only when there is evidence that their conduct could have affected the employees’ votes.
- The DLR dismisses objections where there is no substantial evidence of sustained conversation and campaigning with prospective voters in the polling area.
- Eligibility List Inaccuracies
- An inaccurate voter eligibility list may constitute cause for setting aside an election.
- The DLR examines the potential harm to employees, and not the prejudice to competing unions.
- Altered/Reproduced Ballots
- The DLR may sustain objections to an election that was preceded by the distribution of an altered ballot that could have suggested to voters that the DLR endorsed one ballot choice in preference to another.
- On a case-by-case basis, the DLR examines whether the reproduced ballot could have reasonably misled employees to believe that the DLR favored a particular election choice.
 456 CMR 14.12.
 456 CMR 14.12(2).
 456 CMR 14.12(3).
 Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 16 MLC 1293 (1989).
 Labor Relations Commission v. The Clover Leaf Corporation, 372 Mass. 73 (1977).
 456 CMR 14.12(3).
 Quincy School Committee, 20 MLC 1306 (1993).
 Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 22 MLC 1569 (1996).
 Salem School Committee, 35 MLC 225 (2009).
 City of Boston, 2 MLC 1275 (1976).
 Vinfen Corp., 11 MLC 1480(1985).
 City of Methuen, 35 MLC 295 (2009).
 Compare City of Springfield, 24 MLC 109 (1998) (DLR finds that 12% error rate in voters’ addresses is not so substantial as to set aside election where there is no evidence of bad faith) with City of Springfield, 14 MLC 1010 (1987) (DLR set aside election where 14% of eligible voters’ names were omitted from list reasoning that omissions are more serious than incorrect addresses).
 City of Springfield, 24 MLC 109 (1998).
An employer is required to bargain with a union that has affiliated or disaffiliated with another organization when the following conditions are met:
The affiliation or disaffiliation does not significantly disrupt the existing bargaining relationship. The DLR examines whether changes have occurred in the rights and obligations of the union’s leadership and membership, and in the relationships between the bargaining agent, its affiliates, and the employer.
The affiliation was undertaken with safeguards to ensure that the employees freely chose to affiliate or disaffiliate. In so determining, the DLR considers the procedures the union used, such as proper notice to all bargaining unit members, ample time for discussion, an orderly balloting process, and reasonable precautions taken to ensure the secrecy of the ballot.
 Belmont School Committee, 9 MLC 1343 (1982); See also Town of Randolph, 33 MLC 143 (2007) (CERB considers same factors in determining that change in affiliation does not constitute good cause to waive the contract bar rule in representation case).