FAQ - Representation Rights

Frequently asked questions of public employee collective bargaining

Table of Contents

Representation Rights

How do employees select an exclusive bargaining agent?

By majority action. The procedures for doing so include: a) through the DLR’s written majority process (card-check) 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; b) an employer may voluntarily recognize an employee organization designated by the majority of all the employees in an appropriate bargaining unit; and c) the DLR is authorized to direct an election by secret ballot to determine the exclusive representative whenever:

  1. one or more employee organizations claim to represent a substantial number of employees in an appropriate unit;
  2. an employee organization petitions the DLR alleging that a substantial number of employees wish to be represented by the petitioner; or
  3. a substantial number of employees in a bargaining unit allege that the exclusive representative no longer represents a majority of the employees.

Who determines an appropriate bargaining unit and on what basis is the decision made?

The DLR and the Commonwealth Employment Relations Board (CERB), depending on the posture of the case, are authorized to determine appropriate bargaining units giving due regard to such criteria as community of interest, efficiency of operations, and safeguarding effective representation.

What rights and obligations does a recognized or certified employee organization have?

The exclusive representative is authorized to negotiate agreements covering all employees in a bargaining unit and must represent all such employees fairly in contract negotiation and administration.

Under what circumstances may an employee organization seek an election?

Generally, an employee organization filing a petition for certification must show the DLR that at least 30% (50% if the employees are currently represented by another employee organization) of the affected employees desire to be represented by that organization.

How will representation disputes be resolved?

An appropriate petition must be filed with the DLR asking that it direct an election to be held. All employees vote in secret and the choice is made by a majority of valid votes cast.

May employees decide to terminate representation by an employee organization or change representatives?

Yes. A petition may be filed with the DLR by or on behalf of a substantial number of employees in a unit alleging that the exclusive representative no longer represents a majority of the employees within the unit and asking the DLR to hold an election to determine the exclusive representative.

Are there specific times during which a representation petition may be filed?

Yes. Generally, the DLR will not entertain a petition during the term of a valid collective bargaining agreement, unless the petition is filed no more than 180 days and no fewer than 150 days (no more than 90 days and no fewer than 60 days for petitions filed pursuant to M.G.L. c. 150A) prior to the expiration of the agreement. The DLR also will not entertain petitions filed during the first twelve months after an election, certification, and certain voluntary recognition agreements. It also will not entertain petitions filed by employee organizations within the first six months following the withdrawal of a petition or a disclaimer of interest in the employees.

What is an "agency service fee" and how does it work?

An "agency service fee" is a monetary amount that an employee organization may charge employees in its bargaining unit who are not members of the organization for their proportionate share of the costs of collective bargaining and contract administration. A nonmember who believes the amount of the service fee demanded by the employee organization exceeds that "proportionate share" may file a prohibited practice charge with the DLR. The fee payer may also challenge the validity of the demand on certain grounds set forth in DLR regulations or case law.

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