Massachusetts law about unions and collective bargaining

A compilation of laws, regulations, cases, and web sources on unions and collective bargaining law in Massachusetts.

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Table of Contents

Massachusetts laws

MGL c.150 Conciliation and arbitration of labor disputes

MGL c.150A Labor relations

MGL c.150C Collective bargaining agreements to arbitrate

MGL c.150E Public employee labor relations

Massachusetts regulations

456 CMR Mass. Department of Labor Relations

Federal laws

29 USC §§ 151-169 National Labor Relations Act

Selected case law

Board of Higher Education v. Commonwealth Employment Relations Board, 483 Mass. 310 (2019)
Approved a union contract provision that placed a cap on the percentage of classes taught by part time faculty at public colleges.

Boston Housing Authority v. National Conference of Firemen and Oilers, Local 3, 458 Mass. 155 (2010) 
An "evergreen clause" extending the terms of a lapsed contract during negotiation, "was rendered invalid by G. L. c. 150E, § 7 (a), which prohibits extending the duration of a CBA beyond three years."

Branch v. Commonwealth Employment Relations Board, 481 Mass. 810 (2019)
Public employee unions can no longer collect agency fees from nonunion members but still continue to provide exclusive representation in negotiating wages and working conditions for nonmembers within their bargaining units.

Commonwealth v. Hunt, 45 Mass. 111, 4 Metcalf 111 (1842)
Case is considered a landmark decision in the legalization of labor unions. 

Department of Labor Relations-Commonwealth Employment Relations Board Recent Decisions, 2016-date.

Harris v. Quinn, 573 US 616 (June 30, 2014) 
Limiting agency fee. In a case involving a narrow class of employees, who are considered state employees only for the purposes of collective bargaining, but are otherwise not state employees, the court held that the "First Amendment prohibits the collection of an agency fee from Rehabilitation Program PAs who do not want to join or support the union."

Janus v. AFSME Council 31, __ US __ ; 138 S. Ct. 2448 (June 27, 2018)
Government workers who choose not to join unions may not be required to pay agency fees to the union for collective bargaining services.

Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination and Maureen Reed, Complainants v. Pipefitters Association of Boston, Local 537 and Leo Fahey, Respondents (2021)
Labor organizations must provide reasonable accommodation to its disabled members so they may participate in the Union's meetings.

NLRB v. Weingarten, 420 US 251 (1975)
Union members have a right to have a representative present if the interview may result in disciplinary consequences. "The right arises only in situations where the employee requests representation."


Department of Labor Relations forms, includes forms for: public employment, private employment, conciliation, mediation, and arbitration.


Web sources

A guide to the Massachusetts public employee collective bargaining law, Mass. Dept. of Labor Relations.
This well-known book is now available online full-text. Includes detailed procedures, summary of law, and more.

Memorandum concerning Boston Housing Authority v. National Conference of Firemen and Oilers, Local 3, 458 Mass. 155 (2010), Chief Counsel Memorandum 2010-1, Department of Labor Relations, December 2, 2010.
If a public union contract expires, the terms and conditions in effect at the end of the contract will remain in effect.

NLRB bench book, National Labor Relations Board, 2021.
This bench book "sets forth Board precedent and other rulings and authorities on certain recurring procedural and evidentiary issues that may arise during the hearing. It is not a digest of substantive law. Nor should it be cited as precedent or considered a substitute for issue-specific research."

NLRB manuals, National Labor Relations Board. Includes:

  • NLRB Casehandling Manual: Compliance Proceeding, 2020.
    Long (over 300 p.) document covers all facets of compliance proceedings.
  • NLRB Casehandling Manual: Representation Proceedings, 2020.
    Long (over 300 p.) document covers the whole process from pre-election through post-election.
  • NLRB Casehandling Manual: Unfair Labor Practice Proceedings, 2021.
    Extremely lengthy (almost 300 p.) online version of book covers everything you need to know about unfair labor practice.

Print sources

"Enabling employee choice: a structural approach to the rules of union organizing," by Benjamin I. Sachs, Harvard law review, Vol. 123, Issue 3 (January 2010), pp. 655-729.

How to take a case before the NLRB, BNA, 2016.

Labor and employment in Massachusetts, Jeffrey L. Hirsch, LexisNexis, loose-leaf.
Chapter 12: Unions and Collective Bargaining.

Massachusetts employer's guide, Aspen Publishers, loose-leaf.
Chapter 10: Unions and Government Contractors.

Massachusetts employment law, MCLE, loose-leaf.
Chapters 21.

Massachusetts labor cases, Massachusetts Landlaw, monthly.

Massachusetts labor relations reporter, Massachusetts Landlaw, monthly.
Massachusetts public sector labor law and research companion to Massachusetts labor cases.

Municipal law and practice (Mass. practice v.18), Douglas A. Randall and Douglas E. Franklin, Thomson/West, with supplement.
Chapter 12: Labor Relations.

Your rights in the workplace by Sachi Barreiro, Nolo, 2018.


Last updated: December 29, 2022

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